November 3, 2016
Issue 157  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

The shift away from coal-fired power seems to have accelerated this week. Engie is set to announce the closure of the Hazelwood power station in Australia, one of the world’s dirtiest, while a proposed coal plant in Turkey has been abandoned after a long-running community campaign. In Pakistan, the environmental impact statement on a proposed coal port development has been rejected by the provincial regulator.

Two French banks, Societe Generale and Credit Agricole, have announced they will no longer directly finance coal plants from the start of next year but will increase lending for renewables; Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports substantial drops in the cost of wind power in the second half of 2016. With the cost of renewables falling fast Vietnam’s Minister for the Environment has told a meeting of international development partners and donors, “we should switch from black to green energy sources.” Vietnam is currently ranked as having the fifth largest ‘pipeline’ of new coal plants.

Bob Burton

Features

Protests over water safety, bank financing rock Bangladesh coal plants

With increasing opposition to the financing and construction of the proposed Rampal coal plant near the Sundarbans World Heritage site, Bangladesh’s coal plans are looking increasingly shaky, writes Keith Schneider in Circle of Blue.

Bosnia faces legal action over Chinese-backed coal dash

Companies pushing ahead with plans for four new coal plants in Bosnia and Herzogovina – which would add almost as much as the existing coal capacity of the country – are struggling to attract finance in the face of a sustained community campaign and legal challenges, writes Megan Darby in Climate Home.

Campaigns

Turkish coal plant dumped

A long-running community campaign by residents of Aliaga in Turkey against coal power pollution has forced Azerbaijan’s state-owned energy company SOCAR to abandon a proposed 672 megawatt (MW) coal plant. SOCAR proposed the plant in 2012 to power a new oil refinery which is currently under construction. However, concern about pollution and the likely impact on the ancient city of Kyme, an important archaeological site, led to sustained public opposition and legal challenges. Seven export credit agencies, which are financing the refinery, informed residents SOCAR had dropped its power plant, a decision welcomed by local and national groups. (CEE Bankwatch Network, CoalSwarm)

Two more French banks back away from coal

Under pressure from a coalition of NGOs Societe Generale, France’s third largest bank, has announced it will no longer directly finance coal plants from January 1, 2017, “or related infrastructure anywhere in the world.” A few days earlier Credit Agricole announced it would end lending for coal plants. Friends of the Earth France and BankTrack welcomed the announcements but noted Credit Agricole and Societe Generale are financing new coal plants in Indonesia with the latter also financing the Punta Catalina project in the Dominican Republic. Nor does the new policy apply to corporate financing and services, the major form of support the banks provide to the coal industry. (Reuters, Friends of the Earth France and BankTrack)

Top News

Regulator rejects environmental assessment on Pakistani coal port: The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency has rejected the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of a proposed 4.5-kilometres-long coal conveyor system and coal yard at the Port of Qasim. Villagers and the Bin Qasim Association of Trade and Industry, representing over 70 business owners, objected to the likely pollution from the project and doubted the availability of water for the plant. (Dawn, Dawn)

Engie set to close Australia’s most polluting plant: The owner of the Hazelwood plant, the French government-owned Engie, is set to announce the plant will close by April 1, 2017. The 1542 MW brown coal-fired plant is Australia’s most polluting power station with the first of its eight units commissioned in 1964. The Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, will head a taskforce to develop an economic transition plan for the Latrobe Valley. (The Age, Sydney Morning Herald)

UNICEF calls on countries to cut fossil fuel pollution: A UNICEF report, titled Clear the Air for Children, finds two billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution, including from the “heavy use” of fossil fuels, exceeds minimum air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization. The report, released ahead of a meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Morocco next week, urges governments to reduce fossil fuel combustion and invest instead in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. (UNICEF)

Bankrupt US companies become generous political donors: Political action committees (PACs) of coal companies which are in bankruptcy – or were until recently – have donated over US$800,000 to US political campaigns with most going to Republican candidates. PACs associated with Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy donated US$695,000 to federal campaigns and, together with Patriot Coal, a further US$165,000 to state campaigns. PACs are funded by company employees. (Miami Herald)

US railway coal dust pollution case heads to trial: A US District Court judge has ruled that coal dust which falls directly into waterways from coal trains would be classified as “point sources” of pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. Seven environmental groups are suing BNSF Railway arguing the use of dust suppressants sprayed on coal in uncovered wagons is insufficient to prevent the pollution of waterways. The trial will begin on November 7. (Oregonian)

Colombian river diversion work for coal mine begins: Luz Ángela Uriana Epiayú, who lives near the Cerrejon coal mine, was attending BHP Billiton’s annual general meeting in London when news came through that the Arroyo stream which supplies water to her village had been diverted to cater for the expansion of the mine. Cerrejon Coal Company – a joint venture of BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore – declined to respond to queries submitted by the Guardian. (Guardian)

“Renewables now account for around 50% of all new power generation, and last year saw a record of 121GW of combined solar and wind power capacity installed. Wind and solar are now competitive without subsidies,”

said Megan Clark, a non-executive director of Rio Tinto, a major coal exporter.

