November 25, 2021
Issue 395  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The closure of Portugal's last coal plant is yet another indicator of how coal exit plans can accelerate. Back in 2017, Portugal announced it would close its last two coal plants by 2030. They are now both shuttered, nine years early. The agreement of Germany's potential coalition partners to aim for a 2030 closure of the country's remaining coal plants is another reminder that transitions can gather pace with changing politics, economics and legal rulings.

In Turkey, a court has ruled against an environmental plan change for a proposed coal plant in Bartin province, bringing a 16-year-long campaign to close. As new coal plant proposals falter, Turkish civil society groups have outlined a plan to phase out the country’s existing coal fleet. In South Africa, a coalition of NGOs has launched legal action against the inclusion of two new coal plants in the power development plan. This comes as China has confirmed it won’t finance a proposed 3000 megawatt (MW) coal plant in a proposed special economic zone.

In the aftermath of the COP26 conference, Vietnam is revising its power development plan once more, with indications that about 7000 MW of coal plants included in the previous draft are likely to be scrapped and wind capacity expanded.

Bob Burton


Indonesia, Vietnam show ambition in coal phase-outs but face challenges in electricity reforms

Indonesia and Vietnam have huge renewables potential but face significant challenges in curbing plans for significant amounts of new coal capacity and retiring existing plants, writes Max Tingyao Lin from IHS Markit.

Freedom of speech about Adani stifled in Adani’s home state of Gujarat

In response to complaints by investors, police in the Indian state of Gujarat interrogated journalists who had written stories about the status of certain shareholdings in the Adani Group, writes Geoff Law in Adani Watch.

COP26: making coal history

COP26 moved the goalposts of ambition from cancelling new coal plants to phasing out coal altogether, writes Hannah Broadbent from Ember.


Portugal closes last coal plant

The closure of Portugal’s last coal plant, the 628 MW Pego plant, has been welcomed by the environmental group Zero. The units at the plant, which were commissioned in 1992 and 1995, had been the country's second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Zero said it wanted to ensure the plant, which is owned by Tejo Energia, is not converted to burn biomass or gas. Portugal originally announced its two coal units would close by 2030 but the closure schedule was accelerated. Portugal’s other coal plant, the 1250 MW Sines power station, closed in January. (Reuters, Zero [Portuguese])

China scraps plan for 3000 MW coal plant in South Africa

China has confirmed it will not fund the 3000 MW coal plant proposed as part of the planned Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone in Limpopo province. In September 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa returned from a forum on economic cooperation with China and announced the plan for the special economic zone to cater for energy-intensive projects including smelters to be supplied from a new coal plant. The proposed plant was not considered or allowed for in the country’s national power plan, alarming civil society groups. After President Xi Jinping announced China's end to funding of overseas coal projects in September this year Fossil Free South Africa sought clarification on whether the ban would apply to the proposed Musina-Makhado plant. In response, China’s ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong, confirmed that China “will not build new coal-fired projects abroad”, including in South Africa, but would support “green and low-carbon energy”. (FossilFreeSouthAfrica)

Turkish court rules against coal plant

A Turkish court has cancelled an amendment to an environmental plan for the proposed 1320 MW HEMA Amasra coal plant in Bartin province. The residents' group, Bartin Platform, celebrated the court ruling as the end of a 16-year struggle to reject the plant which had been proposed by a subsidiary of Hattat Holding, a diversified company with interests ranging from coal mining to auto parts and real estate. In October 2016 the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization approved an amendment to the environmental plan for the project, a decision which has been the subject of legal appeals ever since. (Bianet, Global Energy Monitor)

Top News

German parties aim for 2030 coal phase-out: Germany's centre-left Social Democrats, Greens, and fiscally conservative Free Democrats have announced a coalition agreement that includes a coal power phase-out "ideally" by 2030. As part of the agreement, Germany would introduce a carbon floor price of 60 (US$67.15) per tonne if the European Union fails to agree on a minimum price in its emissions trading scheme. The agreement sets a target of solar and offshore wind capacity increasing from the current 58,370 MW and 7700 MW to 200,000 MW and 30,000 MW respectively by 2030. Five villages will be protected from demolition for mine expansions but the fate of Lutzerath has been left to the courts to decide. Current German legislation mandates a coal power phase-out by 2038 but a court ruling requires the government to set more ambitious emission reduction targets which can only be met with a far faster coal closure schedule. (Reuters, Argus)

