July 25, 2019
Issue 284  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

For years some have pointed to Germany’s stubbornly high greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector as evidence that measures such as a carbon price and renewables don’t make much difference. However, data on the first half of 2019 reveals that the recent rise in the carbon price has really begun to hit coal generation in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. It is also having an impact in Poland, though the right-wing government’s recent response has been to introduce subsidies for energy-intensive companies to offset increased power prices rather than rapidly decarbonise its power sector.

Russian coal producers are also feeling the impact with a production cut of 15 per cent taking effect in June. In South Africa, South32 faces being forced to write down the value of its thermal coal mines to match the prices offered by bidders as it looks to finalise their sale by the end of the year.

Coal utilities are also facing legal hurdles. In Greece, a legal challenge has been filed against the continued operation of the polluting Amyntaio plant. In India, the way has been cleared for an appeal against Adani’s sweetheart deal with Gujarat energy regulators to bail out the loss-making Mundra plant. Adani has been in the news elsewhere too. There have been other controversies too. In Queensland, a French journalist and his film crew have been charged with trespass while covering a protest against Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine.

Bob Burton


Why is Pakistan still pursuing coal?

Pakistan’s continued support for new China-backed coal power is related to past deals, crony capitalism and financial problems with local utilities, writes Zofeen T Ebrahim in China Dialogue.

Why German coal power is falling fast in 2019

The rapidly rising European Union price of carbon is a big factor behind the decline of coal generation in Germany by over one-fifth in the first half of 2019, writes Kirsten Capion, an adviser at Danish Energy, in Carbon Brief.

US mining bankruptcies may spur more coal plant retirements

The collapse of a succession of US coal mining companies in the Powder River Basin and Appalachia could push power generators worried about fuel security to shut coal plants sooner than they planned, writes Set Feaster from the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis.


American Electric Power agrees to shutter 1300 MW unit

An agreement between the Sierra Club and American Electric Power (AEP) to shutter a 1300 MW unit at the Rockport plant in 2028 has been ratified by a US Federal Court judge. Under the latest modification to a 2007 consent decree, AEP agreed to cut sulphur dioxide emissions at the plant by installing dry sorbent injection technology on the two 1300 megawatt (MW) units by 2021. The previous version of the agreement required AEP to install scrubbers on Unit 2 at the plant. As part of the agreement AEP agreed to shut Unit 1 at the plant by December 2028 at the latest and invest US$3.5 million in energy efficiency, distributed generation and other community benefits. (Utility Dive, Sierra Club)

Top News

KEPCO’s proposed NSW mine lacks vital certificate: Lock the Gate Alliance has revealed that an Australian subsidiary of KEPCO, a company owned by the South Korean Government, does not have a crucial certificate which is required before the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission can approve the company’s proposed Bylong mine. Mines affecting farmland designated as strategic agricultural land are required to be reviewed by a scientific panel and have a “conditional gateway certificate” before they can be considered for approval. Lock the Gate Alliance informed the commission that the company’s certificate expired on April 15. The commission has given the company until Friday July 26 to indicate whether it disagrees with the commission’s view that it does not have a valid certificate or submit that it intends to apply for a fresh certificate. Lock the Gate has called on the NSW Government to declare strategic agricultural land and other important rural industries off-limits to mining. (Newcastle Herald, Independent Planning Commission, Lock the Gate Alliance)

Legal challenge filed against extension of Greek plant: Environmental organisations have filed a legal challenge before the Supreme Administrative Court against the Greek Government’s decision to allow the 600 MW Amyntaio plant to continue operating despite objections from the European Commission. The previous permit issued under the terms of the European Union’s (EU) Industrial Emissions Directive exempted the plant from meeting strict emission limits if it only operated for a total of 17,500 hours between 2016 and 2023. However, after reaching its limit at the end of 2018 the Greek Government unilaterally granted a new permit allowing the plant to operate for up to 30,000 hours. (ClientEarth, Global Energy Monitor)

