February 8, 2018
Issue 216  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

Evidence of how fast coal power is falling from favour has been in abundance over the last two weeks. The Thai military regime is poised to defer consideration of two controversial imported coal plants for three years in the hope that local communities will come to support them. The rapid decline in wind and solar power prices in 2017 suggests the government’s hopes will be forlorn.

India has revealed it is on track to exceed its target of 175,000 megawatts (MW) in new renewables by 2022 by a considerable margin, prompting the Minister for Coal to argue the country should aim for 50 per cent renewables by 2030. France is aiming to end coal power by 2021, two years earlier than previously planned while Chile’s President has unveiled an agreement with power generators that no further coal plants will be built and a plan to phase out the existing fleet will be developed. The recently elected New Zealand Government has refused to sell a parcel of conservation land to a coal company, which may well signal that the proposed project will not be approved.

Governments and coal companies are having a hard time adjusting to the rapidly changing landscape. Spain’s energy regulator has rejected a proposed decree blocking a utility’s plan to close old coal plants. In Australia, the federal government has confirmed no funding will be provided to Adani for its proposed coal railway.

Bob Burton

Features

Cheap renewables transform global electricity sector

The rapid fall in the cost of solar and wind generation has renewables zooming in on becoming the least-cost source of new power in those remaining markets where it is not already the cheapest option, writes Tim Buckley from the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in Asia Times.

Top News

Public opposition forces delay of two Thai plants: Strong public opposition has forced the Thai Energy Ministry to defer further consideration for a further three years of two proposed coal plants in southern Thailand. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand has been aggressively lobbying for the 800 MW Krabi project and the 2000 MW Thepa project. Opponents of the projects have called on the ministry to scrap all proposed coal projects from the revised Power Development Plan which is due to be released in March. Seventeen people still face charges over a November 2017 protest march against the Thepa project. (Bangkok Post, Bangkok Post)

Head of Thai construction firm arrested over hunting in World Heritage Area: The President of Italian–Thai Development, Premchai Karnasuta, has been arrested for allegedly hunting in the World Heritage-listed Thungyai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary in Thailand. A subsidiary of Italian–Thai Development, a major construction company, is proposing to build the 1280 MW plant at Hpa-An in Myanmar. Another subsidiary is seeking to build a coal port at Macuse in Mozambique and a railway connecting it to the Moatize coalfields.
(Bangkok Post)

New Zealand Government refuses to sell land for coal mine: The New Zealand Government has refused to sell a 19 hectare block of public land to Bathurst Resources. The company sought to purchase the land as part of its plans for a mine on the environmentally important Denniston Plateau. Forest and Bird welcomed the decision as confirmation of the government’s policy of refusing to allow new coal mines on conservation land and a signal that the company’s mining plan for the plateau would be rejected. (Radio New Zealand)

Public protests against Kosovo coal plant pollution: Hundreds of people have protested against extreme air pollution in Kosovo’s capital city Pristina which is largely caused by two lignite-fired plants. Since the US Embassy in Pristina began publishing real-time pollution data on the internet two years ago, public pressure for cleaner air has grown. An emergency session of the Kosovar parliament has been scheduled to discuss anti-pollution measures. (Reuters)

Chile signals ban on new coal and phase-out for existing plants: Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet has announced an agreement with the country’s major power generators lobby group that no new coal plants will be built without carbon capture and storage and that a plan to close existing plants will be developed. According to the Global Coal Plant Tracker, as of June 2017 Chile had 5101 MW of operating coal plants, a 375 MW unit nearing completion and a further 2162 MW proposed. (BNAmericas,  Global Coal Plant Tracker)

France brings coal power end date forward: French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to close the country’s remaining coal-fired power plants by 2021, two years earlier than the phase-out date set by his predecessor, Francois Hollande. France currently has five coal power plants with a combined capacity of 3286 MW. (Independent, Global Coal Plant Tracker)

ADB warns Pakistan coal boom will increase pollution problems: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has warned that six proposed coal projects funded as part of the US$33 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative will “substantially” increase the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. It also noted that coal ash handling and disposal problems “will also exacerbate negative impacts on the environment.” In March 2017 the ADB provided funds for the 660 MW Jamshoro plant in Sindh province. The review also raised doubts that the current grid system will be able to manage the 10,000 MW of new projects, mostly coal plants, to be added to the grid by 2019. (Dawn, Asian Development Bank)

South African minister gives OK to new coal plant: The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has granted environmental authorisation for the proposed 630 MW Thabametsi coal-fired power station. In March 2017 an earlier authorisation of the project was overturned by the High Court for failing to properly consider climate change impacts of the project. The consortium pushing the project comprises Japan’s Marubeni Corporation and the Korea Electric Power Corporation. The Center for Environmental Rights has flagged that an appeal against the decision is likely. (Center for Environmental Rights)

News

Australia: Journalists told inability to get visa for India was due to investigative story on Adani.

