November 21, 2019
Issue 300  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The decision of the African Development Bank — a long-time advocate for coal plants — not to support the proposed Lamu coal plant in Kenya is just one of the latest signals that the financial sector is moving beyond fossil fuels. The announcement by the Swedish Riksbank that it had sold off bonds issued by state and provincial governments in Australia and Canada over their poor performance in cutting greenhouse gas emissions is another. In Poland, Grupa PGE has announced its withdrawal from negotiations over involvement in the proposed Ostroleka C coal plant.

There have been other significant shifts too. The Israel Government has brought forward its coal power phase-out from 2030 to 2025. In South Africa, the Constitutional court has rejected an appeal by Atha-Africa Ventures over its plan to build a coal mine in a protected water catchment.

However, a new report warns that Chinese coal mining and power industry lobby groups are pushing for a massive expansion in coal plant capacity through to 2035.

A new study published in the medical journal The Lancet estimates that the burning of coal accounts for 440,000 premature deaths a year due to fine particle air pollution. While large parts of India have been gripped by a prolonged air pollution crisis, there is little indication that the government will enforce compliance with new pollution standards for polluting coal plants. In the Balkans, a new Energy Community report highlights the continued failure of member countries to meet European Union pollution standards. Last week’s International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook also shone a spotlight on the underreported issue of methane emissions from coal mining. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the leading Russian industry lobby group argued that Russia should produce coal and other fossil fuels as fast as possible while markets still exist.

Bob Burton


South Africa’s hidden cost of coal

Sabelo Dladla’s campaign for justice for people affected by Tendele Coal Mining’s Somkhele Mine will head to South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal within the next few months, writes Bridget Pitt in the Daily Maverick.

Russia’s most powerful industry lobby group backs accelerated coal production

Russia’s powerful business lobby, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, proposes that the country produce coal, oil and gas as fast as possible while there are still customers, writes Evan Gershkovich in The Moscow Times.

The coal industry’s dirty secret: methane emissions

The International Energy Agency’s recent World Energy Outlook revealed that methane emissions from the global coal industry are about equal to all the greenhouse gas emissions of the aviation and shipping sectors combined, writes Dave Jones from Sandbag, a European climate change think tank.


Israel brings coal exit forward to 2025

Israel will accelerate its coal exit plans and close its last coal power units at the 2250 megawatt (MW) Rutenberg and the 2250 MW Orot Rabin plants by the end of 2025. The Israel Electric Corporation had previously committed to a 2022 closure date for four units at the Orot Rabin coal power station with a combined capacity of 1500 MW. It has also planned on a gradual reduction in coal generation between 2025 and 2028 with the final coal units closed by 2030. Coal generation in Israel has halved since 2015. While the government plans to convert the units to run on gas, the country’s interim target of generating 10 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020 may just be met. (Jersualem Post)

African Development Bank rules out lending for Kenyan coal plant

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has ruled out funding Amu Power’s proposed 1050 MW Lamu coal project in Kenya and, according to a senior official, has “no plans to do so in the future.” While Amu Power, a joint venture of Kenyan and Chinese firms, has the backing of the Kenyan Government, it has faced legal challenges and failed to attract financial supporters other than the Industrial Commercial Bank of China. AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said that the bank is prioritising renewables and warned that coal projects risked becoming “stranded assets”. Kenya’s Energy Cabinet Secretary, Charles Keter, acknowledged the decision is likely to delay the project. AfDB’s decision has been welcomed by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, a coalition of NGO groups which called on the joint venture partners to abandon the project. (Reuters, Business Daily, AllAfrica)

Top News

Report warns of push for China coal plant building spree: A Global Energy Monitor report has found that between January 2018 and June 2019 China commissioned 42,900 MW of new coal plant capacity, far outweighing the climate benefits of closures elsewhere. The report estimates that China has 147,700 MW of additional coal plant capacity either under construction or currently suspended but likely to restarted. The current coal plant capacity of the European Union is 150,000 MW. Chinese coal lobby groups are also pressing for the country’s current coal capacity to be increased from 1027 gigawatts (GW) to between 1200 and 1400 GW by 2035. To hold global warming well below 2°C increase, China needs to reduce its coal power capacity by over 40 per cent to about 600,000 MW or less. (Financial Times, Reuters, Global Energy Monitor)

South African court rejects coal company appeal: The South African Constitutional Court has refused Atha-Africa Ventures’ appeal against a November 2018 High Court decision setting set aside decisions by the then Ministers of Mineral Resources and Environmental Affairs, Mosebenzi Zwane and Edna Molewa, who approved the proposed Yzermyn coal mine in the Mabola Protected Environment. Atha-Africa Ventures has challenged the High Court decision on four occasions but has now exhausted its legal appeals. To proceed with the proposed project the company will require new approvals from the new Minister of Environment, Barbara Creecy, and the new Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe. (Center for Environmental Rights)

