March 23, 2023
Issue 458  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change synthesis report has reinforced that new coal mines and unabated coal power plants are incompatible with a 1.5°C emissions trajectory. The report also stresses that methane emissions must be curbed. That these essential points have to be restated yet again is as sobering as the reality that some countries that just negotiated the final text of the IPCC report continue to approve new coal mines and power stations. China has pressured the government of Pakistan to press ahead with a new imported coal plant the host government doesn’t want and can’t afford. In the UK, an NGO has argued in court against expanding an existing coal mine in Wales. In Australia, the government is trying to push through a hotly contested scheme nominally aimed at reducing emissions while refusing to rule out supporting a raft of new coal and gas projects. In Bulgaria and Romania, the governments still hold on to old polluting plants instead of transitioning to renewables.

Bob Burton


China’s coal reliance raises alarms as UN IPCC moves net-zero deadlines ahead ten years for 1.5-degree goal

The “acceleration agenda” announced by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposes the target of phasing out coal by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 in all other countries. Analysts argue this increases pressure on China to curb its coal expansion plans, writes Yujie Xue in the South China Morning Post.

Bulgaria’s coal giant stands on feet of clay

The recent European Court of Justice ruling that the state-owned Maritsa East 2 lignite plant in Bulgaria is breaching pollution standards highlights the need to finalise a plan for an alternative energy future, writes Apostol Dyankov in Euractiv.

Australia’s 116 new coal, oil and gas projects equate to 215 new coal power stations

No matter where Australian fossil fuels are burned, they will turn up the heat, writes Richard Denniss from The Australia Institute in The Conversation.

Pakistan’s power predicament

Significant reforms are needed to tip the economic scales away from reliance on volatile fossil fuel imports and towards clean domestic energy sources, write Haneea Isaad from the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis and Seb Kennedy in Transition Zero.

Top News

UN urges countries to accelerate phase-out of coal to meet 1.5°C target: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Synthesis Report bluntly states that emissions from “existing fossil fuel infrastructure without additional abatement would exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C.” The IPCC reports emissions from existing and planned fossil fuel projects without abatement are “approximately equal to the remaining carbon budget for limiting warming to 2°C.” The report also noted that public and private finance flows for fossil fuels are “still greater than those for climate adaptation and mitigation”. The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, proposed an “acceleration agenda”, including the need to end new coal projects and phase out coal in OECD countries by 2030 and 2040 elsewhere. He also stated that the proposed agenda includes “ending all international public and private funding of coal”. (Guardian, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General)

Legal challenge against expansion of Welsh coal mine: A two-day legal hearing on Coal Action Network’s (CAN) challenge against the UK Government’s January 2022 approval of a 40 million tonne expansion of Energybuild’s Aberpergwm coal mine in Wales has been completed, with a decision to be handed down at a later date. CAN argued that Welsh Government approval is required for the mine’s licence to be valid and that the Coal Authority has the power to consider a broad range of factors in deciding on a mining licence application. CAN argued that the Welsh government has the power under the Wales Act 2017 to block the mining licence. The Welsh government had argued that the original decision in 1996 to approve the mine was before it had jurisdiction over such projects. Ministers have previously stated that the expansion of the mine, coal from which would emit 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, would be incompatible with Welsh climate targets. (Mining Technology, BBC, Coal Action Network)

Adani suspends work on Indian coal to petrochemicals proposal: In further fallout from Hindenburg Research’s damning report on the Adani Group, the company has suspended work on its coal-to-petrochemicals project proposed for land in the Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) land in Gujarat. The US$4.2 billion project was proposed to process 3.1 million tonnes per annum of coal from Australia and Russia into polyvinyl chloride to offset rising Indian imports. In the wake of the Hindenburg Research report, which flagged the company’s high levels of debt, the company has sought to curtail plans reliant on taking on significant new debt. In late February, Adani Power abandoned its plan to buy the 1200 MW Baradarha power station in Chhattisgarh from BD Power. (Indian Express)

Canadian coal mine spilled one million litres of mine tailings: The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has confirmed that it is investigating CST Coal over its operation of the Grande Cache Coal mine near Hinton after two mine spills. The company confirmed that 107,000 litres of mine wastewater spilled into the Smoky River on December 29, 2022, but did not report it to the AER until January 3. On March 4, more than one million litres of coal tailings spilled from a dam at the mine site into the Smoky River. It is unclear when the second spill was reported to the AER. CST Coal and the AER stated they had contacted local stakeholders about the spills. However, the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation, whose territory includes the mine and Smoky River, could not confirm whether it had been informed. CST Coal is currently rehabilitating old mine workings and plans to submit a proposal to reopen and expand the No. 8 mine later this year. (Globe and Mail [Paywall], Grande Cache Coal)

