More renewables, more coal: Where are China’s emissions really headed?
China’s emissions will peak when clean energy growth overtakes energy demand growth. This may happen in 2024, writes Lauri Myllyvirta in China Dialogue.
Yes, China can quit coal. Here’s how.
China must begin to challenge its coal dependence, starting with dismantling particularly inefficient policies that have encouraged new coal construction, write Seaver Wang and Lauri Myllyvirta in The Diplomat.
Inside Gautam and Vinod Adani’s controversial empire conglomerate — and why it may be too politically connected to fail
The Adani brothers’ empire owns more than 200 ports, airports, power stations, cement plants, mines, defence factories, renewable energy farms, electrical facilities and gas distribution networks across India. Part of the secret of the Adani Group’s expansion is by making friends in all the right places, write John Hyatt and Giacomo Tognini in Forbes.
Uncertainty on renewable retraining frightens South Africa’s coal communities
Coal-reliant communities in South Africa have scarce details on how funds for reskilling workers from its US$8.5 billion just transition deal will be implemented, writes Thabo Molelekwa in Climate Home News.
Environmental permit rejected for Australian coal mine
The Queensland Department of Environment and Science has rejected Waratah Coal’s application for environmental authority for its proposed 40 million tonnes a year Galilee Coal Mine. In November 2022, after a seven-week hearing, the Queensland Land Court’s Judge Fleur Kingham recommended that the application be rejected as the 1.58 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the coal from the mine would pose an “unacceptable” risk to Queensland people and property. First Nations-led Youth Verdict and The Bimblebox Alliance filed the challenge against the mine. Kingham found the privately owned Bimblebox nature reserve would be “seriously and possibly irreversibly damaged” and that First Nations culture’s potential displacement and destruction counted against approving the project. Waratah Coal can seek a judicial review of the decision before the Supreme Court of Queensland. (Lock the Gate, Queensland Department of Environment and Science)
Indian court orders Assam gov't to end illegal mining in forest reserve: The Gauhati High Court in Assam has ordered the state government and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to end all illegal mining operations in the Tikak open-cut mine in the Saleki forest reserve. The deputy solicitor general of India told the court that Coal India’s subsidiary, North Eastern Coalfields Limited, had stopped its mining activities in the reserve with ongoing work in the area the result of illegal producers. (Times of India)
Former Canadian premier appointed to the coal company board: The former premier of British Columbia, John Horgan, has resigned his seat as a member of parliament to join the board of Elk Valley Resources, a new company Teck Resources is spinning off to hold its controversial four coal mines. Shareholders will vote on the spin-off proposal at an April 24 meeting. Horgan was Premier of British Columbia between June 2017 and November 2022, initially in a minority government that relied on the support of the Green Party. Horgan eventually stood down from the premiership in 2022 after successful treatment for throat cancer. Teck Resources mines in the Elk Valley have been the focus of increasing criticism due to selenium pollution affecting First Nations rights and the environment in Canada and the neighbouring US states of Idaho and Montana. Teck Resources has proposed the Castle Mountain mine to extend the life of the existing Fording River mines by several decades. “How can you expand mines up there when you can’t even take care of the current mines that you have? I just don’t understand that,” said Rich Janssen from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. (Globe and Mail, The Narwhal, The Narwhal)
Ohio coal bailout to remain in place as spotlight turns to West Virginia: The speaker of Ohio’s House of Representatives, Jason Stephens, has indicated that subsidies will remain in place for two coal plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC). The subsidies were included in House Bill 6, the 2019 legislation at the heart of the US$61 million Ohio corruption scandal. In March, the former Ohio Republican Speaker Larry Householder was convicted on federal racketeering charges over his role with the ‘dark money’ non-profit group Generation Now. Documents obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute indicate that Generation Now also received US$275,000 from coal producer Wayne Boich and his company Resource Fuels. The largest shareholder in OVEC is AEP, a utility that paid US$700,000 to Generation Now. During Householder’s trial, Jeffrey Longstreth, a lobbyist who had pled guilty to his role in the scandal, testified that he had worked in 2014 for Moving West Virginia Forward committee, a coal and industry backed committee campaigning to elect industry-friendly legislators. The committee hired Longstreth to campaign for 60 House and six Senate candidates, overwhelmingly Republican. Of the 60 House candidates, 53 won, with four of the six Senate candidates winning. West Virginia, once a Democratic Party stronghold, is now dominated by the Republican Party. (Cleveland [paywall], Energy and Policy Institute, West Virginia Gazette-Mail)
