December 9, 2021
Issue 397  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

As the end of the year approaches there has been a flurry of announcements. The largest Asian insurance company, the AIA Group, has announced it has completed its divestment from companies with coal interests seven years early. In Italy, Enel has announced it has received approval for the closure of the 600 megawatt (MW) coal unit at its La Spezia power station this year. In the US, a court ruling dismissing part of an appeal by Ameren has increased doubts about whether the 1242 MW Rush Island coal plant in Missouri will operate for much longer.

In Europe, the potential environment minister in the new Czech Republic Government has foreshadowed the prospect of the closure of the country’s coal plants by 2030 or 2033 “at the latest”. In Vietnam, Quang Ninh province wants to see a major expansion in wind capacity rather than more coal projects. In South Korea, faith groups are stepping up protests against the construction of the part-built 2100 MW Samcheok coal plant. A new study has also pointed to the prospect that a wave of investment in the steel sector could slash metallurgical coal demand.

Bob Burton


‘Make India’s Hasdeo forests a ‘no go’ zone for coal mines’, says Indian state minister

A prominent member of the Chhattisgarh government has said he wants the biodiverse Hasdeo forests to be declared a ‘no go’ zone for coal mining, even as the government of which he is a part is pushing for more mines, writes Geoff Law in Adani Watch.

In Russia, coal is still king and the government wants even more

The Russian Government is touting the further expansion of the coal industry, writes Mike Eckel in Radio Free Europe.

Western Balkan coal power plants are the European Union’s blind spot

The European Union must require Western Balkan countries to cut pollution from their coal plants and comply with emission requirements, write Petros Kokkalis and Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, two members of the European Parliament in Euractiv.


Italian regulator approves closure of 600 MW coal plant

Italy’s Ministry for Ecological Transition has approved Enel’s proposal to close the 600 MW coal unit at its La Spezia power station this year. Together with the closure of two coal units at the Andrea Palladio plant, Enel is on track to close 870 MW of coal capacity this year. At the end of last year, Enel closed a 605 MW coal unit at its Brindisi plant and had previously closed coal units at two other plants. By the end of this year, the utility will have closed 1900 MW of coal capacity. However, the utility is planning to convert two coal units at its Andrea Palladio plant to become an 840 MW combined cycle gas plant. (Enel)

Top News

US court ruling makes closure of Ameren’s Rush Island plant likely: The Eighth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals has rejected a bid by Ameren to overturn a 2019 court ruling directing the utility to install pollution control equipment on its 1242 MW Rush Island Energy Center in Missouri. The utility could appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, spend up to US$1 billion fitting scrubbers to the two coal units by 2024 or close the plant. The plant, which was commissioned between 1977 and 1979, had a nominal retirement date of 2039. (Daily Journal)

Czech Republic could exit coal by 2033 “at the latest”: A candidate for Minister for Environment in the next government of the Czech Republic, Anna Hubackova, has suggested it would be best to phase out coal “by 2030, 2033 at the latest”. The coalition agreement for the incoming government led by Prime Minister-designate Petr Fiala has committed to phasing out coal before 2038. A commission established by the outgoing government had recommended 2038 as the end date for the country’s 26 coal plants which have a combined capacity of 7906 MW. (Euractiv)

Vietnamese province seeks wind power over proposed coal plants: Quang Ninh province has requested that Vietnam’s draft 2021–2030 power development plan be revised to allow for a 5000 MW increase in wind projects as an alternative to proposed coal plants. The province, which currently has seven coal plants with a combined capacity of 5640 MW, has requested approval for 3000 MW of offshore and 2000 MW of onshore wind projects. The province is also seeking approval for gas projects. (Dau tu Online [Vietnamese])

