September 3, 2020
Issue 337  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

An independent review of energy lending by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has proposed its policy be updated to exclude support for new coal projects and to help phase out existing plants. The ADB’s management is less than enthusiastic about the proposal. This comes as South Korean Government agencies are set to discuss whether to block government-owned agencies and utilities such as the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) from involvement in overseas coal plants. In India, the insistence by Maharashtra’s Minister for Energy that new coal plants will not be supported, even one at an old existing plant, is the latest indication coal generation in the country may well decline far faster than many pundits predict.

Countries with entrenched coal power utilities continue to struggle to adjust to the new reality of cheap renewables. A Greenpeace report estimates most coal plants owned by Poland’s big three utilities will be closed by 2035 unless the government provides subsidies. In the US, where a former coal industry lobbyist heads the Environmental Protection Agency, the rollback of environmental standards to curb water pollution from coal plants continues with the blessing of President Trump.

In Australia, Adani is trying to sue an activist for lobbying contractors to refuse to work with the company. However, it’s not all going the company’s way, with the Supreme Court of Queensland twice refusing to grant the company permission to search activist Ben Pennings’ house. In a separate case the court ordered Adani to pay A$107 million (US$78.5 million) in damages to four coal companies for “unconscionable conduct” in its operation of the Abbot Point coal terminal.

Bob Burton


Bangladesh may dump nearly all of its planned coal power

Bangladeshi government officials have confirmed almost 90 per cent of proposed coal power plants may be scrapped, writes Tom Baxter in China Dialogue.

Top News

Another Indian state rule out new coal plants: Maharashtra’s Minister for Energy, Nitin Raut, has ruled out the construction of further coal plants in the state and will only support renewable projects. Raut also rejected lobbying by local politicians seeking the construction of a new 660 megawatt (MW) coal unit at the aging 910 MW Nasik plant owned by the Maharashtra State Power Generation Company. Maharashtra’s energy regulator has set a target of 25 per cent of its demand from renewable sources in the next five years. Maharashtra’s state’s power distribution company is party to power purchase agreements for 35,000 MW of capacity but, due to low demand, is currently buying only 14,500 MW. (Times of India, Global Energy Monitor)

Asian Development Bank urged to update policy to rule out coal: A review of the ADB’s energy policy has recommended it be updated to formally rule out financing new coal power projects and to support “developing member countries” to “phase out coal-based energy and mitigate the environmental and health impacts of the existing coal fleet.” However, in their response to the review, ADB management agreed the policy should be aligned with the Paris Agreement but flagged excluding new coal projects would have to be subject to “stakeholder consultation.” ADB management was also wary of committing to a coal phase-out, preferring to “eventually phase out coal by setting standards and requirements such as emission intensities, minimum efficiency levels, while introducing low carbon and climate resilient technologies such as renewable energy with storage, demand side management, smart grids, as well as carbon capture, utilization, and storage.” (Asian Development Bank, Asian Development Bank)

Korean Government to discuss overseas coal finance policy: As pressure from South Korean lawmakers and civil society groups grows in support of a ban on public agencies’ involvement in overseas coal projects, key government agencies are set to meet to review the current policy. An anonymous government official said the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the Financial Services Commission, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Industry will soon meet to discuss the issue. The publicly owned KEPCO recently decided to invest in the 2000 MW Java 9 and 10 project in Indonesia and is set to consider support for the 1200 MW Vung Ang 2 project in Vietnam. (Yonhap News [Korean])

Court rejects Adani bids to raid activist’s home: The Supreme Court of Queensland twice rejected an application by Adani to raid the home of Ben Pennings, a spokesperson for Galilee Blockade, on the suspicion he had internal company documents detailing contractors working on the company’s proposed mine and railway. Galilee Blockade has successfully pressured contractors to rule out working on Adani’s projects. After the Queensland Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision rejecting the search request, Adani filed a statement of claim against Pennings seeking damages and an injunction preventing further protest actions. (Guardian, ABC News,  Supreme Court of Queensland [Pdf])

Protests continue against German coal mine expansions: An estimated 3000 protestors encircled the village of Lutzerath, which is threatened by the proposed expansion of the Garzweiler 2 lignite mine. Lutzerath is one of six villages threatened by the expansion of the mine which is allowed to continue after the government’s recent legislation setting a 2038 coal phase-out deadline. Lignite from the mine is used to supply nearby coal power plants. Despite the passage of the legislation, which was backed by major national and provincial parties, unions and power utilities, protests have continued including at the Janschwalde mine in Brandenburg and at the Hambach mine in North Rhine-Westphalia. (Deutsche Welle)

US court rejects coal plant pollution loophole: A US federal appeals court has ruled in favour of environmental groups and rejected rules developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection which exploited a loophole in an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule. The EPA rule, which was intended to curb air pollution, allowed coal power plants to turn off nitrogen oxide emission controls if the plant’s emissions fell below 600 degrees Fahrenheit. In the Pennsylvania case, the three appeals court judges found the 634 MW Cheswick Generating Station owned by GenOn Energy used the “gaping loophole” to intermittently turn off emissions controls. The judges ruled the EPA “is able neither to offer a reasonable justification for failing to require a stricter standard, nor to justify the standard it endorsed.” (State Impact Pennsylvania)

US Government weakens pollution standards for coal power plants: The US EPA has weakened the 2015 effluent limitation guidelines introduced by President Obama to cut wastewater emissions from coal power plants. The guidelines regulate emissions such as those of arsenic, mercury and other heavy metals. One of the changes allows plants planning on closing by 2028 to be exempt from the new standards. Other changes increase allowable emissions of arsenic and selenium in scrubber sludge and defer compliance with the new standards until December 31, 2025. (Guardian, Sierra Club, Environmental Protection Authority)

“Investing in fossil fuels means more deaths and illness and rising healthcare costs. It is, simply put, a human disaster and bad economics … The coal business is going up in smoke,”

said Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.