Sentence of ex-Indonesian minister increased: The Jakarta High Court has increased the sentence of Indonesia’s former Minister for Social Affairs, Idrus Marham, from three years to five years for accepting a 2.25 billion rupiah (US$159,688) bribe from Johannes Budisutrisno Kotjo, a shareholder in BlackGold Natural Resources. BlackGold Natural Resources is a coal mining company which was aiming to supply coal to the proposed 600MW Riau-1 coal plant. The appeals court also increased the fine for Idrus from 150 million rupiah (US$10,729) to 200 million rupiah (US$14,332). Johannes is serving a sentence of two years and eight months in prison and former Golkar Party MP, Eni Maulani Saragih, is serving a six-year sentence for her role in the scandal. (Jakarta Post)

Twenty three charged over Bangladesh coal scandal: The Bangladesh Government’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has filed charges against seven former managing directors of the Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Limited and 16 others over the alleged misappropriation of over 144,000 tonnes of coal from the Dinajpur mine between 2006 and July 2018. The ACC estimated the missing coal was worth 243 million taka (US$28.7 million) and allege it was sold to local buyers. The diversion of coal from stockpiles was discovered in mid-2018 when the 525 MW Barapukuria coal plant ran out of fuel, prompting investigation of the lack of stockpiled coal. (Daily Star)

French news crew arrested at Adani protest: Queensland Police have arrested Hugo Clement, a leading French TV journalist, and his three-person camera crew while they were filming a blockade of the railway line leading to Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal. They have been subsequently been charged with trespass and restricted from going within 20 kilometres of Adani’s proposed mine site or 100 metres of other Adani sites. Frontline Action on Coal activists at the protest were also arrested and report Clement and his crew were detained without warning for being within a railway reserve. A separate protest in Brisbane blocked trucks leaving a concrete plant operated by Meales, a company doing road construction work for Adani’s coal mine. The protests coincided with the commencement of work on clearing 450 hectares of bushland for Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine. (Guardian, Brisbane Times, Sydney Morning Herald)

New pollution data reveals underreporting by Bulgarian plant: Data disclosed to the European Commission by Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH), a Bulgarian Government-owned utility, has revealed that mercury emissions from the 1160 MW lignite-fired Maritsa East 2 plant increased seven-fold between 2016 and 2017. The EU’s 2016 Industrial Emissions Directive requires utilities to report mercury and other emissions for all coal plants annually. Before 2016 utilities were only required to report mercury emissions if they were estimated to be over 10 kilograms a year. BEH reported no mercury emissions prior to 2016. The European Environment Bureau argues tighter EU measuring and reporting standards are likely to be responsible for the higher reported emissions. The new results make the Maritsa plant the third highest emitter of mercury in Europe. (META)

World Coal Association appoints new CEO: The World Coal Association (WCA), the peak global coal industry lobby group, has appointed Michelle Manook as its new Chief Executive. Manook was previously a senior executive with Orica, an Australian-headquartered explosives company. The WCA’s previous CEO, Benjamin Sporton, left the London-based lobby group in July 2018 to head up the newly created Global Cement and Concrete Association. (World Coal Association)


Australia: Shareholder resolution proposes AGL cost pollution upgrades on Bayswater and Loy Yang A power plants.

China: Fifteen killed and another 15 injured by explosion at the Henan Coal Gas Group’s Yima coal gasification plant in Henan province.

India: Delhi court approves charges against five people, including ex-MP and former Secretary of Coal, over the allocation of Bander coal block in Maharashtra to AMR Iron and Steel Company.

Philippines: San Gabriel becomes the third town to pass a resolution against coal plants in La Union province.

US: First Nations groups and community leaders in Idaho and Montana demand better regulation of selenium pollution originating from Teck mines in Canada.

US: Coal baron governor proposes bill to exempt First Energy’s Mt Pleasant coal plant from West Virginia’s state business and occupation tax, saving the company US$12.5 million a year.

US: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani listed as dinner speaker at annual US coal industry conference.

