July 7, 2016
Issue #141  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

A new report reveals the looming clash in India between ambitious targets for renewable capacity and a massive list of coal plants under construction or proposed. The longer the Indian Government delays curbing new coal plant construction the greater the likelihood of stranded coal-plant capacity or growing pressure to freeze renewables out.

Elsewhere the last week saw two separate legal challenges to different elements of the massive Thar coal project in Pakistan, including one by a seven year-old girl. The South Korean Government is vowing to scrap 10 old plants to cut air pollution while continuing to build twice as many new ones. In Europe a new report estimates almost 23,000 people a year die prematurely of pollution from coal plants in the European Union.

The most sobering development of the week however was the assassination of 57-year-old Gloria Capitan, the leader of a local group opposing coal plant pollution in Bataan province in the Philippines.

Bob Burton

Features

The incompatibility of India’s coal and renewable strategies

If the Indian Government fails to shut down the 243,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-power projects in various stages of development, either lower-cost renewable energy will be locked out of the grid or there will be a dramatic increase in stranded coal projects, writes Christine Shearer in EndCoal.

Like many of its members, the World Coal Association is running at a loss

The latest financial statements of the World Coal Association (WCA), the global coal industry’s London-based lobby group, reveal it clocked up a loss of US$108,000 in the last financial year, writes Bob Burton in EndCoal.

Better energy and development paths for Thailand than coal

Thailand could do far better than build the unneeded and costly six coal-fired power plants the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand is promoting, writes Danny Marks in the Bangkok Post.

Campaigns

Vale Gloria Capitan, a Filipino anti-coal activist

Last Friday night 57-year-old Gloria Capitan, who had been actively campaigning against pollution from a coal storage facility in Mariveles and the expansion of coal-fired power plants in Bataan, was shot and killed while at her family’s karaoke bar. Two masked men involved in the assassination escaped on a motorbike.

Coal-Free Bataan has launched an appeal to support Capitan's family and requested letters be sent to President Rodrigo Duterte, police and human rights agencies calling for a thorough investigation and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. Gloria Capitan will be buried on Sunday July 10, 2016, with a rally and call for justice afterwards. (Coal-Free Bataan Movement, 350.org)

Top News

European coal plants kill up to 22,900 people a year: Coal plants in the European Union cause the premature deaths of up to 22,900 people and impose a total health cost of between US$36 and US$70 billion a year, according to the Dark Cloud report released by the Health and Environment Alliance. Germany, Poland and Romania account for over one-third of the premature deaths. For the first time the report calculates cross-border health impacts from coal plants and estimates coal plant pollution from Germany, the UK, Poland, Spain and the Czech Republic caused up to 1200 premature deaths in France. (Health and Environment Alliance)

South Korea’s coal plant two-step: The Ministry of Energy has stated that “in response to growing concerns over fine dusts” it will close 10 old coal-fired power plants with a capacity of 3300 MW by 2025. However, the ministry proposes to allow 20 new coal plants to be built by 2022. Prior to the announcement the Korea Herald editorialised the government needed to “come up with genuinely extraordinary measures” to cut air pollution. (Reuters, Korea Herald)

Swedish Government approves sale of Vattenfall’s coal assets: The Swedish Government has approved the sale of Vattenfall’s lignite mines and power plants in Germany to the Czech company EPH despite opposition from environmentalists. The deal, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of August, was approved by the Climate Minister from the Swedish Greens which is a coalition partner in the centre-left government. Greenpeace is investigating the possibility of legal challenges to the deal. (Deutsche Welle, The Local)

Legal challenge to dam for Pakistan coal plant: A group of villagers is challenging Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company’s (SECMC) proposed construction of an 1100-hectare dam to hold saline groundwater extracted to allow the Thar II coal mine to proceed. The villagers allege that since the start of June they have been blocked from cultivating their crops, and “threatened and warned to vacate our houses and land.” The villagers want the dam ruled illegal and complain the local administration and police are acting in collaboration with SECMC. (Express Tribune)

Catalogue of bungles and cover-ups with US CCS plant: Internal documents and conversations recorded by a whistleblower, Brett Wingo, reveal how a series of bungles and cover-ups led to the Southern Company’s Kemper Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project running more than US$4 billion over budget. Wingo also reveals that plant engineers were pressed to present an optimistic completion schedule to avoid the risk of “financial Armageddon”. (New York Times)

US coal company surrenders reserves in bankruptcy deal: A coalition of environmental groups has negotiated a deal in which bankrupt Alpha Natural Resources will transfer 48 million tonnes of coal reserves to a non-profit for long-term management, excluding mining. The environmental groups have agreed to a three-year extension for Alpha to implement an earlier settlement over violations of the Clean Water Act at two mines and to drop their opposition to the company’s bankruptcy plan. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Earthjustice)

News

Malaysia: TNB seeks expression of interest in project to triple capacity of Lumut Port’s coal terminal.