Vietnam set to cut coal plants, boost wind in the latest revision of power plan: Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Le Van Thanh has told a conference the Ministry of Industry and Trade will include more offshore wind generation in a revision of the 2021–2030 power development plan. However, it is proposed the emphasis in the development of the solar sector will be rooftop installation for self-consumption rather than utility-scale projects. Vietnamese NGO GreenID has suggested about 6920 MW of coal capacity will be cut from the draft of the latest proposed plan including the 2400 MW Quynh Lap 1 and 2, the 1200 MW Vung Ang 3, the 1320 MW Long Phu 2 and 2000 MW Long Phu 3 plants. At the COP26 conference, Vietnam committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, a policy that requires a reduction in proposed coal plant capacity. The government-owned utility, EVN, and other major energy industry players have resisted further growth in renewables. (Tuoi Tre Online [Vietnamese])

South African NGOs launch legal action against the inclusion of new coal in energy plan: A coalition of South African NGOs has launched legal action against the Minister of Energy, Gwede Mantashe, and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) over what they argue is the illegal September 2020 decision to include 1500 MW of new coal capacity in the national power development plan. The legal action argues allowing expensive and polluting new coal capacity is contrary to section 24 of the constitution which states “everyone has the right to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation”. NERSA and the Minister have until December 6 and December 7 2021, respectively, to disclose all records relating to their decision and detailed reasons for approving the additional coal capacity. (Guardian, Center for Environmental Rights)

Glencore launches advertising campaign against First Nations leaders: Glencore, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, has taken out a full-page advertisement specifically naming two First Nations leaders as “seeking to stop our project”. Scott Franks and Robert Lester are Wonnarua people, the traditional owners of the Upper Hunter Valley, and have applied to have the historic Ravensworth Homestead and surrounding lands near Singleton designated under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act. They are seeking to protect Aboriginal massacre sites at the homestead and surrounding areas. If approved, the designation would affect Glencore and other mining company plans to develop or expand open cut coal mines. (Guardian)

Australian activist gaoled for a year for coal train blockade: Sergeio Herbert, a Blockade Australia activist, has been sentenced to one year in gaol after a five-hour blockade of a coal train in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. During November, 28 people have been arrested over protests against Hunter Valley coal trains. In response to the protests, NSW Police have established a strike force to prevent coal protests, with assistant commissioner Peter McKenna claiming protestors could face up to 25 years in prison. NSW Police also raided the office of the Hunter Environment Centre, which is not involved in the protests, confiscating a trailer load of banners and paints. (Guardian)

Sole customer of US Senator’s coal company seeks cryptocurrency mining lifeline: The owner of the 80 MW Grant Town coal plant, which burns waste coal supplied by the family company of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, is seeking approval from the West Virginia Public Service Commission to have its power contract with Mon Power, a FirstEnergy subsidiary, bought out so it can instead supply power for a cryptocurrency mining operation. Between 2008 and 2019 the Grant Town plant was the sole customer of Enersystems, which has paid over US$5 million in dividends to Manchin since was he was elected Senator in 2010. His share of the company is also worth a further US$5 million. Manchin’s objection to the proposed Clean Electricity Performance Program led to the proposal being deleted from President Biden’s US$1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. The program proposed rewarding utilities that increased renewables-sourced electricity supplied to customers by four or more per cent a year and penalising those that underperformed against the benchmark. (ClimateWire)

Indian Government closes five coal plants to ease Delhi air pollution: Five of the 11 coal plants within 300 kilometres of Delhi have been closed in a bid to ease extreme air pollution engulfing the city over two weeks. The Commission for Air Quality Management’s order to close the plants came only after the Supreme Court criticised the government’s failure to cut air pollution levels. (Reuters)


Botswana: Jindal Steel and Power aims to begin construction in 2022 of a new coal mine in the Mmamabula coalfields in 2022 after earlier delays.

Mexico: Report estimates existing 2600 MW Carbon coal plant and a proposed new 1400 MW plant would cause up to 9400 deaths over a 50-year life.

UK: Over 40 scientists and academics vow not to work with the Science Museum after it agreed to sponsorship deals with Adani and Shell.

US: Four former Armstrong Coal officials cleared of charges of tampering with dust sampling equipment at two Kentucky mines.

US: Empowering Ohio’s Economy, a group funded solely by American Electric Power, contributed more than US$1.5 million to dark money groups in 2020.

“If you don’t have the insurance, you will have no financing — whether it’s private, public, from an insurer, from an asset manager, whatever,”

said Thomas Buberl, the CEO of the French insurance company AXA.