Questions raised over Adani’s coal auction success: In a recent Indian Government coal auction, the Adani Group won four coal concessions, including the North West of Madheri block in Maharashtra. Tender documents state the block could contain up to 200 million tonnes of coal. An Adani Group subsidiary, MH Natural Resources, registered its interest in the block, as did Cavill Mining, the only other bidder. Cavill Mining is also the main promoter of Adicorp Enterprises, a privately held company that Hindenburg Research alleges funnelled funding between Adani Group companies to avoid mandatory related party disclosures. The Indian online news outlet Scroll reported that corporate records indicate that Adicorp and Cavill Mining share the same address and promoter. A rule of India’s coal sale process is that blocks must attract at least two bidders to proceed to auction. The Adani Group, Cavill Mining, and the Ministry of Coal did not respond to questions submitted by Scroll. (Scroll)
A lifeline for one US coal plant, closure for others: In its latest Integrated Resource Plan, PacifiCorp announced it would bring forward the closure from 2036 to 2032 of the 541 megawatt (MW) Unit 1 and the 496 MW Unit 2 at the Huntington coal plant in Utah. The plan also commits to closing the three units at the Hunter plant in 2031 and 2032. The units have a combined capacity of 1577 MW and were previously scheduled to close in 2042. PacifiCorp also proposes to convert the 608 MW coal-fired Units 3 and 4 at the Jim Bridger plant to gas by 2030 rather than close them by 2037. The previous plan also proposed the retirement of the 823 MW Units 3 and 4 at the Colstrip plant in Montana by 2025 but this has been revised to leaving the consortium by 2030. In 2019 Washington State passed the Clean Energy and Transformation Act that requires a phase-out of coal generation by 2025. Washington State had previously objected to the transfer of ownership stakes in the Colstrip plant by Avista Corporation and Puget Sound Energy to another company rather than closing the plant. However, the state has now approved the two utilities transferring their stakes in 2025 to two power companies planning to continue operating the plant. Environmental groups have expressed alarm that Washington state customers could continue to buy coal generation from the wholesale market. (ClimateWire, Salt Lake Tribune, PacifiCorp [Pdf])
South Africa seeks to delay closure of units: South Africa is pushing to delay the closure of some of the coal units included in the proposed US$8.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership with a coalition of wealthy countries comprising Germany, France, the US, UK and the European Union. South Africa has reportedly not submitted a formal request to delay closures, but anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg say the funding partners are likely to agree to delayed closure. The head of Eskom’s Just Energy Transition office, Vikesh Rajpaul, said the utility is not considering extending the life of plants but keeping individual units online longer to deal with the ongoing power crisis. Unplanned outages at Eskom’s aging coal plants have led to crippling power cuts, but these may get considerably worse over winter if the capacity factor of the coal plants does not increase to 50 per cent. In February, Eskom’s coal fleet availability factor was only 40 per cent. Eskom has also been exempted from a Treasury regulation requiring its annual financial statements to disclose “any material losses through criminal conduct and any irregular expenditure and fruitless and wasteful expenditure that occurred during the financial year.” After a public uproar, the Eskom chairperson Mpho Makwana explained that the three-year exemption is intended to avoid auditors qualifying the utility’s financial statements, which would have an “impact on its ability to attract funding and investment.” (Mining Weekly, BusinessTech, News24)
Australia: UK steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta has announced Liberty Steel will phase out coal-based steel production and install an electric arc furnace at the Whyalla steel plant. The furnace will initially run on gas and then convert to use renewables-based hydrogen.
Europe: A coalition of 40 NGOs has launched the Beyond Fossil Fuels campaign to eliminate fossil fuels from Europe’s power sector by 2035.
Indonesia: After US-based Air Products and Chemicals ditched coal-gasification plans in East Kalimantan and South Sumatra, Indonesia hopes to attract Chinese interest in the sector.
South Africa: A senior coal buyer at Eskom’s Duvha Power Station has been charged with corruption and fraud, allegedly costing the power utility 4.9 million rand (US$270,000).
UK: After 400 MW of capacity was kept available over winter, EDF’s West Burton A coal plant has closed and will be decommissioned. The plant has operated since 1966.
US: NRG will close its 2012 MW Homer City coal plant in Pennsylvania by June 2. The plant has operated since 1969.
