May 27, 2021
Issue 371  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The G7 group of countries’ agreement to end funding in 2021 of new coal plants without carbon capture and storage piles even more pressure onto the coal sector and its backers. The announcement leaves China isolated as the lender of last resort for promoters of new international coal projects. (South Korea, which has long been the third major backer of global coal projects but is not a member of the G7, has promised to rule out new coal plant support but is facing objections to potential loopholes under consideration.)

The G7’s statement came hard on the heels of last week’s International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Net Zero by 2050 report on a pathway to the Paris Agreement’s goal of a 1.5°C temperature increase and helps create diplomatic momentum for a shift away from coal ahead of the Glasgow climate conference scheduled for November this year. Following the release of the IEA’s report, the World Coal Association – the lobby group representing coal mining companies such as Glencore, Peabody, Cerrejon and Adani – lamented “suddenly, 2030 is the new 2050.”

In the last week Serbia has announced the cancellation of a coal unit under construction and Romania has flagged a possible exit from coal power by 2030. The Czech Republic has rejected a proposed 2038 end date for coal power and is seeking advice on an earlier transition.

On the legal front, the European Court of Justice has ordered that mining at the Turow lignite mine should be immediately suspended and an Australian court has ruled that the Australian Government failed to properly consider the environmental impact of a water supply project for Adani’s Carmichael coal project.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina the government-owned utility has reached agreement with unions on cutting 2000 coal sector jobs by 2023 in a bid to staunch mounting losses. In a recent document Elektroprivreda BiH lamented “we missed the opportunity for a completely painless transition a long time ago.” There’s a lesson there for other countries and utilities peddling the false hope that planning for a just transition for coal communities can continue to be delayed.

CoalWire will take a one-week break and return on June 10.

Bob Burton


China’s carbon emissions grow at fastest rate for more than a decade

China’s carbon dioxide emissions have grown at their fastest pace in more than a decade with around 70% of the increase in emissions in the first quarter of 2021 coming from increased coal consumption, writes Lauri Myllvirta in Carbon Brief.


Serbia cancels construction of Chinese-backed unit at Kolubara plant

The Serbian Government has directed the state-owned power utility Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) to suspend the construction of the 350 MW Kolubara B lignite plant. The project has had a chequered  history since it was first proposed in 2011. Permits for the project expired in 2014 but the plans were revived in 2018. In March 2020, EPS signed a preliminary agreement with PowerChina to begin construction on the €385 million (US$471 million) project. The decision to cancel the project comes as Serbia has increased renewables capacity and, while not directly affected by the European Union’s carbon price, would be affected if a carbon border tax was introduced and included energy exports from Energy Community countries. Civil society groups welcomed the decision and called for a just energy transition involving affected stakeholders and experts. (Balkan Green Energy News, Climate Action Network Europe,  Global Energy Monitor)

Romania proposes coal end date for 2032

A leaked Romanian Government economic recovery strategy has proposed phasing out domestic coal mines and power plants to help decarbonise the economy. The document proposes the government set a target of renewable energy supplying 34 per cent of electricity by 2030 with a “gradual” phase-out of coal power by 2032. It also states a “large share of the operating mines” should be closed by 2030, with all shuttered by 2032. Romania currently has nine operating coal plants with a combined capacity of 4675 MW with most burning lignite. (Government of Romania [Pdf])

Top News

G7 ministers agree to end support for new coal plants in 2021: The G7 environment ministers have agreed the Paris Agreement target of limiting global heating to a 1.5 degree temperature increase requires an end to the financing of new coal plants without carbon capture and storage. The communique issued by the ministers stated member countries agreed to end “new direct government support” for coal plants by the end of 2021. G7 member countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the US and the European Union – agreed to review trade, export and development finance polices in line with the commitment. Japan reportedly resisted the proposed end to financing new coal plants, arguing China could fill the void, but ultimately supported the commitment. (Guardian, UK Government)

