October 6, 2022
Issue 437  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

Despite Ukraine’s recent military gains, the prospect that the Russian war will continue for some time has pushed some European countries, such as Denmark and Germany, to delay the decommissioning of old coal plants. The deal brokered between the German Government, the major utility RWE, and the state government delays the retirement of two plants but brings forward the coal phase-out date from 2038 to 2030. Energy analyst Michael Liebreich argues that Russia’s disruption of the European energy market will likely accelerate the shift to clean energy despite short-term setbacks. Confirming this view, an Australian government agency’s new assessment of the global coal market expresses concern that continued high thermal coal prices will have long-term impacts as the switch to clean energy accelerates.

A recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance report spelled out that in 2021 coal accounted for just four per cent of the net additions to global electricity capacity. In Chile, the closure of the Bocamina plant has been unaffected by the upheavals in the European energy market. China is more complicated. A new report details the seemingly contradictory patterns in China: new investments in coal-based steel capacity and power plants at the same time as the rapid growth in clean energy projects and increased investments in steel production from electric arc furnaces. The most likely outcome is stranded projects reliant on dirty energy.

Bob Burton


After Ukraine – the great clean energy acceleration

The war in Ukraine may have set in motion forces that will accelerate the eventual redundancy of the fossil fuel reserves on which President Putin’s imperial ambitions were built, writes energy analyst Michael Liebreich in Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

China’s property crash: “a slow-motion financial crisis”

The growing crisis in China’s property sector is increasing the risk of defaults by thousands of local government financing vehicles that have funded infrastructure projects from housing to power plants, write James Kynge, Sun Yu and Thomas Hale in the Financial Times.

Deep underground, Mexican coal miners remember those who never came back

Workers face considerable danger in extracting coal from Mexico’s unregulated coal mines, writes Daniel Becerril in Reuters.


Pushed by civil society, Enel closes its last Chilean coal unit

The Italian power utility Enel has closed the 350 megawatt (MW) Bocamina coal unit in Chile, the company’s last coal unit in the country. Civil society groups have been campaigning for the closure of the country’s coal plants by 2025 and their replacement with renewable capacity. In mid-2019, the Chilean Government announced a plan to phase out coal generation by 2040. Initially, Enel said the second unit at the Bocamina plant would operate until 2040. But a coalition of Chilean and Italian environmental groups pressed the company to accelerate the plant’s retirement. Enel said the 56 people who had worked at the Bocamina II plant had been offered new roles with the company. (Global Energy Monitor, Enel)

Top News

Deal with German utility spares five villages and dooms another: The major German power utility RWE will phase out its coal power plants by the end of 2030, eight years earlier than planned. As part of the agreement between federal agencies and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the decommissioning of RWE’s Neurath D and E coal units, with a combined capacity of 1200 MW, will be delayed until March 31, 2024. The units were scheduled to close this year. RWE said the 2030 closure date would roughly halve the amount of lignite required from the Garzweiler lignite mine and avoid the need for the resettlement and demolition of the five villages and three farms. However, the agreement approves the destruction of the village of Luzerath, the focal point of recent protests. The climate group, Fridays for the Future, criticised the decision to allow the demolition of the village. The coalition agreement between the Social Democrats, Free Democrats and Greens said the coal phase-out date should “ideally” be brought forward to 2030. The other major utility, LEAG, has not committed to an accelerated end date. (Le Monde, Clean Energy Wire, RWE)

Life of Danish coal units extended: The power utility Orsted has restarted the coal-fired 360 MW unit 4 at the Studstrup Power Station after being ordered by Danish regulators to bring the plant back online. Orsted has also been directed to continue to operate the 370 MW unit 3 at the Esbjerg Power Station. The unit was scheduled to be decommissioned on March 31, 2023. Orsted has been directed to operate the coal and oil-fired units until June 30, 2024. Orsted said it remained committed to its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025. (Orsted)

US court rules mine expansion decision was illegal: A federal court judge has ruled the July 2019 decision by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) allowing Westmoreland Rosebud Mining to expand its Rosebud Mine in Montana was illegal. The judge found OSM failed to properly consider the impacts of the mine expansion on surface water, the indirect effects of water withdrawals from the Yellowstone River on an endangered fish and the social and economic effects of greenhouse gas emissions from burning the coal. The expansion would have allowed access to about 70 million short tons (63.5 million tonnes) of coal for supply to the nearby 1647 MW Colstrip coal plant. The court also ordered OSM to assess an alternative “middle ground” option of allowing a smaller expansion than sought by the company. The court granted OSM up to 19 months to undertake the new assessment of the project. (Earthjustice, US District Court [Pdf])

