February 10, 2022
Issue 404  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

Plans for projects conceived of a decade ago continue to wither. In the US, the plan for a new coal export terminal in the west coast city of Oakland is in the final stages of being cancelled. The local council and the project developer plan to finalise an agreement excluding coal and petroleum coke handling at a new port development. In the United Arab Emirates, the local Dubai utility has announced plans – albeit with limited details – to convert a half-built coal plant to run on gas.

In Europe, the shift away from traditional coal-based steel production is accelerating, with announcements by several producers of plans to begin producing cleaner steel by mid-decade. BlackRock, the world’s biggest investor in fossil fuel companies, has flagged the need for companies to switch from coal to cleaner energy and forms of steel production.

Some countries, such as Pakistan and South Africa, which went ahead and built new coal plants, are now facing a reckoning. Pakistan, which is struggling with mounting capacity payments, wants to renegotiate power purchase agreements with Chinese-backed projects or sell some of the power to Afghanistan. South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, has once again announced more load-shedding as a large part of its coal fleet has broken down. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also been in the news for deleting text from a report on Japan that initially suggested removing loopholes allowing continued financing of overseas coal plants would help meet climate goals.

Bob Burton


The world’s biggest PR firm promised to ditch coal but then worked for a coal lobby group

Edelman, the world’s biggest PR firm, promised in 2015 to stop working with coal industry clients but shortly afterward took a three-year contract with a mining industry lobby group with promoting coal as one of its priorities, writes Connor Gibson in Heated.

How Manchin used politics to protect his coal company

During his political career, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has waged numerous political battles supporting coal and coal plants which also benefit his family company, writes Scott Waldman in ClimateWire.

Villagers protest Adani's new coal venture in India

The people of Gondalpura, Jharkhand, brought in the new year the same way that they had seen out the previous year: with protests against a proposed mining project by Adani Enterprises, writes Sushmita in The Wire.

Top News

A legal agreement may end the plan for US west coast coal port: The City of Oakland’s Attorney has reached a tentative agreement with developer Phil Tagami’s company, Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, which proposed to build a US$250 million port project including a coal export terminal. The framework agreement proposes to end two legal cases, set for hearing in March, which challenge the city’s 2015 ban on the transport and handling of coal and petroleum coke. A key element of the agreement to negotiate a settlement is a commitment to exclude coal or coke handling at the former Oakland Army site. No Coal in Oakland has cautiously welcomed the initial agreement. Four Utah counties had proposed to invest US$53 million in the coal terminal, providing access to the Pacific coal market for mines operating in the state. (The Oaklandside, No Coal in Oakland, Oakland City Attorney)

Dubai announces aim of converting Hassyan plant to run on gas: Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, has announced Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s 2400 megawatt (MW) Hassyan coal plant will be converted to run on gas. The first two 600 MW units of the plant were commissioned in 2020 and 2021. Two additional units are under construction and scheduled to be brought online in 2022 and 2023. The sheikh’s statement on achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 provided no details on the planned gas conversion. Dubai is one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates. The US$3.4 billion Hassyan plant has been financed by a coalition of banks, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Bank of China, with Harbin Electric of China building the plant. (ABC News, Government of Dubai)

US regulator questions lobbying expenses by scandal-tainted utility: A Federal Energy Regulatory Commission audit has found FirstEnergy may have deliberately concealed lobbying and other expenses and has been directed to submit a plan to refund millions of dollars to customers. FirstEnergy is the utility at the centre of the Ohio bribery scandal over legislated coal and nuclear plants subsidies. The Energy and Policy Institute, a watchdog group that has closely tracked the Ohio scandal, estimates 13 FirstEnergy subsidiaries paid at least US$144 million to the FirstEnergy Service Company between 2017 and 2019 for external affairs support. FirstEnergy is currently the subject of five state and federal investigations and subject to lawsuits. (Akron Beacon Journal, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Energy and Policy Institute)

IMF staff deleted text critical of Japan’s continued coal plant financing: A recent International Monetary Fund report on Japan’s economic policies noted the country’s reliance on fossil fuels would make its emissions reduction targets challenging but made no mention of coal. However, a draft report mentioned the Japanese Government’s policy of ending financial support for unabated coal plants. It stated, “ending exceptions from the pledge and phasing out of existing commitments to support coal projects abroad would further contribute to the global efforts on climate policy.” Both the IMF and the government declined to comment on the deletion of the statement on Japan’s continued support for new coal plants. (Reuters)

