October 27, 2016
Issue 156  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest assessment that the growth of renewables – driven by solar and wind capacity – has eclipsed new coal capacity is a significant turning point. In a separate report the Overseas Development Institute emphasises renewables are far better at alleviating both income and energy poverty than a coal-centred policy promoted by major coal export lobby groups.

The retreat from coal is occurring in many countries - most notably reflected over the last week in China’s move to cancel a raft of part-built plants; and the prospect of a South Korean plant being cancelled. However, the desperate delaying tactics of the coal industry have also been on display with the UK demanding coal plant pollution controls be delayed and France backtracking from imposing a carbon tax on its four remaining coal plants. The strides forward, however, are greater than the foot-dragging of a declining industry.

Bob Burton

Features

South Korea’s Environment Minister looks to cancel POSCO coal plant

A coal-fired power plant proposed by POSCO at its Pohang steel plant is likely to be cancelled by South Korea’s Minister for the Environment as it would be inconsistent with the government’s Paris Agreement commitments and moves to cut deadly fine particle air pollution, writes Jieon Lee from Korea Federation for Environmental Movements in EndCoal.

China cans part-built plants

In a bid to stall the country’s growing coal power bubble, China has axed 30 large coal plants and long-distance transmission lines catering for more. The decision – which cancels plants with more planned capacity than the current UK and Spain coal fleets combined – will avoid US$20 billion being wasted on unnecessary plants, write Lauri Myllyvirta and Joanna Mills in EnergyDesk.

Eskom’s propaganda campaign against renewables

An inconvenient truth for Eskom is that South Africa is consuming less electricity than 10 years ago and the cost of renewables is falling fast, writes Warren Dick in Moneyweb.

Campaigns

National Park declared over site of axed Turkish plant

Terme Municipality has declared a 563-hectare Amazon Nature Park to protect the forests, wildlife and beaches near the village of Akcay, where the coal plant was to be built. The proposed 660 MW imported coal plant had been granted a production licence but a 25,000-strong petition and protests against the project by a coalition of environmental groups, residents and the municipality resulted in the project being cancelled. (Daily Sabah, CoalSwarm)

Top News

Report finds new coal plants would deepen poverty: A report by a coalition of development groups argues the construction of even one-third of the proposed coal plants would push hundreds of millions more people into poverty due to the two degrees temperature increase target being exceeded. The report notes some countries are pursuing decentralised renewable energy strategies while development finance advisors in other countries stick with promoting fossil fuel options they are familiar with. “There's a lack of internal incentives, human capacity and the right policy frameworks [to promote renewables],” said Sarah Wykes, from CAFOD, a Catholic international development charity. (Reuters)

Renewables growth outpaces new coal capacity: Total new renewable energy capacity outpaced the increase in coal capacity for the first time, the IEA reveals. Of the 153,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewables capacity added in 2015 the IEA estimates 63,000 MW was onshore wind and 49,000 MW solar photovoltaics. The agency notes slowing electricity demand due to energy efficiency gains, less energy-intensive economic growth and the spread of renewable-friendly policies are likely to result in solar and wind growing rapidly over the next five years. (IEA)

Vietnamese coal plants flagged for pollution crackdown: Following growing public alarm triggered by a series of major industrial pollution disasters the Ministry of Industry and Trade has flagged 28 projects – including a dozen coal plants – as warranting “special monitoring” due to the risks they pose to the environment. The coal plants, which involve the state-owned power utility Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) or the oil and gas company PetroVietnam, have become flashpoints for public alarm due to widespread pollution affecting public health and farming, fishing and tourism. (VnExpress, GreenId)

Hundreds turn out to oppose new US coal port: A majority of an estimated 750 people attending a public hearing opposed the proposed Longview coal export terminal in Washington state. Speakers included tribal leaders who criticised the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by US Army Corps of Engineers. Tribal leaders said the EIS ignored upstream impacts on salmon streams. Others argued the greenhouse emissions from the mining and burning of coal exported via the proposed port must be addressed. Despite the EIS, the project is increasingly unlikely to proceed after Arch Coal withdrew from the joint venture earlier this year. (The Columbian)

Bangladesh officials lobby UNESCO over Rampal project: A six-person Bangladeshi Government delegation has flown to Paris to lobby UNESCO to drop its opposition to the proposed 1320 MW Rampal plant. The delegation also wants UNESCO to rule out adding the Sundarbans to the ‘World Heritage in Danger’ list. The government recently launched television ads in Bangladesh promoting the plant while project opponents are planning a mass rally on November 26. (Dhaka Tribune, Daily Star)

UK leads push to stall new coal pollution rules: The UK Environment Secretary Therese Coffey is leading a coalition of countries in pushing for a delay in the implementation of new coal pollution control standards under the European Union’s Industrial Emissions Directive. Coffey – in concert with Poland, Greece, Finland and the Czech Republic – is pushing for a “comprehensive consideration” of the standards even though the UK’s coal plants are due to close by 2025 and it plans to withdraw from the EU. (Financial Times [Paywall], Business Green)
 

“Today we depend on burning coal for 60% of our power. Our province is by far the biggest coal pollution emitter in Canada. That is going to end,” said Alberta’s Premier, Rachel Notley, in the annual State of the Province address.

