October 15, 2020
Issue 343  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest World Energy Outlook (WEO) has highlighted how solar power is now the cheapest form of electricity generation in most countries. A new IEA scenario for net-zero emissions by 2050 projects a dramatic decline in coal generation.

What the IEA’s WEO highlights is how critical China’s energy policy is in meeting global climate goals. Following the recent indication that China might increase its climate policy ambition, a report by leading Chinese think tanks this week stressed the need for immediate reduction in coal generation. This comes as Chinese power utilities and steel producers have reportedly been directed to block imports from Australian exporters. If both policies come to pass the implications for the domestic and global coal industry are huge.

Elsewhere, the challenges for coal continue to grow. In Turkey, a court has rejected a plan used to approve the development of an extension of an existing coal plant. In Japan, Mitsui, a giant trading house, has announced it aims to sell off its holdings in coal power plants. JERA, the biggest Japanese utility, has also announced it plans to close all its “inefficient” coal plants by 2030.

Bob Burton


Solar is now ‘cheapest electricity in history’, confirms IEA

The IEA’s latest World Energy Outlook says the best solar power schemes now offer the “cheapest…electricity in history” with the technology cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries, write Simon Evans and Josh Gabbatiss in Carbon Brief.

Close inefficient coal by 2030 for net zero, shows IEA

A new IEA scenario for net zero emissions by 2050 shows global coal generation must collapse by 75–80 per cent by 2030 compared to 2019, writes Dave Jones for Ember.

Indigenous residents protest huge coal mine plan in India

A plan by the West Bengal Government to develop a two billion tonne coal block faces strong opposition from the mostly Indigenous villagers at risk of dispossession, writes Gurvinder Singh in Eco-Business.

Influential academics reveal how China can achieve its ‘carbon neutrality’ goal

New scenarios and policy recommendations by two highly influential Chinese climate research institutes suggest China’s electricity system would need to reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 to achieve “carbon neutrality” before 2060, writes Lauri Myllyvirta from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in CarbonBrief.

Top News

Turkish court overturns approval for lignite plant expansion: A Turkish Administrative Court has cancelled the proposed plan submitted in support of the proposed 800 megawatt (MW) Cayırhan B lignite plant in Ankara province. The Ankara branch if the Chamber of Architects had filed a legal challenge to the proposed plant arguing it did not properly address the likely impacts on the nearby Davutoglan Wildlife Development Area and Nallıhan Bird Sanctuary and impacts on agriculture and water resources. The group has welcomed the court decision. Prior to the court decision the plant, which has been proposed as an expansion of the existing 620 MW Cayırhan A plant, had been granted an operating licence. (Iklim Haber [Turkish], Global Energy Monitor)

China think tanks urge immediate coal cuts in near term: A report by 18 of China’s climate think tanks has urged a reduction in coal power over the next five years to offset the expected increase in emissions from growth in gas generation. The report argued the achieving the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius goal required immediate cuts in total energy consumption with a 2 degree increase goal requiring coal’s share of energy falling from 57.7 per cent in 2019 to 15 per cent by 2050. (Reuters)

Indian anti-corruption agency charges MP: India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, the national anti-corruption agency, has charged YSR Congress Party MP in the Andhra Pradesh parliament, Raghu Ramakrishna Raju, over an alleged diversion of funds loaned by the Punjab National Bank to Ind-Barath Thermal Power. CBI also charged Raju’s wife and nine others with cheating and criminal conspiracy. Raju and his wife are directors of Ind-Barath Thermal Power Limited, which had proposed to build a 300 MW coal plant in Uttara Kannada. (Scroll)

Polish children exposed to extreme pollution: A study by the University of Hasselt in Belgium has found 28 children in the Polish city of Rybnik had black carbon in urine samples at levels three to nine times higher than children in Strasbourg in France. University of Hasselt researcher, Tim Nawrot, said he “has never seen” such high concentrations of particulate matter in samples as occurred in Rybnik. PGE, a Polish Government utility,  owns a 1720 MW coal plant on the outskirts of Rybnik and has recently announced several units at the plant will close in the next few years. Particulate matter, including black carbon, is associated with a wide range of health effects including impacts on cognitive function, cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions and cancer. (Euractiv)