Study finds Australian mine fire set children’s education back: A survey of 300 students across 20 primary and secondary schools in the Latrobe Valley estimates the 45-day Hazelwood mine fire set their academic performance back by 18.5 months. The fire in the brown coal mine cloaked surrounding towns in smoke for six weeks in February and March 2014 at the start of the new school year. Dan Swallow, the acting principal of the Morwell Campus of Kurnai College, said some families chose to keep their children home due to concerns about asthma and the poor air quality. In May 2020, the Hazelwood power station owner and operator, a subsidiary of Engie, was fined A$1.56 million (US$1.11 million) by the Supreme Court of Victoria for 10 occupational health and safety breaches. The four companies jointly operating the mine were fined A$358,000 (US$256,000) for breaches of pollution standards. (Guardian)

Residents dismiss Czech Republic’s settlement of dispute with Poland: Residents have rejected the Czech Government’s decision to drop its legal action against Poland over the expansion of the Turow coal mine in return for €45 million (US$51.5 million). Part of the agreement, which was negotiated without the involvement of affected residents, relies on the completion of an underground wall to prevent further water drawdown. Internal company documents state the measure is not likely to work. Despite the agreement, the European Commission is proceeding to cut grants to Poland equivalent to settle the outstanding €68 million (US$77.6 million) fine for the operation of the mine in defiance of a European Court of Justice ruling. The settlement came just after the Advocate-General to the European Court of Justice, Priit Pikamaee, issued a non-binding opinion that Poland’s approval of a six-year extension of the mine without any environmental assessment “infringed EU law.” (EUObservor, Politico, Europe Beyond Coal)

Coal plant breakdowns cause further load-shedding in South Africa: No sooner than Eskom had announced it had relaxed load restrictions than the failure of units at the Camden, Kusile, Duvha, and Matla coal plants led it to reimpose restrictions. Eskom said 16,261 MW of coal capacity had been hit with unplanned outages with a further 5350 MW offline for maintenance. The Minister for Energy, Gwede Mantashe, has called for revisions to the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan to accelerate gas and nuclear plants plans. The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, supports updating the plan but insists the focus should be on expanding renewables. At a mining industry forum, Mantashe said “we are here to discuss how we can survive that [anti-coal] offensive and extend the life of coal mining.” (Eskom, MyBroadband, Democratic Alliance)


China: Coal imports declined by 24.6 per cent in 2021 due to an unofficial ban on Australian cargoes and COVID-19 restrictions on Mongolian trucking operations.

India: Forbes ranks Gautam Adani and family as the world’s 10th richest.

India: National budget makes no mention of closing inefficient coal plants or curbing air pollution.

India: Ministry of Power has released [pdf] guidelines for the exemption of certain coal plants from the requirement to use five per cent biomass fuel by October 2022.

Romania: Power utility Oltenia plans joint ventures for 455 MW solar capacity across four disused coal ash sites.

UK: Coal Action Network considering a possible legal challenge against the approval of the Aberpergwm coal mine in Wales.

US: Department of Interior to allocate up to US$725 million a year for the next 15 years to rehabilitate abandoned coal mines.

Companies + Markets

Coal-free steel plans accelerate in Europe: Changes to the European Union’s emissions trading system are one of the factors contributing to the shift to cleaner steel production. The German steel producer Salzgitter has announced it will convert its first coal-based blast furnaces to hydrogen and renewable energy-based direct iron reduction and electric arc production by 2026 and complete the full conversion of its steelworks by 2033. Salzgitter, which has formed a partnership with Orsted for offshore wind power and the use of renewable hydrogen, is aiming to supply low-carbon steel to all BMW’s European car manufacturing plants. This comes as ArcelorMittal announced a €1.7 billion (US$1.9 billion) plan to build an electric arc furnace at Fos-sur-Mer and a 2.5 million tonne direct reduction iron unit at Dunkirk. The company plans for both plants to be commissioned by 2027 and replace three of its five French blast furnaces by 2030. (Argus, AccelorMittal, Salzgitter)

