April 13, 2017
Issue 178  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The tide continues to run against coal power plants in key countries. The Minister for Energy in Indonesia has warned no new power purchase agreements will be entered into - as a power glut looms mid-next decade in the key Java-Bali power market. This effectively stalls or cancels up to 9000 megawatts (MW) of new power plants, many coal-fired. Moody’s has warned at least 10,000 MW of coal plants are at risk of closure in the 13-state PJM market on the US Atlantic east coast and Great Lakes states. In the Netherlands Uniper has written down the value of its new Maasvlakte 3 plant by over half in the two years since it was commissioned.

In India the Supreme Court has rejected the claim by Tata Power and Adani that changes to Indonesia’s export pricing policy should be deemed a ‘force majeure’ event - enabling them to pass the higher costs on to customers even though their power purchase agreement was won via a competitive bidding process. Adani has also featured prominently in the news for a poor track record in India; pollution of a wetland with fines after a cyclone hit a coal port it operates in Australia; and its relentless demand the Australian Government subsidise the cost of its Carmichael coal project.

Bob Burton


The rise and fall of India’s ‘Ultra-Mega” coal power projects

The collapse of India’s expansive plans for a raft of 4000 MW “Ultra-Mega’’ power plants mirrors the shift away from coal globally as a result of community resistance and the changing economics of power generation, writes Keith Schneider in Circle of Blue.

Exposing Adani’s environmental and labour abuses

One of the biggest barriers to social equality in India is the coal industry - with Adani the worst company due to its “dark and disturbing history of environmental and human rights abuses,” writes Vaishali Patil, an environmental justice activist in India.

Factcheck: Is Europe getting off coal?

The announcement by Europe’s peak energy industry group Eurelectric that it wouldn’t build new coal plants after 2020 grabbed headlines - but major loopholes mean new coal power stations may be commissioned long after 2020, writes Zachary Davies Boren in Greenpeace’s EnergyDesk.

Where’s the love for the climate in China and Pakistan’s coal romance?

Rapidly advancing plans to mine millions of tonnes of coal to fuel at least five new Chinese-backed coal power plants by 2018 threaten to make Pakistan’s air pollution far worse, writes Adjunct Professor Fahad Saeed from King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia in The Conversation.

Top News

Projected power surplus forces Indonesia to cancel planned plants: Indonesia’s Minister for Energy, Ignasius Jonan, announced no new Power Purchase Agreements will be entered into for the Java-Bali grid as there will be an estimated 5000 MW surplus by 2024 if all current projects – including the 2000 MW Batang coal plant – are built. Jonan’s statement suggests as much as approximately 9000 MW of 23,000 MW planned new power capacity – predominantly coal – has effectively been cancelled. (Metrotv, Republika) [both in Indonesian)

Germany opposes stricter pollution limits on lignite plants: In a last-minute lobbying move Germany has declared it opposes the adoption of a European Commission proposal to limit nitrogen oxide emissions from lignite power plants to 175 milligrams per cubic metre of air. The proposal had been developed over the past three years. Germany is arguing the new limit, which is due to be put to a vote on April 28, should be set at 190 milligrams per cubic metre of air. Nitrogen oxide is a major contributor to air pollution. (Politico [paywall])

“Massive” pollution of wetland by Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal: Satellite imagery has revealed “massive contamination” of the Caley Valley wetlands by coal-laced water released from Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal during Cyclone Debbie. Before the cyclone, the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection issued a temporary licence to allow release of excess water containing up to 100 micrograms of “total suspended solids” per litre – over triple the normal level – into the Caley Valley, which is listed as a nationally significant wetland. Norm Duke, a research scientist at James Cook University, said “there’s undoubtedly going to be environmental harm” from the coal pollution revealed in the satellite image. (Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald)

Myanmar’s Ministry of Energy pushes to revive stalled coal projects: At its annual media conference the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, U Htein Lwin, signalled the agency’s hope to push ahead with unpopular coal and hydro projects, claiming they are cheaper than solar and wind. Lwin stated the agency would publicise details of the proposed projects in the hope of changing public opinion. According to the Global Coal Plant Tracker 5130 MW of new coal plants have been proposed in Myanmar. (Irrawaddy, Eleven)

Coal companies lobby Trump to stay in Paris Agreement: The CEO of Cloud Peak Energy, one of the largest US coal producers, has written to President Trump urging him not to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement. In an April 6 letter to Trump, Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall argued that by remaining in the Paris Agreement “you can help shape a more rational international approach to climate policy” and help push for international funding for new coal plants. (Reuters)

Group warns Russia needs to diversify away from coal: Russia needs to diversify the economies of the coal-producing regions to offset the likely fall in global demand as the world shifts away from coal, the environmental group Ecodefense told public meetings on a national tour of coal regions. Russia is currently the world’s third largest coal exporter with sales of between 150-160 million tonnes of coal a year. The group warns that the Kuzbass region in south central Siberia, which produces about 60 per cent of the country’s coal, bears a heavy social and environmental cost with many mines flouting the country’s laws. (Bellona)


Australia: Protest against Adani’s Carmichael mine disrupts Westpac Bank’s 200th birthday dinner.

