February 16, 2017
Issue 170  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

Few doubt that what happens with coal power in India will play a decisive role in determining how safe the future climate will be. A record breaking low price for a 750 megawatt (MW) solar power project indicates the ever-diminishing prospects for new coal plants in India. A new report by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) somewhat conservatively estimates no new coal plants are likely to be needed in India after 2024 and that the country could be coal-free by 2050. With renewables fast becoming the default option for new power generation, the speed of the transition may accelerate as the air pollution crisis grips the country. A new report estimates air pollution in India causes 1.1 million premature deaths.

Coal India, which produces about 80 per cent of the country’s coal, has reported little growth in demand and big stockpiles. While the Modi Government is considering selling a further 10 per cent stake of the company, a Bloomberg columnist considers this would be very risky for investors.

Bob Burton

Features

Only the brave would invest in Coal India as solar takes off

Investing in Coal India might seem attractive at first glance but the world’s biggest coal miner is under challenge due to flat coal demand and competition from the plummeting cost of renewables, writes David Fickling in BloombergQuint.

Campaigns

Myanmar vows no new coal mines

Myanmar’s Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, U Ohn Win, has ruled out granting new coal mining licences but stated “we will allow existing coal mines to continue operating.” Myanmar Government officials have previously signalled new coal plants are unlikely to be supported. Win promised existing plants would be inspected for compliance with social and environmental standards. As of July 2016 the Global Coal Plant Tracker estimated 14,050 MW of coal plants were proposed in Myanmar of which 445 MW were under construction. Most current coal consumption is for small industrial plants with only one large coal-fired power unit currently operating. Civil society groups have called for the closure of some of the mines and plants established under the military regime which came to an end after the November 2015 election. (Eleven Myanmar, Myanmar Times)

US coal port developer withdraws permit application

The proponent of the Gateway Pacific ­­coal export terminal at Cherry Point in Washington state has notified Whatcom County it has withdrawn its permit application for the project. In May 2016 the US Army Corps of Engineers rejected a permit for Pacific International Holdings on the grounds it would violate the treaty fishing rights of the Lummi tribe. In a letter to Whatcom County, Pacific International Holdings stated it was "currently considering various alternatives" including modifying its original proposal. However, according to Whatcom County, a revised project would require a new application to be submitted and assessed. (SFGate.com)

US coal dump operators drop defamation case

A defamation suit against four members of Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice in Alabama has been dropped after Green Group Holdings and another company agreed to settle the case. The companies had sued the four for US$30 million in damages over their public statements against the environmental and community impacts of coal ash disposal at a landfill near a predominantly Black community. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the four, welcomed the settlement as a decisive win for free speech. (ACLU)

Top News

Indian think tank says coal-free by 2050 possible: The continued decline in costs of renewable electricity and batteries for storage could ensure no new coal plants are required after 2025, according to a new report by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). If the last coal plant was commissioned in 2024, TERI estimates that with the right policies India could be coal-free by 2050. In December the Central Electricity Agency’s draft National Electricity Plan stated no new coal plant would be needed before 2022 and, with about 50,000 MW of new plants already approved or under construction, no new coal plant would be needed before 2027. (FT [paywall], TERI)

Radiation risks with Indian coal ash: Poor management of coal ash from three coal plants in West Bengal has resulted in radioactivity levels three to four times higher than the prescribed limit, according to a study published in the journal Modelling Trends in Solid and Hazardous Waste Management. The study noted the risks could be reduced with the use of modern electrostatic precipitators to cut particulate emissions from the plants and better design standards for the fly ash dams to prevent groundwater contamination and air pollution. (Scidev, Modelling Trends in Solid and Hazardous Waste Management [paywall])

European Union needs to shut all coal plants by 2030: If all 315 existing coal plants in the European Union (EU) and the 11 plants under construction operate to the end of their design life, greenhouse gas emissions would be nearly double that allowed under the Paris Agreement, a new study by Climate Analytics argues. Germany and Poland combined account for 54 per cent of the EU’s total emissions from coal plants. To limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C, the EU would need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 95 per cent by 2050. (Down to Earth, Climate Analytics)

India now ranks as worst for air pollution: A study by the US-based Health Effects Institute and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates India’s air pollution is now worse than China’s and caused about 1.1 million people to die prematurely a year. The study estimates premature deaths in India from particulate pollution increased by 50 per cent between 1990 and 2015. (New York Times)

