September 28, 2016
Issue 152  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

The Dutch Parliament has voted to close Holland’s coal industry by 2030; Vietnam has cancelled Than Bac Lieu power station; and ambitious coal power expansions are delayed in South Africa and Indonesia—as a new report headed by Oil Change International confirms coal as incompatible with international climate goals.

Meanwhile China is funding at least 52,000 megawatts (MW) of coal plants across the globe, while India is looking to Bangladesh to offload its excess coal supply. China also plans to increase domestic coal mining, hoping to lower international coal prices.

—Christine Shearer and Ted Nace, guest editors

Features

Dutch Parliament votes to close down country's coal-fired generation

In a move called “unexpected,” the Dutch Parliament voted 77 to 72 last week in favor of a 55 percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, which would mean closing Holland’s five remaining coal-fired power plants—three of which came online in 2015, writes Arthur Neslen in The Guardian.

New report finds no room for coal in 1.5°C world

A new report by Oil Change International and collaborators finds the carbon contained in existing fossil fuel projects exceed the budget for 2°C warming, while currently operating oil and gas fields exceed the 1.5°C budget, leaving no room for any more coal production, including not only proposed but currently operating coal mines, writes Joshua Robertson in The Guardian.

South Africa’s renewable energy program takes off

With construction of coal plants far behind schedule at Kusile and Medupi, South Africa’s renewable energy program is running ahead of schedule, exceeding its target of 3750 MW of renewable power about two-thirds of the way through the procurement process, showing “how quick an energy transition can be,” writes Leonie Joubert in CleanTechnica.

Campaigns

Vietnam cancels 1200 MW power station

At the urging of provincial leaders, Vietnam has cancelled the proposed 1200 MW Than Bac Lieu power station, also known as the Cai Cung power station. Provincial leaders raised concerns about the impacts of the project on fisheries and public health in the environmentally sensitive Mekong Delta, already targeted for multiple coal plants. Instead, the leaders urged more aggressive adoption of wind and other “Green Economy” power options. (VSEA and NCD press release, CoalSwarm)

Bangladesh drops open-pit mine option at Barapukuria

Energy and Mineral Resources Division secretary Nazimuddin Chowdhury said the company will not pursue an expansion of the existing Barapukuria underground coal mine, due to major land subsidence at the current mine and risk to the aquifer from open-pit mining. Shares of GCM Resources, which is also pursuing an open-pit mine at Phulbari, dropped 23 percent on the Barapukuria news. (Energy Bangla)

Top News

China funding at least 52,000 MW of coal plants across the globe: New data collected by ChinaDialogue and CEE Bankwatch finds Chinese banks and companies are currently involved in at least 79 coal fired generation projects across the globe, with a total capacity of over 52,000 MW. Huaneng—one of five state-owned energy giants—plans to significantly boost its share of profits from overseas projects by 2020, according to its five-year strategy. Since 2000, China has overtaken Japan to become the leading exporter of coal equipment. (ChinaDialogue)  

Coal plans falter in Indonesia: According to The Jakarta Post, the Indonesian government’s ambitious plan to build 35,000 MW of new power plants by 2019 is far behind schedule, with only 195 MW completed and 22 percent in construction. With demand for power slowing and excess capacity in most regions, some officials saw the slowdown as “a blessing in disguise” to avoid oversupply. (The Jakarta Post)

Irregularities surrounding Indonesia’s Jawa-5 bidding draw criticism: The 2000 MW Jawa-5 power station was originally presented by state power company PLN as an independent power project, but after abruptly cancelling the bidding process, PLN assigned Jawa-5 to its subsidiary Indonesia Power and Mitsubishi. PLN argued the appointment was made to promote equality of opportunity between Chinese and Japanese developers. While the assignment was technically legal, critics questioned Mitsubishi’s favorable treatment in receiving the US$2.3 billion project. (Tempo.co)

China’s Shenhua Coal may raise coal production to lower international prices: Due in large part to domestic production cuts in China, the price of thermal coal has gone up 41 percent this year, even as China’s overall demand for coal has fallen this year. To lower coal prices, China’s National Development and Reform Commission met last week and is reportedly encouraging state-run Shenhua Coal to raise production and flood the market, in order to bring prices like exports from Australia’s Newcastle terminal to the US$50 – US$60 range, compared with US$71.55 a ton at present. (Bloomberg)

“China is trying to create a buyer’s cartel in the coal market, an outcome that could be quite as bad for producers of the fuel as the OPEC seller's cartel was for consumers of crude oil in the 1970s,”

writes Bloomberg’s David Fickling about China’s plan to flood the market by increasing domestic coal production.