News

Egypt: Health complaints increase as coal use in cement and industrial sector climbs.

Philippines: New 1200 MW plant MOU signed on President Duterte’s four day trip to China.

Swaziland: Indian company JSW Energy signs MOU for mine and power station.

UK: Fast phase-out of coal “imperative” to improve health and cut NHS costs, say doctors’ groups.

US: Coal and gas utilities sue New York state over $7.6 billion in subsidies for nuclear plants.

US: Heavy metals found in groundwater near six Georgia plants at 20 to 30 times federal standards.

Companies + Markets

Indian ratings agency warns on power sector risks: The Indian ratings agency CRISIL has warned that around 16,000 MW of power projects – with most being coal plants – are financially very risky. The agency warns a further 24,000 MW of under-construction thermal plants are facing “viability issues” with 13,000 MW of them facing “commissioning risks” due to “weak sponsors.” CRISIL estimates the remaining 11,000 MW of plants under construction are financially vulnerable because of “poor” power offtake agreements or inadequate fuel supply. (Economic Times, The Hindu)

Glencore wins price rise for thermal coal exports to Japan: Glencore, the largest exporter in the seaborne thermal coal market, has negotiated a one-year contract to sell thermal coal from Newcastle for US$94.75 per tonne to the Japanese utility Tohoku Electric. Last year’s contract price was US$64.60 per tonne with Chinese restrictions on mine production this year boosting import demand and prices. (Platts)

Kemper CCS plant costs keep on rising: The US$6.9 billion Kemper Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project in Mississippi will cost at least four times as much to operate and maintain over the first five years of operation than the US$258 million estimate made in 2010, according Mississippi Power which owns the plant. The company has also flagged it will cost a further US$294 million to complete the construction of the plant, which is scheduled to be fully running on lignite-derived synthetic gas by November 30. (Mississippi Business Journal, Mississippi Watchdog)

Vietnam’s imports surge amidst a painful restructuring: Despite increasing coal demand for recently commissioned power plants, over 4000 jobs have been cut in Vietnam’s coal industry as power generators have increasingly sourced coal from the global market. The country, which has been a small regional exporter of coal, increased imports to 10.5 million tonnes, a 147 per cent increase in the first nine months of the year. Most imports are from China, Russia and Australia. (VietnamNet)

China approves production boost, prices to fall: In a bid to lower domestic coal prices and contain inflation, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) – the government’s economic policy agency – has directed major coal companies to increase production from the approximately 1500 mines deemed to comply with environmental and safety standards. The NDRC met with executives from Shenhua Group and 21 other domestic coal-miners to emphasise the need for a rapid increase in production. (Nikkei Asian Review)

France drops plan to end power sector’s carbon tax exemption:  The French Government has bowed to lobbying by power generators and CGT, the union representing coal mining and energy sector workers, to drop its plan to extend the carbon tax on coal to power stations. In April President Francois Hollande proposed extending the tax to the country’s remaining four coal plants, with EDF having two plants with a combined capacity of 1800 MW and Uniper another two with a combined capacity of 1218 MW. (EurActiv)

Resources

Beyond coal: scaling up clean energy to fight global poverty, Overseas Development Institute, October 2016.

This 24-page report argues coal-induced climate change will entrench poverty when better energy alternatives exist to alleviate both income and energy poverty. The report is also available in Mandarin and Japanese.

Medium-Term Renewable Market Report, International Energy Agency (IEA), October 2016.

The IEA has substantially increased its five-year growth forecast for renewables which – led by wind and solar – represented more than half the new power capacity around the world. (The Executive Summary of the US$87 report is here and the slides from the public presentation on the report are here.)

Thermal Coal in Asia – Stopping the Juggernaut, Energy Transition Advisors, October 2016. (Pdf)

This 89-page report estimates the 270,000 MW of coal plants under construction in China and India would, if completed, exceed greenhouse gas emissions caps required to meet the International Energy Agency’s target of decarbonising the power sector by 2050.

Abandoned Mines in Queensland: Toxic Time-bomb or Employment Opportunity?, Lock the Gate, October 2016. (Pdf)

This 16-page report argues a better funded system for the rehabilitation of the 317 large abandoned mine-sites would create thousands of long-terms jobs in regional Queensland.