Australian Government seeks to block indigenous groups’ challenge to Adani mine: The Australian Government has proposed to rush legislative amendments to indigenous land laws in a bid to protect Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine from legal challenge. A federal court ruling cast doubt on the validity of all Indigenous Land Use Agreements which hadn’t been signed by all members of the claimant group. The Wangan and Jagalingou opponents of Adani’s mine had applied to the court to set aside the agreement Adani had signed with some but not all of the indigenous landowners. (Guardian, Guardian)

Planned protest against proposed plants stirs Thai military regime: A coalition of villagers and businesspeople plan to protest in front of Government House on Friday February 17 while the Ministry of Energy deliberates on two coal plants proposed for the country’s south. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who heads the military regime, warned against the protest which he argues would “violate laws” and vowed “action” would be taken against protesters. The Thai regime is sensitive to protests and has previously delayed consideration of the proposed 800 MW Krabi coal plant. (Bangkok Post, Khaosod)

“There is no excuse, then, for Thailand to continue such a harmful and widely condemned policy. The Prayut government must abandon its quest for coal-fired power,”states an editorial in the Bangkok Post.

“The Prayut government [in #Thailand] must abandon its quest for #coal-fired power” states a Bangkok Post editorial http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1198101/kill-all-coal-energy-plans

News

Australia: Government agency considering Adani mine subsidy insists details of board meetings remain secret.

India: Government bows to pressure from power producers and delays deadline for old plant upgrades.

India: Tribunal orders action over unpaid oil spill fines from 2011 sinking of ship carrying Adani coal.

New Zealand: Environmental group launches legal challenge to proposed mine near Westport.

Poland: NGO groups prepare complaint with EU over government’s failure to act on pollution.

US: Owners vote to close the 2250 MW Navajo plant, Arizona’s oldest and dirtiest, in 2019.

US: Longview coal terminal proponent appeals Washington state refusal of waterways sub-lease.

Companies + Markets

Coal India flounders as sales slow and stockpiles remain: Coal India, the government-owned coal company, has reported coal sales between April and the end of December 2016 grew by just 0.77 per cent due to stagnant power sector demand and the growth in renewables. Over the same period coal production grew by just one per cent to 378 million tonnes. However, the company has about 48 million tonnes stockpiled at mines and railheads while power utilities have a further 23 million tonnes stored at power plants. (The Hindu)

Landmark Indian solar deal zooms in on coal power: A new record low price in India has been set on the reverse auctioning of the rights to develop the 750 MW Rewa solar tender in Madhya Pradesh state. The final first year price was US$0.044 per kilowatt hour. After including the escalation allowance over the first 15 years the final price is US$0.049/kwh. This is 24 per cent lower than the previous record price of US$0.065 set in January 2016. The prices offered by new coal plants in the past two years have ranged between US$0.059-0.074/kwh. (PVTech, IEEFA)

China considers radical measures to cut pollution: A draft proposal by the Ministry of Environmental Protection has suggested the closure of the port of Tianjin, which handles 100 million tonnes of coal a year, and the diversion of cargoes to the port of Tangshan, 130 kilometres further north. The proposed rerouting of cargoes aims to cut pollution by shifting coal from truck-based transport to railways. In Shanxi, the largest coal-producing province, state-owned coal mines have been directed not to hire new staff over the next five years to allow the rationalisation of inefficient mines. (Reuters, South China Morning Post)

Resources

The Adani Brief: What governments and financiers need to know about the Adani Group’s record overseas, Environmental Justice Australia, February 2017. (Pdf)
 
This 34-page report provides a brief overview of the Indian-headquartered Adani Group’s controversial track record around the world, including illegal dealings and environmental and social devastation.

State of Global Air, Health Effects Institute and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, February 2017.
 
This interactive database allows you to compare and map air quality or health impacts across countries and download images and tables with air quality and health impact data.

A stress test for coal in Europe under the Paris Agreement, Climate Analytics, February 9, 2017. (Pdf)

This 62-page report details where and when each of the over 300 coal power plants would need to be phased out if the EU is to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement. The Executive Summary of the report is available in English, German and Polish. A map of the plants and the main graphics from the report are also posted here.

Transitions in Indian Electricity Sector - Macro Level Analysis of Demand and Supply Side Options, The Energy and Resources Institute, February 2016.

This 28-page report reviews India’s likely electricity demand growth and supply options and concludes renewables are likely to supercede coal on cost by 2027. TERI’s media release on the report is here. The report itself is available on request from TERI via email.