Samsung concedes brand damage over KEPCO’s Vietnamese plant: Samsung Electronics vice president, Kim Suk-ki, and Samsung C&T vice president, Oh Se-chul, have acknowledged the company has suffered reputation damage over its interest in building the 1200 MW Vung Ang 2 coal plant in Vietnam. Earlier this month the board of Korean utility KEPCO decided to invest in the plant with a Samsung subsidiary slated to build the project. Oh told a parliamentary committee hearing Samsung does not plan to “get involved in any coal power plants in the future.” South Korean and international NGO groups have criticised the decision of both KEPCO and Samsung. (Global Construction Review)

Environment Ministry clears use of high ash coal: India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has given public notification that it has agreed to abandon standards announced in January 2014 and August 2015 banning power station use of coal with an ash content of higher than 34 per cent. The ministry claimed power plants are better placed to capture fly ash, it is being reused in cement and other products, and the restriction was to stimulate demand for imported coal “resulting in outflow of foreign exchange.” However, NGO groups argue the change will result in increased pollution as the requirement to install pollution control equipment has not been enforced and not all fly ash is reused. Sudhir Paliwal from Vidarbha Environmental Action Group said the change would also cater for the interests of private companies bidding on coal blocks with high ash coal. (Times of India)


Australia: BlackRock votes for AGL Energy to close its three coal plants by 2036 rather than current 2048 timetable.

Australia: NSW Environment Protection Authority has fined Whitehaven Coal subsidiary Werris Creek Coal A$15,000 for an uncontrolled water discharge on 18 February 2020.

Australia: Crew member of coal ship in Newcastle port tested positive for COVID-19.

Colombia: Cerrejon strike continues due to proposed shift changes as company confirms 700 jobs to be cut.

Dominica: AES not interested in buying the Dominican Government’s share of the 600 MW Punta Catalina Power Plant.

India: Minister for Coal and Mines, Pralhad Joshi, has tested positive for COVID-19.

New Zealand: Activists shut down Rotowaro coal mine jointly owned by Bathurst Resources and Talleys Energy.

South Africa: Report estimates coal-to-oil producer Sasol’s exemption from carbon tax amounted to a subsidy of US$394 million in 2019.

Sri Lanka: Parliamentary committee finds poor coal tendering procedure caused a loss of 1.1 billion Sri Lanka rupees (US$6 million).

UK: HSBC’s 2050 deadline for exit from fossil fuel funding criticised for failing to take immediate action on coal funding.

Vietnam: Coal ship laden with 21,200 tonnes of coal grounded in storm off beach at Da Nang.

Companies + Markets

Debate rages over Chinese cuts to Australian coal exports: Major Chinese state-owned utilities and steel producers have reportedly been told to cease imports of Australian thermal and metallurgical coal, though the duration of the ban remains unclear. Analysts are cautious about the likely impact of the direction but note the ongoing trade tensions between the two countries. In 2019 China imported 224 million tonnes of thermal coal and 75 million tonnes of metallurgical coal. While China could access thermal coal from Indonesia, Russia, South Africa and Colombia, metallurgical coal would be more difficult as Australia currently supplies over half the seaborne market and about two-thirds of China’s imports. (Argus Media, Guardian, Reuters)

Japanese trading company Mitsui vows to sell coal plant stakes by 2030: Tatsuo Yasunaga, the CEO of Mitsui, a major Japanese trading house, has vowed to sell its stakes in coal plants by 2030. Mitsui currently has investments in coal plants in Indonesia, China, Malaysia and Morocco. Previously Mitsui has promoted its involvement with a small 30 MW carbon capture and storage demonstration at the Callide-A plant in Queensland as evidence of a pathway to zero emissions coal power. Mitsui said it will also move away from oil but plans to continue its involvement in the LNG sector. (Reuters)

Largest Japanese utility announces closures by 2030: The Japanese Government has launched its three-yearly energy policy review with Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama stating “no conclusion has been drawn in terms of energy mix.” However, earlier this year the government flagged the closure of old, less efficient coal plants, and increased nuclear generation and carbon capture and storage to slowly decarbonise the country’s power sector emissions. Energy utility JERA, which has 7300 MW of coal plant capacity, has announced it will “shutdown [...] all inefficient coal power plants (supercritical or less) by 2030.” JERA did not specifically identify which units will be closed. It has flagged it will also gradually reduce fossil fuel consumption by increasing use of ammonia and hydrogen. (Reuters, Argus, JERA)