Australia: Polling reveals Turnbull Government’s pro-coal and anti-renewables push out of step with voters.

Brazil: Ten companies express interest in Engie Brasil’s two coal plants with 1200 MW capacity.

Colombia: Cerrejon Coal Company, the country’s largest coal exporter, joins World Coal Association.

India: Fisherman demand action against Mormugao Port Trust over coal pollution of beach.

South Africa: Documents reveal CEO and Chairman of Eskom withheld information on controversial coal deal with Gupta’s company.

Thailand: Military regime pushes to relocate hospital director for speaking out against 2000 MW Songkhla coal plant.

Companies + Markets

India’s Supreme Court rejects Adani and Mundra tariff bids: India’s Supreme Court has rejected a bid by Adani Power and Tata Power to force five states to pay a compensatory tariff. The companies argued they hadn’t envisaged increased costs of imported coal due to Indonesia’s changes to coal export pricing. In the wake of the ruling analysts suggested the 4000 MW Tata Mundra and Adani’s 4620 MW plant also at Mundra may no longer be viable. The share price of Adani Power fell sharply as the company has already included about US$1.3 billion in compensatory tariff as income in its financial statements. (Hindu Business Line, Business Standard)

Australia Government offers Adani funds and native title changes: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has vowed to change Australia’s native title laws to allow Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine to proceed without requiring the support of all local indigenous custodians. At a meeting with Gautam Adani in India Turnbull was informed the company would be submitting an application for a US$675 million concessional loan from the government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. (ABC News, Australian Financial Review [paywall])

More US coal plants being pushed towards retirement: Increasing gas generation in the 13 states in the major PJM Interconnection market – which includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland – is driving wholesale power prices down and pushing many coal plants closer to retirement, according to financial analysts Moody’s. The financial ratings agency estimates 10,000 MW of coal plants in PJM now have a capacity factor of only 43 per cent, marginally above the 40 per cent level at which a coal plant is likely to close. Moody’s estimates a further 12,000 MW have a capacity factor of 58 per cent, far lower than the 80 per cent plus which coal plants are designed to run at. (Utility Dive)

Further writedown for new Dutch coal plant: In its 2016 results Uniper – the spin-off of the German utility E.ON’s coal and gas plants – reported at the end of last year it had written down the value of its new 1100 MW Maasvlakte 3 power plant in the Netherlands by €100 million (US$105 million) to just €700 million (US$741 million).  The plant, which was only commissioned in 2015, cost €1.7 billion (US$1.8 billion) to build, and is at risk of further write-downs as growing renewable capacity suppresses wholesale power prices. A court has also ordered the Dutch Government to increase its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. (IEEFA)

Balkan utilities buck European coal ban plan: While Greek and Polish utilities rejected the new policy of Eurelectric – Europe’s peak energy industry group – of no new coal plants after 2020, Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) and Elektroprivreda Bosne i Hercegovine (EP BIH), which are members operating in the Western Balkans, have remained silent. EPS has proposed the 350 MW Kostolac plant in Serbia and EP BIH has planned two new units at other plants, while a state-owned company has proposed another at Banovici. However, the viability of all the plants is in doubt as the Energy Community Treaty obliges member countries to gradually apply European Union energy and environmental legislation. (Climate Home)

Exim Bank of India agrees to fund Rampal project: In a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange the Indian government-owned NTPC announced Export-Import Bank of India has agreed to lend US$1.6 billion for the construction of the 1320 MW Rampal project in Bangladesh. The controversial project, which is being developed by a joint venture between NTPC and the Bangladesh Power Development Board, achieved financial close on April 10. The project continues to face strong community resistance due to its effects on the Sundarbans World Heritage Site. (Economic Times, BankTrack)


Resources and Energy Quarterly, Australian Government, April 2017. (Pdf) (A Word version is also available here, supporting forecast and historic data in an Excel spreadsheet here and here.)

This 131-page report contains chapters sketching some of the key trends for the Australian extraction industry, especially in the Asian export market for both thermal and metallurgical coal. However, as an Australian Government publication it tends towards emphasising optimistic potential for coal exporters.