News

Denmark: Two public heating plant operators surprised Vattenfall supplied them with Colombian ‘blood coal’.

Global: Energy Watch Group argues IEA underestimates solar and wind growth and overestimates solar costs.

Pakistan: Villagers protest confiscation of land without compensation for mine wastewater dam.

Poland: Prairie Mining signs MOU with China Coal for feasibility study on Jan Karski coal mine (formerly known as the Lublin Coal Project.)

US: Judge tentatively approves US$151m legal settlement over drinking water polluted by coal chemical.

Companies + Markets

Big fall in wind costs: Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates the global benchmark cost of onshore wind generation is US$68 per megawatt hour (MWh) in the second half of 2016, 16% below the estimated cost in the first half of the year. “Onshore wind,” BNEF writes, “is already cost competitive with coal and gas-fired generation in many countries.” BNEF estimates the cost of offshore wind at US$126 per MWh, down 22% from the first half of 2016. (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

Vietnam’s Environment Minister urges switch to green energy: Vietnam – which had over 30,000 megawatts (MW) of coal plant proposals and over 15,000 MW under construction as of July – is under increasing international pressure to cut its coal plans and expand solar and wind generation. Last week Vietnam's Minister for the Environment, Tran Hong Ha, told a meeting of international development partners and donors “we should switch from black to green energy sources.” (VNExpress)

Dow Chemical doubts Chinese coal-to-chemicals boom: Dow Chemical Company’s CEO, Andrew Liveris, told analysts that after discussions with the Chinese leadership “China is going to slow down coal-heavy investments” as it focuses on financial returns from investments. “I'm not confident at all that you're going to see [coal-to-olefins] or [methanol-to-olefins] off of coal coming in anywhere near the pace that was foreshadowed,” he said. The economics of capital-intensive coal-to-chemicals plants – which in recent years were tipped to boom in China – depend in large part on the oil price. (SNL)

Chinese coal imports increase but bust looms: Chinese coal imports rose by about 17 per cent in October to just over 20 million tonnes, pushing the price of both thermal and metallurgical coal in the seaborne market to multi-year highs. In the first nine months of the year Chinese domestic production fell by about 300 million tonnes with imports rising by 23 million tonnes. With the Chinese Government urging accredited producers to rapidly increase production, analysts believe imports and prices will soon fall. (Reuters)

Sacked Tata chairman complains of “aggressive” bidding on Indian project: In a blistering letter written after he was sacked as Chairman of the board of directors of the Tata Group, Cyrus Mistry complained Tata Power had “aggressively bid” for the 4000 MW Tata Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project on the assumption of “low-priced Indonesian coal.” The magnitude of the losses, he wrote, “substantially depresses the return on capital for Tata Power as well as carries the risk of considerable future impairment.” Despite being sacked as Chairman, Mistry remains a director of major subsidiaries, is a major shareholder of the Tata Group and has branded his dismissal as illegal. (Financial Times, Financial Times) [Paywall]

New Russian met coal project nears start: Tigers Realm Coal, a small Australian Stock Exchange listed company, plans to commission a cut-down version of its ‘Project F' metallurgical coal mine in Russia’s Far East in November. A 30-kilometre access road is currently under construction after US$17.2 was recently raised for the project. The project – which has attracted financial support from Russian banks – has been opposed by indigenous landowners and environmental groups. (Proactive Investors, Tigers Realm Coal)

Resources

Clear the air for children, UNICEF, October 2016. (Pdf) (The Executive summary is available in EnglishFrench, and Spanish.)

This 100 page report urges governments to reduce outdoor air pollution exposure to an estimated 2 billion children by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

Financing India's Clean Energy Transition, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, November 2016. (Pdf)

This 53-page report is a detailed examination of the potential and challenges in rapidly expanding wind and solar capacity in India.

Community Organising Training Guide, Pasifika and the Change Agency, November 2016.

The 292-page guide is a detailed resource for use in designing and leading participatory workshops with activists, organisers and citizens. The guide is available for A$20 as a pdf and $A80 in hard copy.