September 22, 2022
Issue 435  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The decision of the Bulgarian Government to finally suspend the operation of the Maritsa 3 lignite power plant for repeatedly breaching pollution limits highlights the benefit of sustained community advocacy and effective legal action. It also underscores the benefits of the potential development of a global treaty to phase out fossil fuel exploration and production, a move endorsed by the World Health Organization. The public release of the worldwide registry of fossil fuel projects allows a clear picture of where to focus efforts in pursuing a transition.

Despite broad support for a just transition away from coal, the question of who carries the long-tail costs of cleaning up old power stations remains a central issue. In the US, Black communities fear coal ash excavated from polluting dams and landfills will end up dumped in their communities. In Australia, the global power utility Engie proposes to flood a vast coal pit without first removing coal ash disposed of there during the life of the adjoining Hazelwood plant. On the other hand, Indonesia sees a financial opportunity in international support to transition away from coal. It pitched an outlandish proposal to potential investors for US$600 billion to close just 15,000 megawatts (MW) of coal capacity. Not surprisingly, the plan was rebuffed. The revelations of the proposal came as Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo unveiled regulations opening the door to new coal plants.

Bob Burton


As utilities seek to relocate coal ash, will Black communities bear the burden?

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s crackdown on coal ash pollution means utilities may be required to excavate coal ash and move it to out-of-state landfills. This could be good for the environment while making communities like Uniontown, Alabama, feel like dumping grounds, writes Gina Castro for Energy News Network.ut erat.

Indonesia’s US$600 billion plan to shut coal plants struggles for supportet

Indonesia’s Minister for State-owned Enterprises, Erick Thohir, has revealed he pitched a plan to potential investors for US$600 billion to close just 15,000 MW of coal plants. The proposal has been shunned, write Eko Listiyorini and Fathiya Dahrul in Bloomberg.

Top News

Officials suspend the operation of Bulgarian lignite plant over pollution: The Bulgarian Minister of Environment and Water, Rositsa Karamfilova, and Minister of Energy, Rosen Hristov, have suspended the operation of the 908 MW Maritsa 3 lignite power plant for repeatedly breaching sulphur dioxide pollution limits. An automatic measuring station near the plant recorded sulphur dioxide emission limits being breached eight times in less than 12 hours. Coal plants in Bulgaria operate under a limited exemption from European Commission (EC) pollution standards. At a briefing, Hristov said Bulgaria violated EC standards 23 times an hour. “With two more violations, this derogation will be lifted, which would lead to the closure of all coal-fired power plants in the country,” he said. Earlier this year, the European Union Court of Justice found Bulgaria routinely breached sulphur dioxide emission standards between 2007 and 2018. The Marista 3 plant is majority-owned by ContourGlobal, which was recently taken over by a US-based private equity company created by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. (Balkan Green Energy News)

World Health Organization backs fossil fuel reduction treaty: The World Health Organization (WHO) has backed a call by almost 200 other health associations for a legally binding treaty to phase out fossil fuel exploration and production. The proposal is based on the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which came into force in 2005. The FCTC aims to reduce demand for tobacco and curb the tobacco industry’s influence in public policy-making. The Global Climate Health Alliance, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Health Care Without Harm drafted the proposal, which calls for an immediate end to further activity and investment in expanding fossil fuel production and phasing out existing use “in a fair and equitable manner” in line with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global heating to a 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. (Guardian, Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty)

Database of global coal and other fossil fuel projects unveiled: The release of the Global Registry of Fossil Fuels database provides a public database on emissions from production and reserves of over 50,000 fossil fuel deposits spanning 89 countries. The interactive database, compiled by Carbon Tracker and Global Energy Monitor, contains data on fossil fuel reserves that account for about 75 per cent of global production. Current fossil fuel projects could produce twice the level of emissions by 2030 than is consistent with the Paris Agreement target of limiting global heating to a 1.5°C temperature increase over pre-industrial levels. (Carbon Tracker, Global Registry of Fossil Fuels)