Czech Government seeks to exit coal power before 2038: The Czech Republic has rejected a proposal from a government-appointed coal commission to set a coal exit deadline of 2038. Instead it has requested advice on options for an earlier exit. The change comes after the Social Democrats, a minor party in the ruling coalition government, proposed 2033 as the end date for the operation of coal power plants. The government-owned utility CEZ has announced it plans to cut its coal capacity from 36 per cent of its capacity last year to 25 per cent by 2025 and to 12.5 per cent by 2030. The utility has proposed adding 1500 MW of new renewables capacity by 2025 and tender for a new 1200 MW unit at its Dukovany nuclear power station. CEZ has not announced when it will retire three of its most recently commissioned or redeveloped lignite plants, the 800 MW Tusimice, 750 MW Prunerov and 770 MW Ledvice plants. (Zaywa, CEZ, Nasdaq)

European court orders Poland to suspend Turow mine operations: The European Court of Justice has ruled in favour of the Czech Republic and ordered an immediate suspension of work at the Turow lignite mine while the legal challenge against the extension of the permit for the mine is heard. In March 2020 the Polish Minister for Climate approved, without environmental assessment, the continued operation of the mine until 2026. The court ruled the expansion of the mine is likely to “have negative effects on the level of groundwater in Czech territory.” The ruling noted the “uninterrupted flow of a considerable volume of water from Czech territory to Polish territory” could threaten the drinking water supply of affected communities. The court also stated Poland had “failed to substantiate” its claim the shutdown of the mine would threaten the country’s energy security. Poland’s Minister for Economic Development, Jaroslaw Gowin, said the government would not close the mine. The European Commission or a member country can seek financial penalties against Poland if it refuses to comply with the order. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis confirmed negotiations were underway with Poland over the issue. (Euractiv, European Court of Justice [Pdf], AP)

Court overturns decision on water supply for Adani mine: The Federal Court of Australia has ruled in favour of the Australian Conservation Foundation that the Minister for Environment erred in deciding not to apply the ‘water trigger’ under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to the assessment of Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme. The ‘water trigger’ was included in the act to ensure proper assessment of significant water impacts from major coal mining projects. The Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, decided Adani’s plan to extract up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River in Queensland did not need to be assessed. Adani wants the water to wash coal and suppress dust at the mine. The decision means Adani and the Australian Government will have to properly review the likely environmental impact of the proposed water extraction. (ABC News, Australian Conservation Foundation, Federal Court of Australia)

Doubts raised about Australian mining company’s water modelling: Senior officials in the New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment have raised major concerns about the adequacy of groundwater modelling used by Whitehaven Coal in support of its proposed expansion of the Narrabri underground coal mine. An official noted there were significant differences between groundwater models in the area. While Whitehaven Coal estimated a possible two metre reduction in groundwater levels in the Namoi alluvial aquifer, an agency official estimated it could fall by up to 10 metres. (ABC News)

Canadian coal company challenges federal environmental assessment: Coalspur has requested the Federal Court overturn a decision by the Minister for Environment to require a federal environmental assessment of a proposed expansion of the Vista thermal coal mine in Alberta. In July 2020, the minister agreed to a federal review after the Louis Bull Tribe, Stoney Nakoda Nation and Ecojustice argued the proposal to expand the mine from its current six million tonnes a year capacity up to as much as 15 million tonnes a year exceeds the production threshold for a federal environmental review. The federal government has responsibility for issues such as the rights of Aboriginal peoples and potential impacts on endangered species, federal lands and fisheries. (CBC, Ecojustice)


Australia: Explosion at Callide C coal plant triggers Queensland blackout.

Australia: Survey of 3286 people reveals 63 per cent of respondents support a ban on new coal mines with the same percentage supporting a reduction in coal exports.

Colombia: Cerrejon declares force majeure on coal exports as blockades of mine and port railway line continue.

India: ICICI Securities notes investment “headwinds behind setting up a coal based power plant” to support aluminium capacity expansion.