China's buyer's cartel will be as bad for coal producers as OPEC was for oil buyers: http://bloom.bg/2dfvKhN

News

Australia: Victoria's 1600 MW Hazelwood power station to close in April 2017.

Philippines: President Duterte commissions 405 MW Misamis Oriental coal plant.

Japan: Jera, a joint venture between Tepco and Chubu Electric Power, confirms plans to build 1300 MW Yokosuka coal plant by FY2022-23. 

India: Government shelves coal block auctions, citing ample supplies and weak demand.

Pakistan: Bin Qasim Association of Trade and Industry joins with environmentalists in raising objections to a proposed new coal jetty at Port Qasim, citing concerns over coal dust.

Australia: Carmichael coal proposal downsized to 25 million tonnes per annum with investment decision deferred to end 2017. 

China: Central government cancels 15 new coal power plant projects with a total capacity of 12,400 MW in crackdown on illegal construction. 

China: At least 18 people killed and two missing after an explosion in Ningxia coal mine.

Companies + Markets

Settlement reached with Duke for 2014 Dan River coal ash spill: On September 23 the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality settled with Duke Energy for the February 2014 Dan River coal ash spill. Duke will pay a US$6 million fine and must close the coal ash ponds by 2019. The spill dumped an estimated 35,000 tonnes of coal ash into the Dan River, making it the third worst coal ash spill in American history. The sludge traveled as far as 113 km away from the Eden power plant. (CBS News)

Coal mining to resume in northeastern British Columbia for export to Asia: The former Walter Canada Brule surface coal mine in northeastern British Columbia resumed production last week, with initial shipments most likely destined for Japan. Production at Brule is planned to be 2.3 million tonnes annually. The mine is owned by Conuma Coal Resources, a subsidiary of West Virginia–based ERP Compliant Fuels, which recently acquired the Walter properties that also include the idled Wolverine and Willow Creek mines in the Tumbler Ridge–Chetwynd area of the Canadian province. (Platts)

Mongolia pitches railway projects to China: Mongolia is seeking financing from China’s Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank for two new coal-focused rail projects. One is a rail line that would link the Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in Mongolia to the Chinese border. Mongolia has already invested US$200 million in the project, but says it needs another US$800 million. The other is the Northern Railway project that would spread from China to Russia. The China Development Bank has reportedly already expressed interest in providing three-quarters of the financing needed for that project. (Reuters)

Coal India explores Bangladesh coal export opportunity: A team from Coal India will visit Bangladesh to evaluate the country’s coal demand and explore coal export options, including supplies for the 1320 MW Rampal plant. The move comes as demand for coal in India is stagnating and the country is seeking export opportunities in neighboring markets to make up for the shortfall. (Telegraph India)

Vattenfall sold to Czech utility EPH and financial company PPF Investments: The European Commission approved Vattenfall’s sale of four active coal mines and three coal plants in Germany to Czech energy company EPH and private equity group PPF Investments. The deal also included a 50 percent share in a fourth coal plant in Germany. The sale had been opposed by environmentalists who had lobbied for Vattenfall to close the mines and plants rather than sell them. (Platts)

Resources

The Sky’s Limit: Why the Paris Climate Goals Require a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production,” Oil Change International, in collaboration with 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, and others, September 22, 2016
 
This new report finds the total carbon emissions contained in the world’s currently operating oil, gas, and coal fields would take us beyond 2°C of warming, while the reserves in the active oil and gas fields alone would exceed 1.5°C, even with no coal. The report builds upon 2011 findings by Carbon Tracker Initiative that global proven fossil fuel reserves contain five times more carbon than can be burned for 2°C. 

Mapped: How Germany Generates its Electricity,” Carbon Brief, September 20, 2016
 
An interactive map created by Carbon Brief shows all of Germany’s electricity sources by type, along with a timeline tracking the history of Germany’s Energiewende. The group notes coal still supplies more energy in Germany than all low-carbon sources combined, but finds renewables supplied around a third of German electricity in 2015, a record-high level for the country.