Protest against construction of new South Korean coal plant: Faith groups have held two protests against the construction of the 2100 MW Samcheok coal plant in Gangwon province. Catholic Climate Action of Korea and members of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation recently held a second march against the project and are planning another demonstration on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Since the plant was first proposed in 2013 there has been a series of ownership changes with Posco Energy selling down its stake in Samcheok Blue Power, the company sponsoring the project. Despite this, the company has struggled to raise sufficient funding to complete construction as national and international lenders and investors move away from coal power. (UCA News, Global Energy Monitor)

South32’s rejected Australian mine expansion plan back again: The New South Wales Government has designated South 32’s proposed expansion of its Dendrobium mine as State Significant Infrastructure which will restart environmental assessment of the yet-to-be-disclosed proposal. The decision overturns a recommendation by the state's Independent Planning Commission (IPC) which found the company’s proposed expansion had “potential for long-term and irreversible impacts” on a vital source of drinking water and was “not in the public interest”. Lock the Gate said the decision set a dangerous precedent that ministers could set aside inconvenient IPC decisions. NSW Planning Minister said South32 “had taken into consideration” the concerns raised by the IPC. (Guardian, ABC News, NSW Government)

Documents reveal Australian coal plant falling apart: Documents released under freedom of information laws to Healthy Futures, a group of healthcare sector workers, has found 73 environmental risks at AGL’s 2665 MW Bayswater coal plant in NSW. The review, which was required by regulators, found damaged and deteriorating pipework in over a dozen sections of the plant which are not being properly inspected or maintained. According to AGL the four units at the plant, which were commissioned between 1985 and 1986, are not scheduled to close until 2035. An anonymous former Bayswater power station employee said the plant was “badly maintained” with “sections of the plant [...] falling apart”. (Sydney Morning Herald)


Australia: Queensland Government rules out an investigation of Adani clearing site with hundreds of Aboriginal artefacts.

Australia: The value of the 1320 MW Vales Point coal plant has been slashed from A$732 million (US$524 million) in 2017 to A$156 million (US$110 million) as renewables push power prices lower.

Canada: Teck Resources cuts sales guidance and reroutes exports to Prince Rupert after flood damage cuts access to Vancouver port.

Indonesia: Freeport Indonesia is considering switching its power supply from its 195 MW coal plant at Amamapare Port power station to a gas plant.

New Zealand: Extinction Rebellion blocks Dunedin coal train for three hours.

Russia: President Putin accused managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine in Siberia, where 51 miners and rescuers were killed, of hiding data on excessive methane levels at the mine.

Russia: Minister says the Northern Star Company’s coal development could result in 7 million tonnes of coal being exported via the Northern Sea Route by 2026 increasing to over 12 million tonnes after 2030.

US: Tennessee regulators permit increased emissions into the Clinch River from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston coal plant in line with softened Trump-era standards.

US: Louisville Gas & Electric fined US$750,000 for high sulfuric acid mist emissions from its 1717 MW Mill Creek coal plant in Kentucky.

Companies + Markets

Asian insurer announces it has completed exit from coal investments: AIA, the largest Asian life insurer, has announced it has completed its divestment of “directly managed listed equity and fixed income” investments in coal mining and coal-fired power businesses. AIA had initially promised it would limit divestment to companies that earned at least 30 per cent. In March 2021, AIA upgraded its commitment to exit equity investments by the end of 2021 and fixed income coal investments by 2028. Insure our Future, an NGO pushing insurance companies to divest from coal, estimated AIA had about US$6 billion invested in the coal sector. (Insurance Journal, AIA Group)

Study points to a declining role for coal in the steel sector: Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates global steel production could be almost greenhouse-gas-emissions-free by 2050 if US$278 billion is invested in hydrogen-fired steel production and increased electric arc furnace (EAF) production based on steel scrap. BNEF estimates hydrogen-based steel could be the cheapest option by 2050, accounting for about 31 per cent of the market. BNEF estimates EAF production could account for a further 45 per cent of steel production in 2050, up from its current share of about 25 per cent. BNEF estimates coal-based blast furnace production could fall from 70 per cent to about 18 per cent, with those plants fitted with carbon capture and storage. Other technologies would account for the balance of production. The steel sector currently accounts for about seven per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

