April 28, 2022
Issue 414  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

A devastating heatwave has hit large swathes of Pakistan, with some cities topping over 44°C (over 112°F) for a week or more. Consumers have been hit with power blackouts as coal and gas plants, accounting for about 10 per cent of the country’s power capacity, are offline because imported fuels are too expensive. Indian regulators have just approved that power generators may pass on the high cost of imported coal to utilities. This encapsulates the contradiction of some countries likely to be worst hit by global heating still pushing ahead with new coal projects: they will suffer both a hotter climate and higher costs.

The latest annual update of the Global Coal Plant Tracker has mixed news. Fewer countries are considering new coal projects, with the overwhelming bulk of new plants concentrated in China and South and Southeast Asia. China’s late 2021 pledge to cut financial support for overseas coal projects has had a significant impact. Still, many more plants are teetering on the boundary line between cancellation and moving into construction.

In Germany and Australia, there have been further protests against coal projects. The refusal of a landowner to sell her farm to a coal company has resulted in the collapse of a proposed coal project in Australia.

Bob Burton


China aims for coal power to increasingly shift to play a supporting role for renewables

The main focus of China’s 14th Five-Year Energy Plan is to facilitate a system-wide change, where coal will step down into a supporting role before its complete phase-out, write Muyi Yang and Achmed Shahram Edianto in EnergyTracker Asia.

A community lives in fear as authorities pave the way for Adani’s Talabira coal mines

In March 2022, police detained family members of an outspoken critic of the development of Talabira coal mines coal in Odisha, with the local community fearful of being displaced for the third time in two generations for a new Adani project, writes Ayaskant Das for Adani Watch.

A new coal mine in Cumbria makes no sense for the climate – or Britain’s energy security

A proposed new coal mine in Cumbria makes no sense and highlights the need to give local authorities the responsibility to meet climate goals and the powers and resources to develop local economic renewal strategies, writes Rebecca Willis from Lancaster University in The Conversation.

How pollution from Canadian coal mines threatens the fish at the heart of communities from British Columbia to Idaho

Selenium from a string of Teck Resources’ mines in British Columbia is projected to contaminate the transboundary watershed connecting Canada to the US for centuries to come, writes Ainslie Cruickshank in The Narwhal.


Australian mine defeated by a landowner who refused to sell

After a 22-year campaign, Ashton South East Open Cut coal mine expansion proposed by Chinese-owned mining company Yancoal collapsed after the project’s planning approval expired on April 17. After a protracted legal battle against the project, the New South Wales Court of Appeal approved the project but only on the condition that long-time resident Wendy Bowman agreed to sell her historic property to the mining company. Bowman, who was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2017, refused to sell and changed her will to ensure it could not be sold to the company. While a coalition of community groups that campaigned against the project are celebrating the collapse of the project, Lock the Gate spokesperson Nic Clyde said the project had a damaging effect on the local community, with many residents having moved “for the sake of a coal mine that was never built.” (Hunter Valley News, Lock the Gate)

Top News

Global coal plant pipeline shrinks with China dominating new projects: A new Global Energy Monitor report reveals that the number of countries considering the construction of new coal plants has fallen to 34, down from 41 in January 2021. Since the Paris Agreement was agreed in 2015, the amount of new coal power capacity under construction or consideration has declined by three-quarters, with a 13 per cent decline in 2021 to 457,000 megawatts (MW). An estimated 18,000 MW of new coal capacity was commissioned in 2021, with 176,000 MW under construction. Over half the coal capacity under construction or consideration is in China, with a further 37 per cent in other South and Southeast Asian countries. European Union countries retired 12,900 MW of coal capacity in 2021, with the US fleet declining by between 6400 and 9000 MW. (France24, Global Energy Monitor)

Overseas coal plants decline as Chinese backing wilts: The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) estimates China’s announcement it would end financial support for new coal plants has resulted in the cancellation or shelving of 15 projects since September 2021. The projects had a combined capacity of 12,800 MW. CREA estimates recently released National Development and Reform Commission guidelines, which recommended projects under construction proceed “with caution”, should prompt a reassessment by project developers of 36 plants with a combined capacity of 30,000 MW. A further recommendation that projects should comply with “international green rules and standards” could affect 18 plants involving Chinese equity, with a combined capacity of 17,000 MW. Chinese-backed international coal plants commonly operate to far weaker pollution standards than apply in China. A further 11,200 MW of projects with permits and financing have not yet entered the construction phase. (Straits Times, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air)