Protest cuts output at German coal plant: A group of 40 climate activists blocked the coal storage area, conveyor system and rail access to LEAG’s 3000 MW lignite-fired Janschwalde plant, resulting in halving power generation for the day. LEAG, which is half-owned by the Czech power utility EPH, is seeking approval to recommission two 535 MW units at the plant designated as an emergency reserve before Russia invaded Ukraine. However, environmental groups have lodged a legal appeal against restarting the units as they do not comply with pollution standards. The Brandenburg environmental regulator has yet to finalise its decision on the application. (Deutsche Welle, Globe Echo)

European Union’s softens sanctions on Russian coal exports: The European Commission has backtracked from its mid-September announcement that European Union sanctions included the provision of insurance, financing and transhipment of Russian coal to third parties. In a new guidance note, the EC stated services facilitating the trade of Russian coal to non-EU countries “should be allowed to combat food and energy insecurity around the world.” A commission spokesperson said the EU “is fully committed to avoiding that its sanctions unduly impact trade in critical items to third countries around the globe.” However, the inclusion of coal has prompted diplomats to express concern that the changes go beyond food security and weaken sanctions on Russian commodities. (Bloomberg, Reed Smith, European Commission)

Indonesia dilutes its restrictions on new coal plants: A regulation by Indonesian President Joko Widodo has watered down the government’s earlier commitment to ban new coal plants by allowing the construction of new units if they are captive power supply to metal smelters. The new regulation also allows the construction of new coal units if they are designated nationally strategic projects “capable of creating jobs and boosting the domestic economy.” The Indonesian Government is promoting the downstream processing of nickel ore with up to 15,000 MW of proposed coal capacity tied to these plants or steel projects. A third exemption from the ban on new coal plants is for projects where the developers commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent within a decade. Coal utilities have promoted the possibility of emissions reductions by co-firing coal units with biomass, ammonia or carbon capture and storage. (Bloomberg)

Alarm at Engie’s rehabilitation plan for Australian mine: Reports by two independent consultants have challenged the rehabilitation plan favoured by Engie to flood the Hazelwood mine pit without first removing coal ash stored in the mine. Consulting geologist and hydrogeologist Steven Campbell estimates the ash will leach heavy metals and other toxins into the proposed lake. He stated installing a cap on the coal ash dump would be ineffective in preventing toxic pollutants from mobilising. He argues that Engie should remove the waste before flooding the mine pit. In a separate report, geophysicist Dr David Chambers argued the coal ash should be removed and stored in a properly lined pit. He suggests Engie should fill the pit with solid fill to a level well above where it would be in contact with groundwater. Engie reports do not consider removing the coal ash waste from the site or storage in a lined facility. (ABC News, Environmental Justice Australia)


Australia: NSW Environment Protection Authority has ordered Peabody Energy to clean up the coal sludge from the Metropolitan coal mine that has polluted a tributary of the Hacking River.

Australia: Czech power utility Sev.en buys Delta Electricity which operates 1320 MW Vales point power station. The plant is scheduled to be decommissioned by 2029, but Delta has claimed it could run until 2049.

Brazil: Engie sells its 345 MW Pampa Sul coal plant to investment funds Grafito and Perfin Space X for US$424 million.

Canada: Strike action closes the Westshore coal terminal, which exports coal from Canadian and US mines.

Canada: Hundreds of yoga teachers challenge sportswear company lululemon, which sources about half of its electricity from coal plants in Taiwan and China.

Finland: After the failure of Fortum’s bid to have its 560 MW Meri-Pori coal plant kept in the peak-load reserve capacity pool, it announced it plans to return the unit to commercial service.

India: The Central Bureau of Investigation has filed corruption and other charges against subsidiaries of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka group over the allocation of the Deocha Pachami, Tara West, Mahan and South Dadhu coal blocks between 1993 and 1995.

South Africa: Fire engulfs Seriti Resources conveyor carrying coal from the Kriel mine to Eskom’s adjoining power station.

US: National Transportation Safety Board found a Southern Towing Company’s barge was responsible for a November 2021 accident that resulted in six loaded coal wagons falling into the Mississippi River in Iowa.