European Union carbon price keep rising: The European Union’s (EU) carbon futures price has exceeded €80 (US$90.27) per tonne for the first time, a 140 per cent increase this year. In December 2020 the carbon price crossed the €31 per tonne threshold for the first time. Since then, the EU has adopted more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and increased gas costs have made coal power generation more attractive. Increased coal generation has required utilities to buy more carbon allowances. Other factors affecting the carbon price include Germany’s proposed coal exit schedule and the first EU annual auction on December 20. (Bloomberg)

China’s economic regulator proposes higher coal benchmark price: The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planning agency, has proposed increasing the benchmark thermal coal price from 535 yuan per tonne (US$84 per tonne) to 700 yuan per tonne (US$110 per tonne), the first increase since 2017. NDRC also set the range for thermal coal prices in 2022 at between 550 yuan and 850 yuan (US$86–133) per tonne. The increase in prices for contracts of a year or longer reflects pressure from coal mining companies to increase prices to reflect higher costs and is aimed at supporting increased domestic production after utilities were caught undersupplied, leading to load-shedding. The NDRC proposes requiring all production to be contracted to power companies and for utilities to have contracts covering all their annual requirements. (Global Times, BloombergQuint)

Eskom wins court challenge over power price application: The North Gauteng High Court has ruled in favour of Eskom’s request requiring the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to process the utility’s application for a power price increase for the financial year beginning on April 1, 2022. In June Eskom applied for an increase in power prices by Nersa but in September the regulator rejected the request arguing instead it could apply for an interim price rise under a new methodology that had yet to be finalised. Eskom argued the failure to approve a price rise by the March 15 deadline for tabling new tariffs in parliament would result in the utility seeking further financial support from the government. The court has ordered Nersa to complete its assessment of the application by February 25. (IOL, Fin24, Eskom)

India looks to Mongolia for new sources of metallurgical coal: A Mongolian parliamentary delegation has met with India’s Minister for Steel, Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, in the hope of developing the trade of metallurgical coal between the two countries. India accounts for about 10 per cent of global metallurgical coal consumption but has little domestic production. It is estimated metallurgical coal imports could climb from 58 million tonnes in 2019 to 75 million tonnes in 2023. At present, about 85 per cent of India’s needs are supplied by imports, with over half from Australia. However, India is looking to diversify suppliers to reduce vulnerability to price and supply shocks and, in July this year, the Ministry of Steel signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation to develop increased metallurgical coal trade between the two countries. A significant hurdle for Mongolian coal exports is reliance on trucking coal to railheads in China. (Financial Express)

Investors cautious on utilities embracing CCS: The Climate Action 100+ group of investors has adopted a policy of urging utilities in advanced economies to “minimise the reliance” on carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the high costs of the technology “make it a risky and potentially expensive decarbonisation strategy”. The US Department of Energy is considering requests for a US$700 million loan guarantee for Minnkota Power Cooperative’s Project Tundra CCS project at the Milton R. Young coal plant in North Dakota and a US$1 billion loan guarantee for a CCS project at the San Juan coal plant in New Mexico. At a hearing, the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Dr Jennifer Wilcox, said it “may not make economic sense” to back CCS projects associated with old coal plants facing retirement rather than newer gas plants and other industry sectors. (Energy and Policy Institute)


“There is no economic case for new coal plants in India”, World Development Perspectives, December 2021.

This paper claims the social cost of coal power – excluding the impacts of climate change – means there is no case for the development of new coal power projects in India.

When the coal ash settles: a community guide to cleaning up Latrobe Valley’s toxic coal ash, Environmental Justice Australia and Friends of Latrobe Water, December 2021.

This 15-page report details the problems associated with current poor coal ash management standards at the brown coal power stations in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and opportunities to require the adoption of best practice management standards.