Bulgaria orders suspension of polluting plant: Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment Borislav Sandovs has suspended operation of the 908 MW Maritsa 3 power plant due to continued violation of air pollution standards. In 2019 the European Commission referred Bulgaria to the Court of Justice over the lack of compliance with European Union sulphur dioxide emission standards from the lignite-fired plant. The court will announce a decision on the case and possible sanctions shortly. (BND [Bulgarian])

Protests against coal projects in Germany and Australia: An estimated 3500 people rallied in the village of Lutzerath, which is threatened by the proposed expansion of RWE’s Garzweiler lignite mine. A late-March court ruling dismissed a legal challenge against the mine expansion, clearing the path for the village’s demolition. One farmer has refused to sell his land. In Australia, dozens participated in a day-long blockade of the Newcastle coal terminal, the largest thermal coal port in the world. (Deutsche Welle, Extinction Rebellion Newcastle (Facebook)]

Rio Tinto drops membership of Australian coal industry lobby group: Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest private mining companies, has agreed to drop its membership of the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) after pressure from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR). ACCR argued Rio Tinto’s continued membership of the QRC, the state’s peak mining industry lobby group, was incompatible with its stated support for the Paris Agreement. In February, ACCR submitted a shareholder resolution calling on the company to end its membership with the group. The company said it would let its membership lapse at the end of the current financial year. ACCR said other companies that claimed they also supported the Paris Agreement — Anglo American, BHP, and South32 — should also drop their membership. (Reuters, Mining Technology, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility)

US utilities slowing transition in many states: A study by InfluenceMap of the 25 largest investor-owned electric utilities in the US has found almost half are lobbying directly or indirectly through industry associations to delay the transition away from coal, oil and gas. The utilities account for 80 per cent of the total market capitalisation of stock-exchange-listed utilities. The report cites Duke Energy and AES subsidiaries in Hawaii and Ohio as directly lobbying at the state level against the phasing out of coal plants. It also notes Southern Company, which operates in Alabama and Georgia, has opposed government regulation of coal plants. The report suggests that 14 states are likely to face significant opposition to adopting effective climate policies due to the resistance of the largest utilities in the states. (Grist, InfluenceMap)

FirstEnergy pays US$37.5 million to settle some Ohio lawsuits: FirstEnergy has agreed to pay US$37.5 million to settle four ratepayer lawsuits that alleged the company violated state and federal anti-racketeering laws over its role in the scandal over legislation to bail out Ohio coal and nuclear plants. In July 2021, FirstEnergy agreed to pay a US$230 million fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice over US$61 million paid to groups controlled by then Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Householder’s trial on corruption charges will commence in 2023. FirstEnergy has also proposed to settle a case brought by investors against company executives by paying US$180 million, but District Court Judge John Adams has expressed concern about the proposed agreement. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has also filed a civil lawsuit against FirstEnergy and others. (Cleveland, Maryland Matters)

Indonesian coal miner sues regulator over mining lease cancellations: Bayan Resources has commenced legal action challenging the decision earlier this year by Indonesia’s national investment agency, BKPM, to revoke coal permits held by the five Bayan subsidiaries. The revocation of areas that overlapped with concessions held by another company cut the area covered by the Bayan subsidiaries by 16 per cent. By early March, BKPM had revoked 137 permits for coal mining companies. Bayan Resources, which is 61 per cent owned by billionaire Low Tuck Kwong, operates four coal mines and produced 37.6 million tonnes of thermal coal in 2021. The company is aiming to increase production to 60 million tonnes by 2026. (Mongabay, Bloomberg)


Australia: Six-week hearing begins on a legal challenge in the Queensland Land Court against Clive Palmer’s proposed Galilee Coal Project.

France: President Macron pledged to make France “the first great nation to exit gas, oil and coal”.

Poland: President Duda signs a law imposing an embargo on importing Russian coal.

US: Environmental groups alarmed over Kentucky regulator’s email noting there were 810 notices for noncompliance with surface mining regulations as of November 2021.

US: Increased silica exposure causing increased ‘black lung’ disease rates among younger coal workers in West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky.

