The world needs to quit coal. Why is it so hard?
The barriers to moving away from coal are not just economic but also the accumulated power of major companies and local political players, writes Somini Sengupta in the New York Times.
In Poland, local movements are challenging the nation’s addiction to coal
Local citizens groups are seeking to cut air pollution by driving political change from a municipal level up, writes Steve Rushton in Equal Times.
China-backed coal projects prompt climate change fears
China’s backing for dozens of coal projects around the world is increasing pollution that damages the global climate, writes David Shukman for the BBC.
Singrauli, India’s energy hub, fails to power lives of its peop
Singrauli district in India’s Madhya Pradesh state has an estimated 35,000 megawatts (MW) of coal capacity but residents bear the brunt of extreme pollution, writes Mayank Aggarwal in Mongabay.
Taiwan referendum reveal depth of public concern over coal power: Two referendum questions seeking to cut Taiwan’s coal generation and block any further coal plants have been overwhelmingly supported by voters. A resolution seeking the development of an energy policy that would “stop construction and expansion of any coal-firing” plants including the recently cancelled 1200 MW Shen’ao plant was supported by 76 per cent of those who cast valid votes. A second confusingly worded question seeking to cut coal generation by one per cent a year – which is lower than the government’s plan for about a 2 per cent cut per year – was passed with 75 per cent support. While the referendum results are unlikely to result in any change to the government’s policy of reducing coal and boosting renewables, they have revealed the depth of public concern about pollution from coal plants. (Central Election Commission)
Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission seeks jail sentence for coal company shareholder: Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has requested that the Jakarta Corruption Court sentence businessman Johanes Budisutrisno Kotjo, a shareholder in the Singapore-headquartered coal mining comany BlackGold Natural Resources, to four years in prison for his alleged role in a bribery scandal over the proposed 600 MW Riau coal plant. The KPK allege Kotjo offered a US$333,629 bribe to the then House of Representatives member Ms Eni Maulani Saragihpertaining. “The money was given to influence Eni to help the defendant in getting the power plant project,” KPK prosecutor, Ronald F. Worotikan, told the court. The KPK has also named Eni and and former social affairs minister, Idrus Marham, as suspects in the case. The Riau project has been suspended by PLN. (Jakarta Post, Tempo)
Colombian court reaffirms restrictions on new Cerrejon pit: In early November Colombia’s Constitutional Court reaffirmed an injunction imposed six months earlier at the request of communities affected by the proposed expansion of the La Puente pit at the Cerrejon coal mine. Villagers argued they had not been properly consulted by Cerrejon, a joint venture of BHP, Anglo American and Glencore, and that works to divert the Bruno stream would adversely affect their access to water resources in what is an arid region. Cerrejon claim that as a result of the court ruling production at the mine may decline by about 9 per cent in 2019 and have flagged they may lay off up to 1100 employees. (Montel News, MontelNews)
Eskom reveals its estimated death toll: Eskom has admitted to the South African Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs that fine particle pollution in excess of legal limits from its coal plants causes an estimated 333 premature deaths a year. The utility estimated the health cost of pollution from its 13 coal plants is 17.6 billion rand (US$1.2 billion) a year. Eskom’s data also revealed that only two of its plants met legal limits for fine particle pollution. The Department of Environmental Affairs confirmed to the committee that in October it had, without public consultation, amended the Air Quality Management Act standards to double the allowable sulphur dioxide emissions from coal plants to 1000 milligrams per cubic metre. Greenpeace South Africa told the committee this change was illegal and set the level at 30 times higher than allowed in China. Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Energy has recommended the government’s draft Integrated Resource Plan be amended to explicitly reflect that “new clean coal technologies should be pursued.” (Fin24, Business Day)
Germany's coal exit commission defers final work until early 2019: Germany’s coal exit commission has set February 1, 2019 as the new date for the completion of its work after deciding more time was required to develop more detailed transition plans for the lignite mining regions. One of the sticking points in the negotiations is the bid by utilities for compensation for the closure of coal plants. Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, who is not a member of the commission, insists compensation should be paid for closures required in the short-term but not necessarily for later closures. An internal commission document also reportedly proposes the closure of 37,000 MW of coal plants in western Germany by 2030, with companies offered more compensation the sooner they close. The document reportedly proposes a second phase of closures after 2030 in the country’s east. (Clean Energy Wire, Reuters)
Court decision over South African coal mine to be appealed: The Global Environmental Trust will appeal a decision by Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Rishi Seegobin rejecting a bid to block the continued operation of Tendele Coal Mining’s (TCM) Somkhele coal mine near the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal. Residents of Somkhele district have also voted to support the appeal. A coalition of residents and environmental groups has argued the mine was operating without appropriate national and municipal permits. TCM, which is owned by the privately held company Petmin, supplies metallurgical coal from the mine to both South African and export markets. (Mail & Guardian, GroundUp)
UK High Court overturns decision to reject Druridge Bay mine: The UK High Court has set aside a March 2018 decision by former Secretary of State for Communities, Sajid Javid, who refused permission for the proposed Highthorn coal mine near Druridge Bay in Northumberland on the grounds of its impact on climate change. The court ruled that Javid did not provide sufficient evidence for his conclusion or the reasoning behind his decision. The ruling means the current Secretary for Housing and Communities, James Brokenshire, will be required to make a fresh decision on the company’s application. (Business Green, Friends of the Earth)
Queensland Government approves huge Galilee thermal coal mine: The Queensland Government’s Co-ordinator General has approved, subject to conditions, MacMines AustAsia proposed China Stone project in the Galilee Basin. The mine is proposed to produce 38 million tonnes of thermal coal but is predicated on being able to attract finance and use Adani’s proposed railway line to the Abbot Point coal terminal. However, central to the viability of the project is the construction of a new 1050 MW coal power plant which the Co-ordinator General concluded was “not demonstrated” and has requested the company reassess. While the project has been conditionally approved by the Queensland Government, the federal Minister for the Environment has six weeks to make a decision under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. (ABC News, Australian Financial Review [paywall])
“Why is coal so hard to quit? Because coal is a powerful incumbent. It’s there by the millions of tons under the ground. Powerful companies, backed by powerful governments, often in the form of subsidies, are in a rush to grow their markets before it is too late. Banks still profit from it. Big national electricity grids were designed for it. Coal plants can be a surefire way for politicians to deliver cheap electricity — and retain their own power. In some countries, it has been a glistening source of graft,”
writes Somini Sengupta in the New York Times.