Companies + Markets

Report says Japanese and Chinese investors play big role in Indonesian coal: A report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis finds Chinese entities partly or fully financed 41 per cent or 12,900 MW of Indonesia's coal capacity and Japanese banks have backed 17 per cent or 5500 MW of capacity. The government-owned utility, PLN, is facing massive over-capacity with a reserve margin of up to 50–60 per cent in the Java–Bali and Sumatra grids, growing debt and liabilities to cover agreements with independent power producers. The report finds the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, China Development Bank, and the Export-Import Bank of China all played a major role in funding many of Indonesia's coal plants. The report argues because of their outsized role Chinese and Japanese investors could be key players in the transition of Indonesia's power generation. (Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis)

Study finds renewables cost decline undermines the viability of most CCS: A study by researchers from Imperial College London estimates the decline in the cost of renewables over the last decade has cut the value of carbon capture and storage (CCS) by between 61 and 71 per cent when associated with fossil fuel power plants. The study noted that models that underestimated the potential of wind and solar in reducing energy sector emissions may have overstated the role CCS could play. Despite the declining cost of renewables, the study found that CCS is likely to be best suited for sectors such as decarbonising industry. (One Earth)

Bangladesh coal project costs soar: The consortium managing the development of Bangladesh’s 1200 MW Matabari coal plant in Cox's Bazaar has recommended that the National Economic Council approve a 44 per cent increase in the cost of the project to cover the cost of a major sea lane extension to allow ships to access the coal import terminal. The original sea lane was proposed to be 3 kilometres long, 250 metres wide and 15 metres deep but it is now recommended to be 14.3 kilometres long, 350 metres wide and 18.5 metres deep to accommodate deep-sea vessels. The additional work to cater for coal ships will also see the commissioning of the plant, which is currently 44 per cent complete, delayed from June 2023 to December 2026. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has been the major funder of the project. (Daily Star)

Ukraine softens coal power phase-out schedule: The Ministry of Energy has stated in correspondence with Ecoaction, a Ukrainian NGO, that its commitment at the COP26 climate conference to phase out coal power by 2035 has subsequently been considered optimistic”. The ministry stated a phase-out of unabated coal power by 2040 is now considered its baseline scenario but that the use of carbon capture and storage may see some plants operate longer. Ecoaction spokesperson Kostiantyn Krynytskyi said CCS has never been part of the national conversation and risked being a distraction from a focus on renewables and a just transition for coal communities. (Ecoaction)

NGOs unveil plan for Turkish coal power phase-out: A coalition of NGO groups led by Europe Beyond Coal has proposed Turkey be well on its way to meeting its 2053 net-zero emissions target by investing between US$89 and US$118 billion to phase out coal power generation by 2030. The cheaper option assumes the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is due to be commissioned in 2025, is not completed. The groups propose the elimination of capacity mechanism payments and other subsidies which have seen coal generation increase by 459 per cent since 1990. The modelling for a coal phase-out estimates the generation cost could increase by only US$2.5 per megawatt-hour which could be covered from the saving from the removal of subsidies and revenue from carbon pricing. They also propose the introduction of a fixed carbon price. Turkey currently has 75 operating coal units with a combined capacity of 20,300 MW, 25 proposed units and three currently under construction. (Andalou Agency, Europe Beyond Coal)

Colombian coal production struggles to regain lost markets: Colombia's Minister for Mines and Energy, Diego Mesa, estimates coal production could increase by 20 per cent in 2021 to 49.5 million tonnes. Colombian coal production declined by about 40 per cent in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on European demand and mine production, a 91-day strike at the Cerrejon mine and Glencore’s closure of some mine capacity. The latest edition of Resources and Energy Quarterly, an Australian Government bulletin, estimates little growth in Colombian thermal coal exports over the next three years. It notes that with the rapid decline in European coal power generation the longer-term outlook for Colombian exports “will depend on exporters’ capacity to reposition into the Asian market.” (Nasdaq, Resources and Energy Quarterly [Pdf))

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12 Insights on Hydrogen, Agora Energiewende, November 2021. (Pdf)

This 54-page document seeks to sort through the hype about hydrogen and assesses the most likely uses for it, including for steel production. While the report has a focus on Europe, it provides a handy guide on many of the issues confronting the prospects for hydrogen.

Polluted Power: How Koradi & Khaperkheda Thermal Power Stations are Impacting the Environment, Centre for Sustainable Development, Asar and Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, November 2021. (Pdf)

This 72-page report details the impacts of pollution from the 2400 MW Koradi and 1340 MW Khaparkheda coal plants owned by the Maharashtra State Power Generation Company in Maharashtra.

Global Coal Transitions: Past and Present: Review of Policies, Processes and Politics, National Foundation of India, November 2021. (Pdf)

This 50-page report provides a brief global overview of some key coal region economic transitions.

Socio-economic impacts of coal transitions in India: Bottom-up analysis of jobs in coal and coal-consuming industries, National Foundation of India, November 2021. (Pdf)

This 66-page report reviews the distribution of employment in India’s coal and coal-related sectors.

Future-proofing the Hunter: voices from our community, Hunter Renewal and Hunter Jobs Alliance, November 2021. (Pdf)

This 32-page report presents the views of residents and workers on priorities as the Hunter region transitions away from coal power and exports.