US: A fire has closed Peabody Energy’s Shaol Creek underground metallurgical coal mine in Alabama. The mine produced 800,000 US short tons (726,000 tonnes) of coal in 2022.
US: The Mine Safety Health Administration found that Frontier Coal Company, owned by the family company of West Virginia’s Republican Governor Jim Justice, accounted for 16 out of 77 mine safety violations in February at its Belcher Branch Mine.
New Polish power plan boosts role for renewables and nuclear: The Polish Ministry of Climate and Environment has released an update to the government’s energy strategy, PEP2040, that projects a rapid increase in renewables. However, it also proposes delaying the retirement of some coal plants by several years until new nuclear capacity is commissioned in the 2030s. The strategy estimates Poland’s onshore wind capacity could expand from 8000 MW to 20,000 MW by 2040 and a new offshore wind sector with 18,000 MW of capacity by 2040. The plan provides no estimate of solar capacity and includes biomass and biogas in its definition of renewables. Coal generation currently accounts for 70 per cent share of Poland’s electricity. The revised strategy estimates coal and gas could account for 27 per cent of generation by 2040. The plan proposes conventional nuclear plants and small modular nuclear reactors – a technology that has not yet been commercially deployed – could supply 23 per cent of electricity by 2040. (Notes from Poland)
China’s coal power giant backs reforms to support renewables growth: Datang International Power Generation, one of China’s five largest state-owned power utilities, has backed calls to liberalise the energy market to allow higher prices for coal generation. Datang’s chairman, Liang Yongpan, said this would enable the company to finance the transition from coal to renewables. In 2022 Datang’s power and heat division reported an operating loss of 1.84 billion yuan (US$267.1 million). Datang argues that market-based pricing would stimulate more interprovincial power sales and spot trading. A report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and the International Society for Energy Transition Studies surveyed 38 key Chinese experts on options to operate existing coal power plants more flexibly, including with increased use of pumped hydro, battery storage and green hydrogen. Due to various constraints, they considered retrofitting existing coal-fired power plants to be more flexible as an immediate solution. However, reducing operational hours for coal plants would require market and regulatory reforms to create incentives for acquiring system flexibility services. (South China Morning Post, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air)
Vietnamese power utility lobbies for a power price increase: State-owned power utility EVN is lobbying for increased power prices to avoid further significant losses in 2023 due to high imported fuel costs and exposure to volatile exchange rates. The retail price of electricity has not increased since 2019, with regulators concerned about the impact on inflation. EVN warned the Ministry of Industry and Trade that it could lose 64 trillion dong (US$2.7 billion) in 2023 on power sales in addition to the 29 trillion (US$1.2 billion) lost in 2022. EVN’s mounting losses come as solar and wind project developers are in a standoff with the utility after the Ministry of Industry and Trade set a price range for electricity that private project developers consider too low. Vietnam imported about 32 million tonnes of coal in 2022, with about 80 per cent used for power generation. The Australian Government’s resources forecaster estimates Vietnam’s thermal coal imports could peak at about 45 million tonnes in 2025 or 2026 or, alternatively, 50 million tonnes by 2028 if all power plants under construction are completed. (The Star, Vietnamnet.vn)
Indonesia welcomes ASEAN’s reclassifiying some coal projects: The Indonesian Government has welcomed the decision by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Taxonomy Board (ATB) to class coal plants under the Asian Development Bank’s Energy Transition Mechanism and the Just Energy Transition Partnership in its “green” category for sustainability-linked financing. The original guidelines classed all coal plants without carbon capture, utilisation and storage as ineligible for sustainability-linked financing. The “green” category now includes coal plants built before December 2022 that will not operate for over 35 years from commissioning. These plants must demonstrate “best-in-class technology, provided that these technologies are affordable, accessible, reliable and can be implemented within a reasonable timeframe.” For these plants to be eligible, they must also demonstrate “substantial absolute positive emissions savings over their expected lifetime compared to a case without a transition mechanism.” The new amber category allows sustainable financing for coal plants commissioned before December 2022 if operation up to 35 years is consistent with a country or regional plan to meet the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal, and they will close by 2050. ATB intends to finalise the energy sector standard in 2024 after “targeted consultations with key stakeholders”. (Jakarta Post [paywall]) Jakarta Globe, Association of Southeast Asian Nations Taxonomy Board [Pdf])