BlackRock flags coal and steel shifts but 2030 targets still not released: In its annual letter to clients, BlackRock, which has US$10 trillion in assets under management, has acknowledged the “inevitability” of a decarbonised economy. BlackRock suggests that a decarbonisation strategy “might mean negotiating the early closure of a coal-fired power plant” and investing in grid-scale battery technology for a power utility. BlackRock suggested it might “mean replacing traditional blast furnaces with electric arc furnaces for steel producers.” In early 2021 BlackRock announced it would release its 2030 interim decarbonisation target and the share of its assets on track with the goals by the end of the year. This statement has not yet been released. A coalition of NGOs welcomed BlackRock’s outline of direction but stressed it has yet to embrace investment criteria excluding companies involved in expanding fossil fuel production and use. (BlackRock, BlackRock’sBigProblem)

Another US insurance company restricts support for coal: Travelers, a US-headquartered insurance company, has released a new climate policy that rules out underwriting new coal plants. The policy also rules out insuring new risks for, or investing in, companies that earn over 30 per cent of revenue from thermal coal mining or generate over 30 per cent of their energy production from coal. Travelers will also phase out existing underwriting in companies over the 30 per cent threshold by 2030 and end investments in companies above those levels as they mature. The policy has been welcomed by Insure Our Future as a “notable first step” which will increase pressure on the major US insurers AIG and Berkshire Hathaway, which currently have no policy restrictions on support for coal projects. (Insurance Business America, Travelers [pdf], Insure Our Future)

Another insurance company dumps Adani: Convex, a global reinsurance company, has announced it will not insure the construction or operation of any new thermal coal mine or related dedicated infrastructure. The company did not specifically name Adani but referred only to “a new coal mine in Australia.” StopAdani, which has publicly urged Convex to rule out support for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, celebrated the decision. Convex is the 43rd insurer to rule out underwriting Adani’s mine. (Insurance Business Magazine)

Pakistan clears the way for delayed Chinese coal plant: Prime Minister Imran Khan has agreed to ensure the Chinese consortium sponsoring the 300 MW Gwadar coal plant will be given priority for payment of invoices once the project is commissioned. The plant, which was first scheduled to be commissioned in 2019, has been hit by a series of delays. The latest delay occurred when a Chinese insurance company refused to guarantee loans for the project due to other power project sponsors’ problems with being paid. China has committed to ensuring financial close for the project as soon as possible. Pakistan, struggling with capacity payments on new Chinese-backed coal plants, proposed restructuring the power purchase agreements and having Chine agree to buy 1200 MW for on-selling to Afghanistan. It is unclear what the outcome was on the latter proposals. (Business Recorder, The Express Tribune)

Coal India aims to export coal to near neighbours: The government-owned Coal India has proposed exporting up to three per cent of its production to countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. The proposal was discussed at a Coal India board meeting in October 2020. Coal India Chairman, Pramod Agrawal, said exports had been delayed due to domestic shortages until late in the year. Three per cent of production would represent around 15–20 million tonnes. (Reuters)

South African exports plunge to the lowest level since 1996: The Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) exported just 58.7 million tonnes of coal in 2021, 18 million tonnes lower than forecast. Transnet’s rail line closure for 19 days was a contributing factor, accounting for about 1.1 million tonnes of the 11 million tonne decline in 2020 exports. A significant additional factor was disruption of the rail network through the theft of copper cables and rail tracks and damage to electricity substations. The RBCT, owned by a consortium of coal exporters, and Transnet have increased security on the 750 kilometres of rail line between the mines and port. (MiningWeekly)


Greenhouse Gas Emissions from State-Owned Enterprises: A Preliminary Inventory, Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, February 2022. (Pdf) (Executive Summary here.)

This 38-page report reviewed the greenhouse gas emissions of over 300 major state-owned enterprises. It notes government ownership by countries that are signatories to the Paris Agreement provides an opportunity to accelerate decarbonisation goals.

The Political Economy of Coal: Obstacles to Clean Energy Transitions, Routledge, February 2022.

This open-access book examines the challenges of a transition away from coal power with chapters on Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Philippines, South Africa, Turkey, UK, US, Vietnam.

“Global emissions implications from co-combusting ammonia in coal-fired power stations: An analysis of the Japan-Australia supply chain”, Journal of Cleaner Production, February 15, 2022.

This paper finds that using coal-derived ammonia in Japanese power stations provides no environmental benefits as reduced emissions in Japan are matched by increased greenhouse gas emissions in Australia.