India: Adani proposes to build a coal-to-polyvinyl chloride plant at Mundra to operate on imported coal.

Indonesia: Decision on legal challenge against Jakarta’s poor air quality delayed until June 10.

Japan: JERA, Japan's largest power generation company, proposes to co-fire a unit at its Hekinan coal plant with ammonia.

Poland: Fire engulfs coal conveyor from mine supplying the adjoining 5420 MW Belchatow plant.

South Africa: The City of Johannesburg aims to end reliance on Eskom and source 35 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

South Korea: Gangwon Province and Daegu City have joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance; three quarters of the country’s coal power generation is now covered by members.

Turkey: Greenpeace Mediterranean modelling reveals coal plant pollution can affect population centres hundreds of kilometres away.

Companies + Markets

COVID-19 surge in India hits coal imports and delays auctions: India’s Ministry of Coal has deferred the auctioning of 67 coal blocks across six states due to the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and increased restrictions on movement. The coal auctions were originally slated to be held between June 28 and July 28 but have now been deferred until at least July 26 to August 11. Over the last month India has been recording over 250,000 new COVID-19 cases per day with many more cases going undetected. A major decline in cement production due to COVID-19 restrictions and a slump in demand has also resulted in producers seeking to defer cargoes of imported coal. (Argus, Argus)

Accelerated German coal exit requires storage and renewables boost: EnergyBrainpool, a European energy consultancy, argues the new German greenhouse gas targets will require emissions from the energy industry to fall from 175 million tonnes as previously planned to 108 million tonnes in 2030. In Germany’s current legislated coal exit there would be 17,000 MW of coal plant still online in 2030 with the last units closed by 2038 at the latest. The consultancy argues the new target can be achieved by either increasing renewables to 70 per cent of grid capacity and, even with a carbon price of €70 per tonne (US$86 per tonne) in 2030, this would require the closure of the emissions-intensive lignite plants in 2029 with hard coal plants closing by 2038. Alternatively, the closure of both hard coal and lignite plants by 2030 would reach the targets but require substantial additional investment in both renewables and storage capacity. (EnergyBrainpool)

Bosnia and Herzegovina utility agrees to cut coal losses: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the state-owned Elektroprivreda BiH (EPBiH) have agreed to cut operating losses by cutting 2000 jobs by 2023 at the power utility’s seven coal mines. After the proposed cuts EPBiH would employ 5200 people in the mines, down from about 10,500 when it took them over in 2009. The government also acknowledges it must phase out its two loss-making coal plants, which have a combined capacity of 1740 MW, in order to be eligible to join the European Union. With the support of unions, affected workers will be retrained, offered transfers to other EPBiH subsidiaries or offered severance pay. EPBiH has been hit by rising European Union carbon prices with the utility noting in a recent statement “we missed the opportunity for a completely painless transition a long time ago.” (Balkan Green Energy News)

Report says Bangladesh power plan needs to sync with development plan: Bangladesh’s recently released eighth Five-Year Plan acknowledges the need for its power development plan to be revised to reflect updated demand projections, the need to reduce current overcapacity and ensure the “selection of least-cost options for new generation.” The new energy master plan is currently being developed under contract by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, an export credit agency which has promoted and funded new coal and gas plants. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis argues the next energy plan should emphasise making better use of existing power capacity, using more realistic estimates of electricity growth, abandon proposed coal and gas projects and instead scale up renewables capacity paired with storage. (Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis)


Bangladesh Must Plan for the Energy Transition to Renewables, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, May 2021. (Pdf)

This 17-page report sets out the case for Bangladesh to abandon proposed coal and gas plants and instead better use existing capacity and scale up renewables projects.

Eight steps for a just transition in the Western Balkans, Bankwatch CEE, May 2021. (Pdf)

This 14-page briefing note outlines the benefits and challenges that may arise in developing and implementing just transition for coal communities.