Czech Republic opposes Polish coal mine expansion: The Czech Republic’s Ministry of the Environment, with the support of the Geological Survey and Liberec regional government, has formally announced its opposition to the proposed expansion of the Turow lignite mine in Poland. The mine, which is near the border between the two countries, supplies lignite to the existing Turow coal plant. If Poland decides to proceed with the expansion, the Czech Republic said it would require compensation for potential damage, long term monitoring and the protection of water supplies for affected municipalities. (Xinhua)

Coal burning responsible for 440,000 pollution-related deaths: The 2019 edition of the Countdown on Health and Climate Change, published by the medical journal The Lancet, estimates that in 2016 there were 2.9 million premature deaths from PM2.5 fine particle outdoor air pollution. The study estimates over 440,000 of these premature deaths were caused by burning coal but cautions this tally could be an underestimate. The study also estimates that 90 per cent of children are exposed to fine particle pollution in excess of World Health Organization guidelines. (Lancet [registration required])

Balkan coal plants failing to meet European Union standards: The Energy Community (EC) has warned that all member countries that have coal plants in their energy mix do not comply with standards for at least one of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and dust emissions. Kosovo breached all three emission limits while Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia did not comply with sulphur dioxide and dust standards. Moldova did not report its annual emissions for 2018. The EC is an organisation between the European Union and nine Southeast European countries seeking to establish a pan-European energy market. The EC’s Deputy Director, Dirk Buschle, warned that the there was a need to reform the EC treaty to improve its enforcement mechanism so that, for example, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s lack of compliance with the state aid rules in relation to the Tuzla 7 coal-fired power plant could be addressed. (Eurasia Review, Climate Action Network Europe, Energy Community)

Most Indian coal units won’t comply with pollution standards by 2022: An analysis of Central Electricity Authority (CEA) data reveals that over half of India’s 440 coal units will not comply with new pollution standards by early 2022, even though the Association of Power Producers (APP) argued that it would take between 27 and 30 months for flue gas desulphurization (FGD) units to be installed. FGD units dramatically reduce sulphur dioxide emissions. The Indian Government’s original deadline was for all coal plants to comply with the new pollution standards by December 2017 but, following lobbying by the APP, which represents companies including Adani Power, the deadline was extended until December 2022 with a staggered timetable for compliance. The CEA data indicates that 267 units, which have a combined capacity of 103,400 MW, are scheduled to comply with the standards by February 2022. However, the owners of 224 units, which have a capacity of 84,800 MW, have not yet ordered FGD units. (Reuters)

Company directors sentenced to prison terms over Indian coal corruption case: Two directors of Pawanjay Steel and Power Limited (PSPL) have been sentenced to serve three years in jail after being found guilty of participating in a criminal conspiracy and cheating the government to win the allocation of the North Dhadhu coal block in Jharkhand. The court was told that the two provided misleading information to the Jharkhand Government and the Ministry of Steel which both recommended the Ministry of Coal allocate a coal block to PSPL. A marketing executive from Hari Machines, a tool company, was also sentenced to serve two years in prison for his role in the scandal. The three are currently out on bail pending an appeal. (News18)

Indonesian anti-corruption commission appeals verdict in case against utility head: Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court against the not-guilty verdict in the case against Sofyan Basir, the former president of state-owned electricity firm PLN. The KPK argue Sofyan should not have been cleared on all charges and that some information presented in the trial was not considered by the judges. The KPK argued that Sofyan convened meetings to accelerate the decision on the allocation of the Riau-1 coal plant. Two Golkar Party politicians, Idrus Marham and Eni Maulani Saragih, have been convicted and are currently serving prison sentences for accepting bribes from Johannes Budisutrisno Kotjo, a shareholder in a coal company. (Jakarta Post)


Australia: AGL flags that the 1026 MW Loy Yang B plant will close well before the previous 2048 closure date.

Australia: Hazelwood Power Corporation found guilty on 10 charges of putting staff and the public in danger from the 45 day long Hazelwood mine fire in 2014.

Germany: Environment ministers from all 16 states and the federal minister have rejected the proposed ban on wind farms within one kilometre of houses in the draft coal exit legislation.

Philippines: NGO files complaint with Ombudsman over Department of Environment and Natural Resources failure to supply documents on Meralco’s Atimonan coal plant.

“We have to maximize our sales of gas, oil and coal as much as we can without stopping while there is still a buyer for it, and use that money to stimulate innovations in new technologies so we can keep up with other economies,”

said David Iakobachvili from the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.