Polish coal company looks to exit thermal coal: Radoslaw Zalozinski, the Chief Financial Officer Polish coal mining company, JSW, has announced the company, “will aim to focus 100% on the production of coking coal.” JSW, a publicly owned company, operates five coal mines and in 2019 produced almost 15 million tonnes of coal, about 20 per cent of which was thermal coal. JSW is seeking 1.75 billion zlotys (US$462 million) in funding from the Polish Development Fund but must obtain approval from other debt holders including state-owned banks and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The move comes as the State Assets Ministry is working on a plan for state-owned utilities to separate coal assets from other parts of their business. (Reuters,  Reuters)

Bangladesh power plan revision to hit Asian market exporters: The energy consultancy Rystad Energy estimates a dramatic reduction in Bangladesh’s proposed coal plant capacity is likely to reduce thermal coal demand in the Asian market by almost 30 million tonnes a year. Bangladesh’s 2016 power development plan proposed 20,000 MW of coal capacity by 2040 but recent announcements indicates it is likely to peak at 7300 MW in 2025 with the completion of projects under construction. Rystad forecasts Bangladesh’s thermal coal imports are likely to rise from the current 2.3 million tonnes a year to peak at 18 million tonnes by 2025. Australian, Indonesian and South African coal exporters had looked to growth in Bangladesh to help offset the forecast decline in other regional markets such as South Korea and Japan. (Rystad Energy)

Indonesian legislation abolishes coal royalties for processed coal: Indonesia’s parliament has passed omnibus legislation which includes an amendment to the country’s mining law by abolishing coal royalties for projects involved in the downstream processing of coal. Under the legislation coal royalties will be abolished for coal gasification plants, mine mouth power stations connected to the national grid, coke production and coal liquefaction. At present coal mined under existing mining permits attracts a royalty of 13.5 per cent. (Argus)

Coal India pursues up to five coal-to-liquids projects: Coal India, a government-owned mining company, is planning to develop up to five coal-to-liquids projects to produce methanol for use as a supplementary transport fuel and in materials production such as plastics. Coal India recently called for bids for the first project in the Dankuni coal block in West Bengal. It is also undertaking pre-feasibility studies on four others with the initial assessment due to be completed in January. The projects under consideration are at Sonapur in Bengal and other projects in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. (Times of India)

IEA steel sector report flags changes but baulks at 1.5 °C target: An International Energy Agency (IEA) report on the global steel sector flags the need to rapidly reduce emissions from the sector including by measures including increasing the energy efficiency of current production. It also flags the need to pursuit of new technologies including the use of hydrogen-fuelled steel production and the potential use of carbon capture and storage with traditional blast furnaces. The steel sector is currently responsible for about seven per cent of energy sector carbon dioxide emissions with about one billion tonnes of metallurgical coal consumed a year. The NGO MightyEarth expressed concern the agency’s sustainable development scenario does not adopt the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 °C target and forecasts clean hydrogen would only be used to produce about eight per cent of steel production by 2050. (International Energy Agency, Mighty Earth)


The Role of Subsidies in South Africa’s Coal-Based Liquid Fuel Sector, International Institute for Sustainable Development, October 2020. (Media release here.)

This 8-page briefing paper how Sasol’s Secunda coal-to-oil plant, South Africa’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, benefits from subsidies that lock in coal dependence and pollution for the country’s transport fuels.

Iron and Steel Technology Roadmap, International Energy Agency, October 2020. (The full report is available here as a pdf but requires registration and payment.)

This 190-page report provides a detailed overview of the global iron and steel sector and sketches possible elements in an emissions reduction strategy to make the sector more sustainable.

Clean Hydrogen Monitor 2020, Hydrogen Europe, October 2020. (Pdf, registration required.)

This 106-page report provides a detailed overview of European clean hydrogen projects and policies with passing mentions of the potential use in the steel sector.