Romanian government suspends of two units to win EU funding: The Romanian Government has announced that under its National Recovery and Resilience Plan submitted to the European Commission, it intends to suspend operations of 660 MW of lignite plants for three years from June 2023. In late December, the government announced that the retirement of the Rovinari 3 and Turceni 7 lignite units, which have a combined capacity of 660 MW, had been delayed from December 31, 2022, to October 30, 2023. In its latest announcement, the government stated that the energy market regulator and the Ministry for Energy would consider decommissioning the units after three years. In January, the government also approved the expansion of the Timiseni-Pinoasa lignite mine to 8 million tonnes a year to supply the Oltenia Energy Complex. (Agerpres)

South African gov't clears way for Kusile units to avoid sulphur controls: South Africa’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, has granted Eskom approval to submit an application in April for a 13-month exemption from sulphur dioxide pollution controls on three coal units at the Kusile power station. The minister also granted Eskom’s request to bypass normal public participation processes on the proposal. In October 2022, a flue gas duct on Unit 1 collapsed, affecting two other connected units. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air estimates the exemption could cause between 195 and 492 air-pollution-related deaths over 13 months, depending on the utilisation level. In a high-utilisation scenario running for 36 months, CREA estimates the exemption could cause about 1,400 deaths. Eskom argues that bypassing the controls would allow it to resume power generation at the units by the end of November 2023 and aims to complete repairs on the damaged flue gas stacks by December 2024. Eskom said bypassing pollution controls would ease load shedding restrictions by about 2000 MW, a claim contested by NGOs who point to Kusile’s low utilisation level before the flue stack fault. (Daily Maverick, Business Day, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, Eskom)

Adani supplying coal from Hasdeo Arand forest to its own power stations: In 2013 Adani formed a joint venture with state-owned Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVUNL) to supply coal from the Parsa East and Kanta Basa mines in Hasdeo Arand forest Chhattisgarh to the power stations in Rajasthan. Under the joint venture deal, Adani operates the mine and retains the right to sell coal “rejects”. Documents obtained under Right to Information laws have revealed that Adani has supplied millions of tonnes of “reject coal” from the two mines to three of its power stations. Campaigners trying to protect the Hasdeo Arand forest argue that revelations that large amounts of “reject” coal are burnt in Adani power stations undermine RVUNL’s demand for new coal blocks to be allocated to fulfil its coal requirements. (Scroll)

US court told utility backed plan to extend term for Ohio speaker: A former FirstEnergy lobbyist told a court that American Electric Power’s CEO, Nicholas Akins, supported a term limits ballot initiative that would have allowed former Ohio Republican House Speaker Larry Householder to remain in office until 2036. The current law would have required Householder to retire in 2024. A group called Ohioans for Term Limits proposed setting a cap of 16 years in office for all MPs over their lifetime, but with the clock starting when new rules came into effect. Householder has been found guilty by a jury on a federal racketeering charge for his role in FirstEnergy’s US$61 million campaign to support bailouts of two nuclear and two coal plants. A former consultant for Householder, Jeff Longstreth, testified that US$2.5 million was committed to the plan by FirstEnergy and AEP. The project was abandoned due to the COVID pandemic and the arrest of Householder and others on racketeering charges. AEP and Akins have not been charged with any crime, but the utility is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. During the trial, the court was told that the utility supported the term limits proposal in return for future amendments to the amount and duration of the coal and nuclear bailouts. (Energy and Policy Institute)


Australia: The new owner of the 1320 MW Vales Point power station, Czech company Sev.en Global Investments, has refused to confirm the 2029 closure date adopted by the previous owner.

China: Six workers were killed by a methane explosion while constructing a new underground coal mine near Guli in Guizhou province.

Colombia: Twenty-one coal miners were killed in a coal mine methane explosion at a coal mine near Sutatausa.

India: National Green Tribunal has imposed a 100 million rupees (US$1.2 million) fine on Indian Railways for breaching pollution standards at its coal stockyard at the Dumka railway station in Jharkhand. The activist who brought the case had requested the relocation of the coal stockpile out of the city.

India: The government has dismissed objections to compulsory land acquisition for Goa’s Hospet- Vasco coal railway expansion project.

India: The Commission for Air Quality Management wants coal plants in the New Delhi area to co-fire with five per cent biomass pellets by September 30 and 10 per cent by December 31. The commission said the preference is to use straw biomass pellets.

South Africa: Contractor arrested over a 2014 pre-paid contract for undelivered pumps while working as a senior buyer at Eskom’s Arnot Power Station.

US: The 459 MW Merrimack coal plant has lost a significant source of revenue after it failed to qualify for a contract in ISO-New England’s capacity auction for 2026-27.