Companies + Markets

US utility dumps stake in CCS project for a fraction of its cost: NRG Energy has sold its 50 per cent stake in the Petra Nova carbon capture and storage (CCS) project to JX Nippon Oil & Gas for US$3.6 million. NRG and JX Nippon Oil & Gas each contributed US$300 million to the US$1 billion project, which captures part of the carbon dioxide emissions from the 610 MW Unit 8 at NRG’s WA Parish coal plant in Texas. The plant was first commissioned in 2017. It was mothballed in 2020 after experiencing technical problems and was made uneconomic by low oil prices. Captured carbon dioxide was sold to Hilcorp Energy to boost oil production at its West Ranch oil field. NRG’s Unit 8 is also closed for repairs after a major fire in May. The unit and the CCS plant are expected to resume operating in 2023. (Houston Chronicle, Houston Business Journal)

Tanzania pursues exports in the seaborne coal trade: High global thermal coal prices have resulted in exports from Tanzania doubling this year to about 700,000 tonnes and domestic production increasing to over 1.3 million tonnes. Yahya Semamba, the acting executive secretary of the Mining Commission, a government agency, said the government is considering building a railway to link the Ruvuma coalfield to the port of Mtwara. Coal is currently trucked over 600 kilometres to the port. Tanzanian coal was previously exported only to neighbouring countries. (Reuters)

India auctions off ten coal blocks: The Ministry of Coal has completed the auctions of ten coal blocks in Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Seven of the coal blocks were classed by the ministry as fully explored, with a combined peak production capacity of over 39 million tonnes. Vedanta, a mining and power conglomerate, was the winning bidder on two coal blocks, the Ghogharpalli and an extension in Odisha. The two blocks account for about half the coal resources of the ten auctioned blocks. (The Hindu, Ministry of Coal [Pdf], Ministry of Coal [Pdf])

Report finds US banks lag on ending support for coal projects: A report by Reclaim Finance, an NGO focussed on climate finance, estimates five major US banks – JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs – have provided US$40 billion to coal developers since 2019. While the banks joined the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero in 2021, they continue to fund new coal projects. Reclaim Finance notes that just after Citi joined the Net Zero Banking Alliance, it provided two loans of US$503 million each to Mitsubishi, part of the joint venture currently constructing the controversial 1200 MW Vung Ang II coal plant in Vietnam. The group has called on US banks to adopt strong coal financing policies, immediately end all support for coal expansion and commit to phasing out thermal coal. The report states the other four banks have provided underwriting for companies developing coal projects and infrastructure in Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, China, Turkey, Mongolia and India. (Reclaim Finance)

South African loadshedding worsens as Eskom’s coal fleet breaks down: South Africa has experienced further load shedding restrictions due to unexpected breakdowns at five coal units at four coal plants, including an 800 MW unit at the recently commissioned 4800 MW Kusile plant. At the start of the week, Eskom revealed it had over 16,500 MW of capacity offline due to breakdowns and a further 7210 MW unavailable due to scheduled maintenance. Eskom acknowledged other coal plant breakdowns could cause even greater restrictions. Eskom has also launched programmes to buy additional power for three years from industrial customers and source electricity from emergency generators. It also aims to increase power purchases beyond the current average of 200 MW imported from neighbouring countries in the South African Power Pool. (Engineering News, Eskom)

Pressure increases on Indonesian banks: Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority (OJK) is pressing banks with capital of over 30 trillion rupiah (US$2.675 billion) to reduce climate exposure risks by diversifying their loans away from the coal sector. The policy applies to the state-owned Bank Rakyat Indonesia and the privately owned Bank Central Asia. However, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis analyst Elrika Hamdi noted it is not mandatory to follow OJK’s request, and there are no penalties. Pressure from international NGOs recently resulted in Standard Chartered announcing it would end its support for PT Adaro Indonesia, a subsidiary of coal miner PT Adaro Energy. (Jakarta Post)


Coal it a day: Time for US banks to stop banking on coal expansion, Reclaim Finance, September 2022. (Pdf)

This 15-page report examines the continued support for new coal projects by major US banks, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.