Companies + Markets

Indian coal units shut down due to low power demand: Indian power generators have shut down 119 coal and lignite units due to the rapid decline in power demand with a further 14 not operating due to difficulties in getting power purchase agreements with distribution utilities. The capacity of the units designated as “reserve shutdown” is 65,133 MW. A further 129 other units are closed for a range of other reasons. Central Electricity Authority data indicates that the plant load factor of India’s thermal units in September was just 51.05 per cent, well below the 57.67 per cent recorded over April–September. The plant load factor is a measure of actual generation compared to the maximum capacity of a plant. In October, the plant load factor slipped further to 48.9 per cent. The reduction in coal generation will also have knock-on effects on the finances of Indian Railways as coal represents about 40 per cent of rail freight volume. (Indian Express, Financial Express)

Rail companies revealed as big players in climate denial lobby: A study published in Sociological Inquiry has found that the Association of American Railroads was the most active industry lobby group in the US climate denial lobby. Coal has been one of the biggest individual revenue streams for US rail companies; in 2018 it provided over 16 per cent of rail revenue on the largest national rail lines. The study found that between 1989 and 2015 companies in the coal and electrical utility sectors were the most numerous and influential organisations in the range of coalitions opposing climate action. (DeSmog, Sociological Inquiry)

Swedish bank dumps Canadian and Australian bonds over greenhouse intensity: The Swedish central bank, Riksbank, has sold off bonds issued by the Canadian provincial government of Alberta and the Queensland and West Australian state governments due to high per capita greenhouse gas emissions in those jurisdictions. The deputy governor of Riksbank, Martin Floden, stated that while it had invested eight per cent of the bank’s foreign exchange reserves in Australian and Canadian government bonds due to their good yields, the bank’s policy was to “not invest in assets issued by issuers with a large climate footprint.” Riksbank considered both Australia and Canada “are not known for good climate work” and have high per-capita greenhouse gas emissions. However, Floden noted that as different states or provinces have different carbon intensities the bank chose to sell Alberta’s bonds but not those of Ontario and Quebec and on the same basis selected West Australia and Queensland as poor performers. (Reuters, RenewEconomy, Riksbank)

Big US coal plant closures add big emission reductions: Two of the largest US coal plants — the 2250 MW Navajo Generating Station in Arizona and the 2700 MW Bruce Mansfield Plant in Pennsylvania — have closed recently, reflecting the shifting economics of coal generation. The greenhouse gas emissions of the two plants are about equal to the emissions from the 15,000 MW of smaller, older units which were retired in 2015. The US Energy Information Administration estimates that between 2005 and 2018 the decline of coal power generation and the switch to renewables and gas avoided 4,621 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. (Quartz, US Energy Information Administration)

Automation hits 300 jobs at BHP mine: An estimated 300 jobs could be lost at the Goonyella/Riverside coal mine in central Queensland as a result of BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s (BMA) plan to introduce automated trucks. BMA said that it planned to introduce a fleet of 86 automated trucks over two years. In 2019/20 the Goonyella/Riverside mine produced 8.6 million tonnes of metallurgical and thermal coal. Stephen Smyth, the President of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland, the main union representing workers in the coal industry, warned that “if this industry is just creating dust and traffic without generating good local employment and economic activity, it will lose its social license to operate.” The leader of the pro-coal Liberal National Party in Queensland, Deb Frecklington, warned that “if mines no longer offer those jobs, their approvals should be reviewed.” (Mining Monthly, Liberal National Party)

State Bank of India opens door for Adani loan: The Managing Director of the State Bank of India’s international banking division, Dinesh Khara, has announced the bank is “open” to lending for new coal projects in India, potentially including Adani’s Carmichael coal project. In November 2014, while India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visiting Australia accompanied by Gautam Adani, the State Bank of India announced that it had agreed to loan Adani US$1 billion for the proposed Carmichael coal project. The proposed loan deal later collapsed and in the years since, the project has been shunned by national and international banks. (Australian Financial Review [paywall])

Company exits coal plant negotiations as Poland shifts ground on climate: In a short statement the board of the Polish utility Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE) announced that it had “abandoned” discussions over its potential participation in the consortium proposing to build the 100 MW Ostroleka C plant. The announcement comes as Poland's Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, told Parliament his government would appoint an advisor on renewable energy and that the country’s new energy plan would provide for offshore wind farms as well as solar and nuclear projects. However, he insisted that coal generation would continue to operate for a long time but the industry was changing. (PGE, Platts)


Out of Step: China is driving the continued growth of the global coal fleet, Global Energy Monitor, November 2019. (Pdf) (The report is also available in Chinese. The media release is here.)

This 17-page report details the push by Chinese coal and power industry groups to persuade the Chinese Government to increase total coal power capacity by between 20 and 40 per cent.

The Case for System Transformation in Indonesia: Time for a Full Electricity System Audit, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, November 2019. (Pdf)

This 32-page report argues that Indonesia’s electricity sector needs an urgent overhaul as the publicly-owned utility, PLN, has pursued high-cost coal plants at the expense of competition, transparency, and performance.

Challenges for Reinsurance of the Coal Sector, Unfriend Coal, October 2019. (Pdf) (The report is also available in Turkish here.)

This 16-page briefing paper outlines the role of reinsurance in coal expansion and the operation of existing coal infrastructure.