Pakistan: Supreme Court allows seven-year-old girl to challenge development of Thar coal deposits.

Pakistan: Cabinet approves public guarantee for privately owned K-Electric’s 1320 MW Bin Qasim plant.

Thailand: New EGAT head vows to push ahead with six new coal plants totalling 4390 MW by 2025.

UK: Despite opposition, council approves Banks Mining’s proposed Druridge Bay mine.

US: Ethics complaint lodged against North Carolina Governor over dinner meeting with Duke Energy.

“Clearly the space for conventional power producers in India is shrinking. It’s possible that we may see hardly any thermal capacity addition in the next five years,”

said Debasish Mishra, a partner with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in Mumbai.

Companies + Markets

Momentum for Indian exports grows: With 45 to 50 million tonnes of coal stockpiled at Coal India mines the government-owned company is investigating exports of as much as 10 million tonnes to near neighbours including Nepal and Bangladesh. In particular, Coal India is pursuing discussions for the supply of coal to NTPC’s controversial 1320 MW Rampal plant near the Sundarbans World Heritage site in Bangladesh. Despite increased production, Coal India’s sales outlook remains uncertain as increased hydro generation from monsoonal rains starts to affect coal demand. (Bloomberg, The Hindu)

Red ink flows as stockpiles in India grow: Singareni Collieries Company (SCCL), a joint venture between the Telangana state government and the Government of India, is facing losses as stockpiles mount and buyers turn to cheaper imports. While SCCL has a production target of 66 million tonnes this year, since May it has cut production by almost one third. During summer 100,000 tonnes of coal reportedly burnt while stockpiled at the Medipalli mine. (The Hindu)

NTPC expects imminent end to imports: NTPC, India’s largest power utility, has flagged that after the delivery of about one million tonnes of coal ordered before the end of March 2015 it expects to source its requirement of 155 million tonnes entirely from domestic sources. “Following this year, there is not likely to be consumption of imported coal,” said an anonymous NTPC official. The publicly owned NTPC has 40,000 MW of coal plants. (Economic Times)

US crackdown down on royalty loophole: The US Department of the Interior has finalised a regulation designed to close a loophole that allowed coal and other fossil-fuel companies to minimise the royalties paid on production from public land. The regulation requires the value to be set near the point of production and based on the sale to the first arm-length entity rather than a related party. About 40 per cent of US coal originates from public lands. The new regulation takes effect on January 1, 2017. (US News & World Report, Department of Interior)

Eskom’s fragile financial base: The declining viability of exports from South Africa has spurred Eskom to retreat from its past practice of entering into ‘cost-plus’ contracts with private coal companies, as well as contributing to the capital cost of mine expansions. However, due to changes in coal-supply options for some of its power stations and the utility’s increased cost of financing, Eskom may face increased domestic coal prices at a time of declines in the cost of renewable power and coal in the export market. (Daily Maverick)

Murray Energy threatens mass layoffs: Murray Energy, which produces about 59 million tonnes of coal from 13 US mines, has warned over 80 per cent of its 7500 strong workforce could be laid off by September. The warning followed the rejection of a proposed new labour contract by the United Mineworkers of America. The company blamed tougher environmental rules and competition from gas. (Argus Media, Huffington Post)

Resources

Europe's dark cloud: How coal-burning countries make their neighbours sick, Health and Environment Alliance, the WWF, Climate Action Network Europe and Sandbag, July 2016. (Pdf)

This 56-page report documents the health toll from existing coal plants in Europe and finds they cause 22,900 premature deaths a year.

Collision Course: The Incompatibility of India’s Coal and Renewable Strategies, CoalSwarm, July 2016. (Pdf)

This 16-page report examines the growing conflict between the Indian Government’s ambitious plans for new low-cost wind and solar generation and its failure to rein in a huge proposed expansion of coal-power generation.

“How Oakland defeated coal,” Citylab, July 1, 2016.

This article provides a concise overview of the successful campaign to defeat the proposed coal terminal at the port of Oakland in California.