February 15, 2018
Issue 217  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The common question from kids on long journeys of “are we there yet?” may well apply to three long-running campaigns. In Queensland the environmental regulator has recommended against allowing the expansion of the Acland coal mine but the campaign is not quite over yet. Adani’s Carmichael coal mine may be one step closer to collapse with the proponent of a rival railway for the project withdrawing their application for concessional public funding. In Thailand, the military regime has confirmed a three-year delay in two major coal plants but baulked at cancelling them outright.

In South Africa, the likely demise of President Zuma’s political career opens up the prospect that the formidable challenges facing the scandal-plagued Eskom may finally be addressed. Scandals aren’t confined to South Africa with a US auditor’s report revealing that US$2.5 million for a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Texas was spent on things such as a spa, booze and lobbying.

In India, the customs agency is challenging a ruling that let Adani off the hook from facing charges of tax avoidance over imported power equipment. Meanwhile Coal India has noted that the boom in renewables and falling battery prices may substantially undermine future coal demand. A 2000 megawatt (MW) power auction in India has also confirmed that wind power prices are now cheaper than existing coal power from the country’s largest generator, NTPC. The days of coal power — especially new plants, and even in India — are clearly numbered.

Bob Burton


Life insurers help killer coal in Poland

The proposed expansion of a suite of coal power plants and mines in Poland, which already cause the deaths of thousands of people a year in Europe, are being backed by some of the continent’s biggest health and life insurers, writes Lucie Pinson from Unfriend Coal.

New US projections play up coal while downplaying renewables — that’s not reality

The latest US Energy Information Administration energy forecasts are skewed toward coal over renewables and likely to be just as inaccurate as their past efforts, writes Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University in The Hill.

It is no wonder the world has gone cold on so-called clean coal

Despite all the Australian coal industry’s hype about new coal plants, the world is moving on writes Simon Holmes a Court in The Australian.


Queensland mine expansion rejected

To the relief of local landowners, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science has rejected the proposed 12-year expansion of New Hope Corporation’s New Acland mine. In May 2017 the Queensland Land Court recommended the company’s mine expansion bid be rejected and was highly critical of the company’s modelling of the impacts on groundwater supplies. Subsequently, the company appealed the Land Court decision to the Supreme Court but suffered a further defeat. The Oakey Coal Action Alliance, representing local residents and farmers, argued the mine expansion would impact air quality and jeopardise high-quality farming land as a result of the impacts on underground water resources. However, the Queensland Minister for Mines is yet to make his decision on whether to reject the required mining lease and the company has a further legal challenge scheduled to be heard in March. (Environmental Defenders Office, ABC News)

Top News

Plan B for Adani's Queensland railway falls over: Aurizon, a company that had proposed constructing an alternative railway to service Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine, has withdrawn its application for concessional funding from the Australian Government’s Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund. The withdrawal has been interpreted as Aurizon concluding Adani’s project will not proceed. Meanwhile, the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Energy considered launching a criminal prosecution against Adani over its failure to disclose that its Australian CEO had been the director of operations at a mine in Zambia that was convicted of environmental offences. (ABC, ABC)

Opponents of new Thai coal plants launch hunger strike: Thailand’s Minister for Energy, Siri Jirapongphan, has directed the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to look for an alternative site for the proposed 2000 MW Thepa plant in the country’s south and possibly also for the proposed 800 MW Krabi project. Over 60 people from local groups in the southern provinces held a hunger strike in front of the United Nations headquarters in Bangkok and called on the government to cancel the two projects. (Thai PBS, The Nation)

Auditor finds US CCS funds spent on spa, booze and lobbying: The US Department of Energy’s Inspector-General has found that Summit Power Group, which was allocated US$450 for a CCS project in Texas, spent $1.3 million on “unallowable costs” including a spa service and alcohol. It also found US$1.2 million was spent on consultants lobbying for legal changes in how grant funds are taxed. DOE ended its support for the project in 2016 and the company filed for bankruptcy in October 2017. (Bloomberg, US Department of Energy)

German coalition to set end date for coal: German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative parties — the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) and the centre–left Social Democrats (SPD) have concluded a coalition agreement which includes setting an end date by early 2019 on the “gradual” phasing out of coal and lignite power plants. It also proposes to accelerate the deployment of renewables. While the final agreement has yet to be ratified by the members of the SPD, the key ministries for climate policy — with the exception of the environment ministry — will all be held by members of the conservative CDU/CSU block. (Clean Energy Wire, Clean Energy Wire)

India aims to cut air pollution in most polluted cities: India’s Minister for Environment, Harsh Vardhan, has announced the Ministry of Environment will aim to cut air pollution by 50 per cent over the next five years in the country’s 100 most polluted cities. It is planned that air pollution monitoring will be expanded and control measures for pollution from all key sources will be enforced. However, the plan does not specifically mention measures to cut pollution from coal power plants. (Outlook India)

“Negative views on coal and its impact on the environment have resulted in a precipitous decline in the use of coal by the major economies of the world,”

said Henk Langenhoven, the chief economist at the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, a mining industry lobby group.