Companies + Markets

Decline of coal accelerates across Europe: The rapid increase in the EU carbon price to almost €30 (US$33) a tonne is driving a switch away from coal to gas and renewables. In the three months to the end of June, coal generation has fallen by 40 per cent across Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Britain compared to the same period in 2018. The move away from coal has also been underpinned by low gas prices and increased renewables generation. In response to declining coal demand in Europe the contract price for thermal coal to be delivered in a year’s time has fallen from US$100 per tonne to US$62 per tonne. (Bloomberg)

Russian miners slash coal production: Russian coal producers are estimated to have cut production in June by 15 per cent compared to the previous year due to large stockpiles, low prices and falling European demand. Russian coal exports to Europe are also likely to face increasing competition from Colombian and US exporters also hit by the downturn. The completion of the Taman coal terminal on the Black Sea in late 2018 may facilitate increased Russian exports to Turkey. However, the depreciation of the Turkish lira against the US dollar has made coal imports expensive, prompting the government to emphasise renewables and domestic lignite-fired plants rather than new plants reliant on imported fuel. (Platts, Montel [paywall])

Court clears path for appeal against Adani Mundra’s sweetheart price deal: The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity has granted the All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) the right to appeal against a decision by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission's (CERC) to approve a higher price for power from Adani Power’s Mundra plant. After years of legal appeals and lobbying, CERC allowed Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam to revise its power purchase agreement for 2000 MW of power from Adani Power’s 4620 MW Mundra coal plant. AIPEF argued that the revised agreement undermined the competitive bidding process and would increase the cost of power for Gujarat consumers by 2 rupees per kilowatt hour. When bidding for the original power purchase agreement Adani Power failed to anticipate that Indonesia would block the sale of export coal at well below prevailing market rates. The case is set for hearing on August 1, 2019. (Economic Times)

Polish subsidies to offset impact of carbon price on energy-intensive companies: Poland's parliament has overwhelmingly passed legislation establishing a scheme to compensate up to 300 energy-intensive industries for the impact of the EU carbon price on electricity costs. The new scheme is estimated to cost US$237 million a year from 2020. Despite Polish generators being heavily reliant on polluting lignite and hard coal plants, successive Polish governments have opposed EU policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the country’s extreme pollution levels. However, the government has recently warmed to the potential of offshore wind generation. The ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party, which is facing an election later this year, unsuccessfully attempted in 2018 to impose a cap on power prices. (RTL Today, Reuters)

Writedown of South 32’s South African coal assets likely: South32 is set to write down the value of its thermal coal mines as it seeks to complete the sale of its South Africa Energy Coal division this year. Faced with bids putting the value of its mines at less than the company’s current valuations the company confirmed that the final offers will influence “the group’s usual twice yearly assessment of carrying values for our operations.” South32’s South African coal mines produce about 25 million tonnes of thermal coal a year with about 60 per cent sold domestically, mostly to Eskom. South32 was created in mid-2015 to house low-quality assets BHP Billiton wanted to offload. South32’s sales of low-quality coal declined over the last year and export sales fell by 21 per cent in large part due to an extended outage of a dragline at the Klipspruit mine. (Financial Times, South 32 [p.5, pdf])

Accounting expert fears Adani Australia is a “collapse waiting to happen”: A forensic accounting specialist from the University of Sydney Business School, Professor Sandra van der Laan, has described Adani Australia’s complex corporate structure as looking “like a corporate collapse waiting to happen.” The company’s latest account to March 31 indicates that Adani Australia’s corporate parent has current assets of less than A$30 million (US$27.2 million) but liabilities due over the next 12 months amounting to A$1.8 billion (US$1.3 billion). “Adani Mining is in a very fragile, even perilous, financial position,” van der Laan said. (ABC News)


Free coal contest: royalty subsidies to Queensland coal mines, Australia Institute, July 2019. (Pdf)

This 15-page report reveals Queensland’s royalties on thermal coal are 17 per cent lower than those in NSW, with Adani negotiating an even more generous discount which could be worth up to hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the proposed Carmichael mine.