Companies + Markets

Coal India looks to increase prices, as power utilities arrears increase: The Minister of Coal, Pralhad Joshi, has told parliament that power utilities debts on coal supplied by Coal India have increased over the last year by 32 billion rupees (US$399 million) since March 31, 2022, and now amounts to 162 billion rupees (US$3 billion). The chairman of Coal India, Pramod Agrawal, has flagged that the government business is seeking to increase the sale price of coal due to rising costs of labour, diesel and explosives. Coal India supplies about 80 per cent of India’s coal requirements. The government business last increased coal prices in January 2018. Agrawal said Coal India aims to produce 700 million tonnes of coal this year and has identified seven mines to adopt digitisation of mine development and operations to boost productivity. Coal India said the process could increase equipment efficiency by up to 50 per cent. The Secretary of Coal, Amit Lal Meena, said that of the 125 coal blocks sold to private companies, 50 had commenced production, and 10 will begin within the next year. He said production from captive and commercial coal mines is about 112 million tonnes and is expected to increase to 161 million tonnes in 2023-24. (Financial Express, Economic Times, MoneyControl)

Study argues China’s retreat from overseas coal driven by economics: A paper published in Science argues that China’s withdrawal from funding overseas coal projects “seems to be based foremost on economic rather than long-term environmental considerations”. In September 2021, President Xi Jinping pledged that China would not support the construction of new coal plants. “With more global investors reducing financing for coal, the financing cost for coal-fired power plants increased on average by 38 per cent in the period from 2017 to 2020,” wrote Christoph Nedopil, Associate Professor of Economics at Fudan University in Shanghai. A vulnerability for Chinese backers of projects required insurance cover for credit and other risks from China’s overseas export credit agency Sinosure. The paper argues that after 2019 the economic and other risks associated with coal projects in host countries increased, with COVID undercutting power demand and a spike in the global coal price undermining the attractiveness of many projects. (South China Morning Post, Science [Abstract])

China presses Pakistan for payment over coal projects: At the insistence of the Chinese government, Pakistan’s Private Power & Infrastructure Board has reapproved the proposed 300 MW Gwadar imported coal plant. Until recently, Pakistan wanted to convert the proposed plant to a solar project or relocate it to the Thar region to burn local lignite. The US$542 million plant is proposed to be built by a state-owned China Communications and Construction Group subsidiary. Haneea Isaad from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said proceeding with the Gwadar plant will likely add to Pakistan’s economic stress. The decision comes as the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan is lobbying the Pakistan government to relax foreign exchange restrictions affecting private power producers and to ensure US$1.5 billion in overdue payments on coal projects. China’s Charge d’ Affaires, Pang Chunxue, warned that currency exchange restrictions imposed by the State Bank of Pakistan due to the country’s limited foreign exchange reserves had hampered the ability of private power producers to buy imported coal. Pakistan is in an economic crisis, with import restrictions imposed on all importers to preserve limited foreign exchange reserves. (Business Standard, Business Recorder, The Diplomat)

South African power price hike approved: South Africa’s National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) has approved an average tariff increase of 18.65 per cent for Eskom’s standard tariff customers from July 1. NERSA also approved an 18.49 per cent increase for municipalities that serve as electricity distributors. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) review of the power sector in 2022 noted that coal generation in South Africa dropped below 80 per cent for the first time. The sustained price increases and load shedding have driven commercial and industrial customers to invest in renewable projects. In 2022, 1659 MW of distributed renewable energy capacity was registered with the energy regulator, up from 86 MW the year before. The government has also introduced tax incentives for households and, since March 1, for businesses to install rooftop solar. (Eskom, National Energy Regulator of South Africa [Pdf], Council for Scientific and Industrial Research)

Fire temporarily shuts down Japanese coal and biomass plant: A fire that burnt for over eight hours on March 15 forced Kansai Electric Power (Kanden) to shut down the 900 MW Unit 2 at its Maizuru coal and biomass plant. The fire occurred in a unit that delivered wood pellets to the plant’s boilers. Unit 1, which was offline due to scheduled maintenance at the time, was unaffected by the fire. In 2008 Kansai began co-firing its Unit 1 with wood pellets comprising three per cent of the fuel mix. Kanden temporarily restarted the unit on March 18 to burn the stockpiled coal and wood pellets to prevent spontaneous combustion. The unit resumed operating on March 20, burning only coal. (Argus, Argus, SPGlobal)


A new surge in China’s coal expansion and implications for the country’s climate and energy targets, Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland, March 2023. (Pdf)

This 6-page briefing note examines the latest Chinese coal plant pipeline data. It poses the question of whether the new projects will be run at low utilisation levels in areas with fewer renewable resources but high power demand growth, or at high levels once built.

Shine a Light on the Statehouse: What Can We Learn from the Householder/Borges Trial?, Youtube, Common Cause Ohio, March 15, 2023.

A one-hour video of a panel of journalists discussing the recent trial of former Ohio Republican House Speaker Larry Householder and Ohio Republican Chairman Larry Borges on racketeering charges over FirstEnergy’s dark money campaign to subsidise two coal and two nuclear plants.