Australia: Pro-coal Liberal Party resoundingly defeated in Victorian state election.
Australia: Whistleblower allegations of corruption in NSW mining titles referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Botswana: Minergy begins work on Masama thermal coal mine aimed at the global export market.
India: Police arrest coal merchant over attempted murder of two Meghalaya civil society leaders.
Japan: Twelve residents of Kobe sue Japanese Government to block Kobe Steel’s proposed 1300 MW coal plant and challenge all proposed coal plants.
Malaysia: Customs officials in Sarawak block illegal shipment of coal destined for Bangladesh.
Papua New Guinea: Acting Managing Director of PNG Power ridicules Mayur Resources pitch for coal plant.
Poland: The first official sponsor of the COP24 climate conference in Katowice is coal company JSW.
South Africa: Pretoria High Court rejects union bid to block the signing 27 power purchase agreements for independent renewable energy projects.
Thailand: Dairy farmers threaten legal action over 150 MW coal plant under construction despite lacking a licence from the Energy Regulatory Commission.
“You expand your power capacity but you don’t use the cheapest form of new power generation? It’s crazy, not least when it has just run its first onshore wind auction and got extremely competitive prices,”
said Giles Dickson, the Chief Executive of WindEurope about Poland’s draft energy strategy which proposes phasing out onshore wind power.
Renewables overtake fossil fuels in emerging countries: In its latest Climatescope report BNEF estimates that in 2017 emerging countries commissioned 94,000 MW of wind and solar capacity, almost double the 48,000 MW of new coal plant capacity brought online. BNEF estimates that the amount of new coal capacity commissioned was the smallest since 2006 and 38 per cent lower than in 2016. New wind and solar accounted for 52 per cent of all capacity installed in 2017, up from 14 per cent just five years earlier. BNEF notes that in 2017, 28,000 MW of renewable capacity was contracted through tenders, with wind power prices reaching as low as US $17.7 per megawatt-hour (MWh) and solar for as little as US$18.9/MWh. (RenewEconomy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance)
Glencore objects to rival’s NSW mine plan: Glencore, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, has warned the Independent Assessment Commission that the development of the proposed Bylong mine by Korea Electric Power Corporation could have significant impacts on the operation of three other mines served by a single railway track. The company argued that three existing mines — Glencore’s Ulan mine, Yancoal’s Moolarben mine and Peabody Energy’s Wilpinjong mine — have the capacity to produce 50.5 million tonnes of coal a year but the “theoretical capacity” of the railway line is only 40 million tonnes a year. The company claimed that without track upgrades the approval of a new mine would have “significant and unnecessary” impacts on its Ulan mine. (Newcastle Herald)
Developers object to Pakistan’s proposed cut to guaranteed profit margins: The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s proposal to reduce the guaranteed 14 to 17 per cent rate of return for different technologies to 12 to 16 per cent has earned the ire of the UK-based Oracle Power, which wants the higher rates grandfathered in for companies with existing agreements. Oracle Power, which is proposing to develop a 1320 MW lignite coal plant in the Thar desert with finance from Chinese banks, argues that any change will discourage investments in independent power projects. President Imran Khan’s new government has vowed to review what it argues were overly generous concessions for power projects as public opposition to Chinese-backed infrastructure projects and associated debts grow. (The News, CoalSwarm, Associated Press)
New Polish energy strategy aims to phase out onshore wind: Ahead of its hosting of international climate talks in December, the Polish Ministry of Energy has unveiled a draft energy strategy to 2040 that effectively phases out the country’s existing onshore wind farms but supports 10,000 MW of new offshore wind farms. While onshore wind is the cheapest for new generation, as recent Polish renewables auctions revealed, the draft policy proposes supporting new nuclear plants. Under the draft strategy, coal’s share of generation would slowly decline from the current 80 per cent to 60 per cent by 2030 and about 35 per cent by 2040. However, the strategy estimates total installed capacity could grow from about 40,000 MW to 72,600 MW by 2040. (Reuters, Deutsche Welle, WindPower Monthly)
New deal for new coal terminal near Murmansk: Russia’s Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport has reached an agreement with the State Transport Leasing Company (STLC) for the construction of the proposed Lavna coal export terminal near Murmansk in Russia’s Far East. The proposed 24 billion ruble (US$360 million) terminal deal follows the sidelining of the Swiss-based coal trading company, Mercuria Energy Trading, which has been replaced by Biznes-Globus as STLC’s joint venture partner. Biznes-Globus is a company associated with Andrey Bokarev, a co-owner of the major Russian copper producer, Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company. (The Barents Observer, Port.today)
A Just Transition or Just a Transition?, E3G, November 2018. (Pdf)
This 10-page briefing paper outlines some of the key characteristics for a just transition for all affected by a shift away from fossil fuels and argues a transition is only just if it aims to keep the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal within reach.