Canadian court dismisses coal company’s bid to overturn mine rejection: The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected a request by Benga Mining and two First Nations groups for leave to appeal against the decision by Alberta’s energy regulator that the development of the proposed Grassy Mountain metallurgical coal mine was not in the public interest. The regulator found the impact of the mine on water quality and fish outweighed the low to medium economic benefits. Benga Mining had entered into economic benefits-sharing agreements with the two First Nations groups. Benga Mining had initially appealed the economic regulator’s decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal, which rejected the company’s argument stating that it had not identified an error of law, only that it wanted its evidence to be favoured. Benga Mining is a subsidiary of Riversdale Resources, a private company owned by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting. Rinehart is the wealthiest person in Australia. (CBC, Globe and Mail)

Court upholds fine against General Electric: The Celje District Court in Slovenia has ordered General Electric to pay €23 million (US$22.7 million) over a scandal associated with the construction of the 600 MW Unit 6 at the Sostanj lignite plant. The allocation of the construction contract for the €1.4 billion (US$1.38 billion) expansion of the plant to Alstom was initially the focus of an investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office. Later media reports revealed documents obtained as part of the investigation indicated Alstom has a US$3 million fund for payments to help facilitate the project. In 2014 General Electric bought Alstom’s power division. In a plea bargain on charges brought by Slovenian authorities, General Electric agreed to the fine as the legal successor to Alstom. (STA, Global Energy Monitor)

Study finds coal ash from air pollution in lake sediments: Researchers have detected coal ash in the sediment in five lakes adjoining coal plants in North Carolina, highlighting the issue of deposition of coal ash particles across the landscape, especially before the introduction of air pollution controls. The study found that coal ash contaminants – which include lead, chromium, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, selenium and molybdenum – leached out of the sediments and could enter the aquatic food chain. The study, by researchers from Duke University and Appalachian State University, was published in Environmental Science & Technology. After the introduction of scrubbers on coal units, the volume of coal ash declined, with finer particles deposited in the lakes. However, the study found the finer particles increased the toxicity of the coal ash as they contained higher concentrations of the trace elements. (Charlotte Observer, Duke Today, Environmental Science & Technology)


Australia: Liquidator finds Griffin Coal, which operates the coal mine supplying the Bluewaters power station, owes A$1.41 billion (US$920 million) to an Indian banking syndicate led by ICICI Bank and another A$33 million (US$21 million) to local suppliers.

Australia: Following a complaint about inaction over an illegal coal mine expansion, the Queensland Government has commissioned a retired judge to review the Department of Environment’s penalty regime.

Botswana: President Mokgweetsi Masisi commissioned the 1.4 million tonnes per year at the state-owned Morupule mine.

US: Supreme Court rejects bid by former CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, to overturn his conviction for conspiring to violate safety standards at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine before the 2010 explosion that killed 29 men.

Companies + Markets

Australian agency warns high coal prices eroding competitive position: The Australian Government’s latest edition of Resources and Energy Quarterly has warned that the high export market prices are likely to undermine the competitive position of thermal coal “with implications for its long-term viability.” The Department of Industry, Science and Resources report notes the exclusion of Russian coal from European markets could inflate thermal coal prices “for years to come.” However, it notes coal exporters are unable to respond to high prices due to a lack of investment in new capacity and the effects of the global energy transition. It also warns that increasing depth of coal deposits and declining quality are likely to lead to “a further, gradual tightening in affordable supply.” The report estimates the price of seaborne thermal coal is expected to ease from an average of US$333 a tonne in 2022 to around US$125 in 2024. (Australian Department of Industry, Science and Resources)

New coal added just four per cent of all power capacity additions in 2021: Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that about 34,000 MW of new coal generation capacity was added globally in 2021. After allowing for retirements, coal capacity increased by 13,000 MW in 2021, accounting for just four per cent of the total capacity increase. In 2019 52,000 MW of net coal capacity was added. China and India accounted for 83 per cent of new coal additions in 2021, with the Philippines the only country where coal represented the technology with the largest capacity addition. BNEF’s Power Transition Trends report estimates coal generation increased by 8.5 per cent in 2021, with China, India and the US recording increases of 9 per cent, 16 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively. (Utility Dive, Bloomberg New Energy Finance [Pdf])