Australia resources forecaster tips price slump for thermal coal exports: The Australian Government’s Department of Industry and Resources estimates that global seaborne demand for thermal coal will remain stable until about 2028 and then decline. Chinese thermal coal imports may slide from 244 million tonnes in 2022 to 150 million tonnes in 2028 and potentially end “by the 2030s” as the government emphasises domestic production. However, the agency estimates India’s import demand could surge from 164 million tonnes in 2022 to 258 million tonnes in 2028. The price of 6,000 kilocalories Newcastle coal is estimated to decline from US$371 a tonne in 2022 to around $US90 per tonne by 2028. The report notes that “thermal coal producers facing challenges with finance, insurance and long-term global demand.” The department estimates metallurgical coal exports will increase from 299 million tonnes in 2022 to 312 million tonnes by 2028. The department suggests that exports from Canada and Mozambique will likely increase, as will overland shipments from Mongolia to China’s northern steel mills. While there is uncertainty over Chinese demand due to high levels of debt affecting the property sector, car production remains stable. While noting China’s increased emphasis on electric arc furnace production of steel, it estimates Indian metallurgical coal imports may increase from 60 million tonnes in 2022 to about 85 million tonnes by 2028. (Department of Industry and Resources [Pdf])
Ukraine war has reshaped US coal export markets: The US Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2022 the US exported 84.8 million US short tons of (76.9 million tonnes) of coal, with metallurgical coal accounting for 55 per cent of the total. The US is the world’s second-largest exporter of metallurgical coal and the sixth-largest thermal coal exporter. While export volumes were relatively stable when compared to 2021 levels, the amount sold to Europe nearly doubled in response to the ban on imports of Russian coal. Exports to Germany, Poland, the UK and the Europe-wide coal trading terminal in the Netherlands increased substantially in 2022. Sales of US coal to China slumped by 77 per cent as domestic production increased. The Australian Government’s latest Resources and Energy Quarterly estimates that US coal exports will remain relatively stable for the next four years. (US Energy Information Administration)
Report says Indian state could save billions by retiring old coal plants: A report estimates that the south-eastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh could save about 95 billion rupees (US$1.2 billion) over five years by retiring eight old coal units and replacing them with cheaper renewable energy. The plants have a combined capacity of 1680 MW. The Retiring to Save report by Climate Risk Horizons notes that the state’s 11,600 MW coal-fired fleet operated with a plant load factor of just 52.5 per cent in the 2022 financial year. The commissioning of two new 800 MW coal units is likely to lower the remaining plants’ capacity factor and drive up costs. The report estimates the new coal plants are likely to supply power at well over five rupees per kilowatt hour (kWh) (US$0.06 per kWh). Climate Risk Horizons argues that the retirement of old coal units, which will be required to upgrade pollution controls by 2025, and their replacement by a mix of wind, solar and batteries will lower costs for the state’s distribution utilities. The longer-term replacement of coal plants supplying distribution utilities at a price of over four rupees per kWh with renewables, which can provide electricity for about 2.7 rupees per kWh (US$0.03 per kWh), could save the state 570 billion rupees US(US$ over t6.9 billion) over ten years. (Economic Times, Climate Risk Horizons [Pdf])
Shift in Indian peak demand bolsters case for renewables: In response to peak demand projected to reach 230,000 MW this year, the Indian government has focussed on maximising coal and gas generation capacity, despite the high costs. Purva Jain from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis notes that India’s peak power demand was during September in 2019 and changed to April in 2022. Jain also notes that in 2019 the peak occurred between 8-9 pm but has now shifted to 2-3 pm. The current peak loads are better matched by increased solar generation. Jain says the load timing changes reinforce the government’s need to meet its 450,000 MW renewable energy target by 2030. (Economic Times)
Global Steel Plant Tracker, Global Energy Monitor, April 2023.
The Global Steel Plant Tracker has been updated with data on more than 400 steel plant owners. The tracker includes data on 1016 steel plants in 89 countries with a combined capacity of 3.1 billion tonnes of steel.
“The corporate governance of public utilities”, Yale Journal on Regulation, March 29, 2023.
This 52-page paper argues that a string of corporate governance scandals and opposition to climate policies highlight the need for strong regulatory oversight of power utilities and demonstrates why greater weight should be given to ratepayer, not shareholder interests.
ReAct: a simplified guide to repurpose coal assets, Climate Investment Funds, March 2023. (Pdf)
This 126-page report provides an overview of key issues to address in developing just transition plans for South Africa, India, and Indonesia. The report includes an outline of existing regulatory requirements, the technical aspects of selecting target coal plants, repurposing opportunities and financial solutions appropriate for each country.