Australia: Three crew on the coal ship, Globe Electra, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Australia: Waratah Coal fails in a legal bid to strike out human rights objections to its Galilee Coal Project.

Australia: South32 admits discharging 10 million litres of wastewater and sludge from its Dendrobium Mine.

Botswana: New energy plan includes a new 300 MW coal plant along with 300 MW of solar capacity.

Israel: Orot Rabin power station estimated to impose US$1.1 billion in external costs on public health and the environment.

Philippines: Catholic Church diocese calls for the cancellation of three proposed coal units in Quezon province.

Poland: Czech, German and Polish environmentalists protest against decision to allow the expansion of the Turow mine.

UK: Residents of Derry oppose a plan for a coal depot near a nature reserve.

US: Navajo Transition Energy Company lays off 80 workers at its Antelope mine in Wyoming as coal demand slumps.

“Market conditions are dreadful. The COVID-19 pandemic has simply exacerbated them. Unfortunately, we don’t see a short-term end in sight,”

said Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association.

Companies + Markets

Bangladeshi Energy Ministry seeks to switch 13,000 MW of proposed coal plants to gas: The Bangladesh Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources has written to Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, requesting approval to switch 13 approved coal projects to operate on liquefied natural gas. A government official said the coal projects had struggled to gain finance as global banks have retreated from funding coal projects. Three coal plants with a combined capacity of 3840 MW are currently under construction. A further two proposed privately owned coal plants, with a combined capacity of 1531 MW, are struggling to attract finance. (The Business Standard)

Greenpeace reports Polish coal plants headed for closure by 2035: A report by Greenpeace Poland estimates the bulk of Poland’s coal power plants could close by 2035 based on likely market conditions, current closure plans or other constraints. The Polish Government is considering a plan to restructure three government-owned utilities – PGE, Enea and Tauron – which are struggling with losses from high carbon prices and sluggish demand. The three utilities own 11 existing or under-construction coal plants with a combined capacity of 23,900 MW and account for 94 per cent of the country’s coal capacity. Polish wholesale power prices are 73 per cent higher than Germany’s, the other major coal power generator in Europe. However, Poland’s Minister of State Assets and the Deputy Prime Minister have both stated coal plants may continue up to 2060. Greenpeace Poland argues coal plants would only be able to operate that long if the government provides generators with substantial subsidies. (Euractiv)

Swedish ‘green steel’ pilot plant commissioned: The Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, has officially opened the HYBRIT ‘green steel’ pilot plant which aims to eventually replace coking coal in steel production with hydrogen produced from renewable electricity. The pilot plant, which was built with financial support from the Swedish Energy Agency, will trial producing direct-reduced iron first from gas and later from hydrogen produced by electrolysing water with fossil-free electricity. The HYBRIT plant is being developed by a consortium comprising steel manufacturer SSAB, iron ore mining company LKAB and energy utility Vattenfall. The consortium hopes to produce fossil-free steel at the plant by 2026. Global steel production accounts for about 7 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and consumes about 1 billion tonnes of metallurgical coal a year. (SSAB)

Australian judge finds Adani port misled the court: The Queensland Supreme Court has ordered Adani Abbot Point Terminal (AAPT) to pay A$106.8 million (US$78.5 million) in damages to four coal companies for what Justice Jean Dalton described as “unconscionable conduct” in seeking to increase the costs for exports through the Abbot Point Coal Terminal. Adani has a 99-year lease on the port which it operates. The court found AAPT was “acting on instructions from and in the interests of” Adani Mining, the Adani subsidiary seeking to develop the Carmichael coal project. The court also found Adani “pleaded matters which were false in this proceeding and had [an Adani employee] give false evidence in its case.” (Guardian, Supreme Court of Queensland [Pdf])

Uncertainty over future of Russian coal company after death of owner: The death of Dmitry Bosov in June has cast a shadow over the future coal mining company he owned, Sibanthracite. The company produces about 20 million tonnes of hard coal a year. Bosov’s wife, Katerina Bosov, has taken over running the company but is facing significant challenges. An attempt to sell the Arctic Mining Company to businessman Roman Trotsenkohas recently collapsed while the plan to build a major new rail tunnel to access a new coal project has been suspended. A cost-cutting plan resulted in covers on coal trucks being removed, angering residents affected by dust pollution. Societe General, Credit Suisse and Citibank and four Russian banks are estimated to have loaned Sibanthracite about US$1 billion over the last six years. (Forbes)

Australian coal firms trapped by high fixed export costs: Major Australian coal exporters – including Glencore, Yancoal, Whitehaven Coal and BHP – have reported slim profits or losses on their coal operations as fixed port and rail charges erode their profitability. In its report for the year to June 30, Whitehaven Coal reported a 95 per cent decline in profitability to A$30 million (US$22 million). The company reported it paid A$44 million (US$32 million) to rail and port operators for unused contracted capacity. Despite low prices and sluggish demand, Whitehaven Coal plans to increase production in 2020–2021 to spread its fixed rail and port charges over a bigger volume. (Argus)


Poland Could Phase Out Coal by 2030 in Business As Usual, Greenpeace Poland, August 2020. (Pdf)

This 15-page report finds coal power plants owned by three Polish state-owned companies could be phased out by 2035 in a business-as-usual scenario.

Costs of Negative Health Outcomes Arising from Air Pollution from Coal-Fired Power Stations, Environment Justice Australia, August 2020. (Pdf)

This 46-page report by a team of actuaries estimates the economic cost of the health impacts of air pollution from coal power plants in Australia at A$2.4 billion (US$1.76 billion).