Philippines regulator rejects Meralco’s bid to hike power prices: The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has rejected a joint application by San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and Manila Electric Corporation (Meralco) for approval of a 93 per cent power increase for six months. SMC, which operates the 1200 MW Sual plant and the 1251 MW Ilijan gas plant, said it planned to terminate two power supply agreements with Meralco on October 4 if the price increase wasn’t approved. SMC said the cost of imported coal was about US$60 per tonne when the 2019 power purchase agreement was negotiated to supply Meralco with 330 MW from the Sual plant. Imported coal currently costs over US$400 per tonne. In a 63-page decision, the ERC rejected the application stating the power purchase agreements were “entered into on their own free will, without pressure from anyone.” The ERC also emphasised the need for the utilities to abide by their obligation to “supply electricity consumers in the least cost manner.” (Inquirer, Energy Regulatory Commission [Pdf])

Complex negotiations slow South African transition deal: The conclusion of the US$8.5 billion funding deal to assist South Africa’s transition away from coal power has been delayed in part by uncertainty about the continued support of the new British Prime Minister, Liz Truss. The US, UK, France, Germany and the EU announced the offer of funding at the 2021 climate talks in Glasgow with the aim an agreement would be completed by the next round of talks in Egypt in November. The South African deal has been highlighted as a model for other countries, including India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Senegal. The funding countries proposed a focus on retiring coal plants, renewables and grid modernisation. South Africa is pushing for low-cost loans, grants and the inclusion of green hydrogen and electric vehicles. (Bloomberg)

Coal exit plans sweep Australian states: The Queensland Government says the state will adopt a renewable energy target of 70 per cent by 2032 and 80 per cent by 2035 based on the development of solar, wind and two new pumped hydro projects. The Government said all the state-owned coal plants will operate as clean energy hubs by 2035, with workers guaranteed jobs in new energy industries or other careers. The modelling of the plan shows no coal generation in 2037. AGL, Australia’s largest and dirtiest power utility, announced it would close the 2215 MW Loy Yang A lignite plant in 2035. AGL had previously claimed the plant would operate until 2046. The day before AGL’s announcement, the Victorian Government announced a target of 2600 MW of new energy storage capacity by 2030 and 6300 MW by 2035. (Guardian, RenewEconomy)

Ammonia uneconomic for reducing emissions at Japanese coal plants: Bloomberg New Energy Finance warns that Japanese power utilities’ pursuit of ammonia co-firing as a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is an expensive approach. BNEF estimates the levelised cost of electricity using 50 per cent of ammonia at a retrofitted coal power plant in Japan would be at least US$136 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2030, far more expensive than electricity from offshore wind, offshore wind or solar with batteries. BNEF estimates Japan would need a carbon tax of at least US$300 per tonne to make 20 per cent ammonia co-firing viable in 2030. Japan currently has a climate change mitigation tax of US$3 per tonne. The report also notes that while co-firing with ammonia reduces carbon dioxide emissions, it also produces other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide, which has 273 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year timescale. (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

China’s clean energy grows along with dirty energy projects: A report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and Global Energy Monitor estimates that 15,000 MW of new coal power capacity was approved in the first half of 2022, and 30 million tonnes per annum of new coal-based blast furnace capacity in the steel industry. While these decisions don’t align with China’s emissions reduction targets, the report estimates the most likely result will be increased overcapacity and lower utilisation rates rather than increased emissions. Since early 2021, coal power plants have been losing money due to high fuel costs, power price limits and overcapacity. In the first half of 2022, China added about 30,990 MW of solar and 12,940 MW of wind capacity. A further 9400 MW of hydro capacity was commissioned. The latest data indicates increased investment in electric arc furnaces for steel production. (Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air)


Japan’s costly ammonia coal co-firing strategy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, September 28, 2022. (Pdf)

This 26-page report looks at the economic and environmental aspects of the promotion by Japanese power utilities of ammonia co-firing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants.

Japan’s costly ammonia coal co-firing strategy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, September 28, 2022. (Pdf)

This 26-page report looks at the economic and environmental aspects of the promotion by Japanese power utilities of ammonia co-firing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants.

Japan’s costly ammonia coal co-firing strategy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, September 28, 2022. (Pdf)

This 26-page report looks at the economic and environmental aspects of the promotion by Japanese power utilities of ammonia co-firing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants.

The dirty truth about utility climate pledges, Sierra Club, October 2022. (Pdf)

This 29-page report reviews the clean energy transition plans of 77 US utilities and found most had made little progress toward achieving 80 per cent clean electricity by 2030.