Companies + Markets

Blackouts hit Pakistani consumers as expensive imported coal shunned: About 3500 MW or almost 10 per cent of Pakistan’s power generation capacity has been shut down due to the country’s inability to buy expensive imported coal and gas. A further 3500 MW of capacity is offline due to technical problems. In the nine months to the end of February, Pakistan’s energy costs more than doubled to US$15 billion compared to the same period a year before. The financial crunch comes as former prime minister Imran Khan lost a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, and Shehbaz Sharif was elected as the new prime minister. The lack of power generation capacity comes during a heatwave when the temperature has reached over 43 degrees Celsius for days in a row. (Bloomberg)

India approves passing imported coal cost through to distribution utilities: Faced with dwindling coal stocks in some of the leading industrial states, the Modi government has agreed to allow the owners of idled power plants reliant on expensive imported coal to pass the higher costs through to distribution utilities. The decision would benefit Adani Power, Essar Power, CLP India and IL&FS Tamil Nadu. At an April 13 meeting between states and federal officials, it was agreed that Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu would place orders for imported coal to blend with domestic supplies. The utilities expect the purchase will result in imported coal for blending exceeding volumes used by state-owned utilities over the last six years. (Reuters)

South African rail disruption crimps coal company plans to boost exports: Transnet, the government-owned coal rail freight provider, has told coal exporters that it could terminate their contracts’ long-term agreements under force majeure provisions. Transnet has blamed the disruption of its services on the rampant theft of copper cables on the coal railway line and its inability to source spares for locomotives as factors beyond its control. Coal exporter Thungela Resources said it was told by Transnet that freight services would be disrupted for “at least” the next six months. The coal company said it didn’t expect the disruption would affect its production forecast. South African producers hoped to increase exports to take advantage of high global prices and increased demand as importers seek alternatives to Russian supplies. In 2021 Transnet transported 58 million tonnes of coal to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, with a nominal capacity of 77 million tonnes a year. (Mining.com, Thungela Resources)

Global asset managers keep heavy investments in coal: A report by the Reclaim Finance, a coalition of NGOs tracking investments in fossil fuels, estimates 30 asset managers in Europe and the US have invested US$82.5 billion in 146 companies developing new coal projects. Of this US$10 billion is invested in Glencore, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, and US$3 billion in Mitsubishi, a Japanese company that helps build and operate coal plants. BlackRock and Vanguard have US$60 billion in companies pursuing coal expansion projects. Firms that have announced net-zero-emissions pledges account for 97 per cent of investments in companies expanding coal production and use. The report states that 23 out of the 30 asset managers do not restrict investments in companies launching new coal projects. (CNBC, Reclaim Finance [Pdf])

Glencore faces shareholders’ challenge over emissions underestimation: A report by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility estimates that global operational emissions of Glencore, the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal, were 11 to 24 per cent higher than reported between 2018 and 2021 due to the underestimation of methane emissions at its Australian coal mines. Scientists at the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research used satellite data to calculate methane emissions at the company’s coal mines. They estimated methane emissions from the Hail Creek mine in Queensland alone were 13 times greater than the company disclosed in its 2019 greenhouse gas emissions report. The influential proxy advisory firms ISS and Glass Lewis have recommended shareholders vote against accepting the company’s progress report on climate policy at the annual general meeting on August 28. (Financial Times, Bloomberg, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility)

Study estimates changes in the Chinese market will hit major exporters: A new study predicts that increased Chinese investment in domestic transport infrastructure and the policy aim of peaking greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 will combine to slash coal imports. The study, published in the energy journal Joule, estimates thermal coal imports are likely to fall from 185 million tonnes in 2019 to between 95 and 130 million tonnes by 2025. The decline will primarily affect Indonesian and Australian exporters. The study also estimates that Chinese metallurgical coal imports will fall from 34 million tonnes in 2019 to between 23 and 25 million tonnes by 2025. The bulk of the decline is expected to be borne by Australian exporters as Mongolian exports to China increase. (The Conversation, Joule)

US CCS plant would push consumers’ power bills up: Black Hills Corporation has told the Wyoming Public Service Commission the addition of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) plants at its Wygen II and Neil Simpson II coal plants would add hundreds of dollars a year to consumers electricity bills. The current units are 90 MW and 80 MW, respectively. The plants would be designed to capture 90 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions. The utility estimated each CCUS unit could cost between US$441 million and US$468 million and noted there is “significant financing risk” with reliance on 45Q tax credits. The utility also noted that energy-intensive CCUS units would cut power supplied to the grid by 36–37 per cent and could require a “significant” amount of extra water that “would apply additional stress on existing aquifers in the area”. (Wyofile, Black Hills Corporation)


“Phases of fossil fuel decline: Diagnostic framework for policy sequencing and feasible transition pathways in resource dependent regions”, Oxford Open Energy, Volume 1, 2022.

This paper examines three main risks in the transition from fossil fuels – the persistence of the status quo, backlash from affected companies and workers, and regional despondence – with case studies of South Africa, the US and the Netherlands.

“The Race to Green Steel”, Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, April 2022.

This 24-minute podcast provides a concise summary of the four key technologies in the mix to decarbonise steel production. These are recycling, carbon capture and storage, electrolysis and hydrogen.