#Coal lobby group in #SouthAfrica acknowledges “precipitous decline in the use of coal by the major economies of the world” #endcoal http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/south-african-mining-industry-makes-compelling-case-for-protection-of-coal-2018-02-07/


Colombia: Railway line from BHP, Anglo American and Glencore’s Cerrejon mine hit by bomb attack.

UK: In the capacity auction for 2020/21, 7000 MW of old coal plants missed out, boosting prospects of early retirement.

US: Riverview Energy proposes US$2.5 billion coal-to-diesel plant in Indiana.

US: Settlement reached on costs of Kemper CCS plant, with shareholders taking US$6.4 billion loss.

US: CEO of coal company MEPCO to be retried on charges of illegal campaign contributions to pro-coal politicians.

Companies + Markets

Coal India says no new mines needed as renewables erode demand: A draft of Coal India’s 2030 Vision document, prepared by KPMG, argues that no new mines will be required beyond those already allocated or already auctioned off. It estimates total coal demand may increase from 894 million tonnes in 2017 to 900–1000 million tonnes by 2020. The study also states that the rapidly falling cost of battery storage, combined with growing renewables capacity, “may have significant implications on coal-fired power plants in terms of replacing the thermal capacity required to meet the peak demand.” (Indian Express, Coal India)

Indian wind auction result a shock to coal utilities: In a 2000 MW wind power auction held by the government-owned Solar Energy Corporation of India, the average tariff was 2.44 rupees (four US cents) per kilowatt hour (kWh). With the cost of wind turbines falling by 20 per cent over the last five years, new wind power is now cheaper than the average cost of coal power supplied by NTPC, the largest power generator in India, which provides about one-quarter of the country’s electricity. (Livemint)

India’s customs agency appeals Adani over-invoicing decision: India’s customs agency has lodged an appeal against the decision to dismiss charges against two Adani subsidiaries that they had over-inflated the price of power equipment imported into India in 2009 and 2010 by 39 billion rupees (US$680 million) to avoid paying tax. In August 2017, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence’s adjudicating authority, K V S Singh, directed that all charges be dropped. (Indian Express, The Wire)

Insurance giants revealed as big backers of Polish coal: European insurance companies have invested more than €1.3 billion (US$1.6 billion) in Polish coal companies since 2013, according to new research by a coalition of NGOs. The companies — led by Munich Re’s Ergo Hestia, Allianz and Generali — have entered into at least 21 contracts underwriting both existing and new projects during the period. (Unfriend Coal, Guardian)

US export bank dumps Vietnam plant loan: PetroVietnam, a government-owned oil company, has withdrawn an application for financial support from the Export-Import Bank of the United States for its Long Phu 1 coal plant. NGO groups argued that the project, which the UK government’s export credit agency had refused to support, would have had far worse environmental impacts than PetroVietnam claimed. (New York Times, CoalSwarm)

US Congress extends tax credits for CCS: US Congress has approved the extension of a tax credit to include CCS projects commenced before 2024 and available for up to 12 years after commissioning. A law passed in 2008 allowed a tax credit of between US$10 and US$20 a ton for a maximum of 74 million tons, with just over 52 million tons used by May 2017. The amendment, which has been promoted by coal companies including Peabody Energy, the oil industry and some pro-CCS environment groups, extends the credit to US$50 per ton for carbon dioxide (CO2) storage and US$35 per ton for CO2 used to boost oil production. (Bloomberg, Houston Chronicle)

Formidable challenges ahead for Eskom: Eskom has been rescued from defaulting on its debt by the Public Investment Corporation, a government-owned financial and pension fund manager, providing a five billion rand (US$420 million) bridging loan until financing from a consortium of banks is available. Eskom, which has just advertised for a new Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, faces a formidable challenge to stabilise the utility’s finances, cut capital expenditure and meet climate and environmental obligations. (Business Day, Fin24)


Dirty Business: Insurance companies supporting the growth of Polish coal, Unfriend Coal, February 2018. (Pdf)

This 6-page briefing details the role of insurance companies, especially Allianz, Munich Re and Generali, in financing and insuring major Polish coal mines and power projects.