Australia: Questions raised over whether Adani altered lab report on coal port pollution.

Afghanistan: Government in negotiations with US companies about developing coal mine and power plant.

Botswana: The expansion of the Morupule plant has been put on hold after the government rejected a bid by Maurbeni and POSCO for a funding guarantee.

Papua New Guinea: Despite opposition an Australian company is promoting a 50 MW coal plant for Lae.

US: Alcoa launches legal challenge against ban on use of explosives within 5 kilometres of Indiana city.

Vietnam: Environmental report approved for Japanese company’s 3200 MW Song Hau 2 plant.

Companies + Markets

Australian minister rules out Adani funding: Karen Andrews, an Australian Government minister representing a Queensland electorate, has ruled out a concessional public loan being provided to Adani from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) for the coal railway from the proposed Carmichael mine. Andrews said she had been told by the Federal Minister for Resources, Matt Canavan, that NAIF funding will not be provided because the Queensland Government refused to support the loan. (Guardian)

India to exceed 2022 renewables target: India’s Minister for Power, RK Singh, has revealed that the country is likely to achieve 200,000 MW of new renewables capacity by 2022, well in excess of its target of 175,000 MW. India’s new renewable generation is predominantly wind and solar capacity but with some biomass and hydro generation. Existing and under-construction renewables amount to 92,000 MW with a further 14,000 MW already auctioned off. A further two rounds of 40,000 MW capacity are scheduled to be auctioned in 2018/19 and 2019/20. Singh said India is on track to have 40 per cent of generation from renewables by 2030. (Economic Times)

Lenders force cleanout of Eskom board: A new board has been appointed after the refusal of banks to fund Eskom over governance concerns. Both the head of generation, Matshela Koko, and the interim CEO, Sean Maritz, have been suspended pending disciplinary action. A new interim CEO has been appointed and the banks have provided Eskom with short-term funding. The release of the utility’s long-delayed financial statements revealed that profits for the six months to the end of September 2017 slumped by 34 per cent. (TimesLive, Fin24, Daily Maverick)

Spain’s regulator rejects moves to block coal plant closures: Spain's electricity market regulator, Comision Nacional de Mercados y la Competencia, has described the government’s draft decree seeking to block Iberdrola from closing two old coal plants as being on “shaky legal ground.” It also dismissed the argument that the closure would jeopardise grid stability or ability to meet demand, pointing out that there was already peak supply overcapacity with another 9000 MW of renewable capacity due online by 2020. IEEFA said the ruling undermined Endesa’s claim that it needed to invest €400 million ($US499 million) to upgrade three coal plants to ensure energy security after 2030. (Platts, IEEFA)

South Korean pension funds exposed to power company risk: A new report by the Korean think tank Solutions for Our Climate has revealed that South Korea’s public financial institutions have loaned about US$17 billion to the Korea Electric Power Company for coal plants at home and abroad. Bills to restrict further coal lending have been introduced into the National Assembly seeking to amend the National Pension Act, the Korea Development Bank Act and the Korea Export Import Bank Act. (Solutions for Our Climate)

Canadian court rejects appeal against coal port but challenges remain: Despite the Federal Court of Canada rejecting an appeal against the Port of Vancouver’s approval of a new coal terminal, the project faces further challenges. Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) still lacks a crucial permit for the project while a major redevelopment of a bridge over the Fraser River to allow coal ships to pass under it remains unfunded. FSD has also recently proposed new grain and potash terminals, raising doubts that the company is still committed to the coal export project given demand in the Pacific coal market hinges on China’s moves to cut air pollution levels. (Business Vancouver, Sightline Institute)

Pressure mounts on Rio Tinto to dump coal lobby groups: The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has launched a campaign to enlist 100 Rio Tinto shareholders willing to support a resolution urging the company to end its membership of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA). Rio Tinto is the second-largest member of the MCA. In late 2017 a ACCR shareholder resolution urging BHP to end its membership of groups lobbying against the Paris Agreement targets was defeated but a company review put the MCA on notice and signalled its intent to drop its membership of the World Coal Association. (Guardian, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility)

Another UK plant to close after losing subsidy: The 51-year-old 2000 MW Eggborough plant is set to be closed in September 2018 after failing to win support in a capacity auction for the 2018/19 year. The Czech power firm, EPH, bought the plant in 2014. While it was slated for closure in 2015 the following year it kept operating after winning a capacity payment in February 2016. Further UK coal plants are expected to close due to economic factors well ahead of the UK Government’s 2025 coal power phase-out deadline. (BusinessGreen, Clean Energy Network News)

Resources

Coal pollution in America, Sierra Club, February 2018. (Map)

This interactive map charts the remaining coal plants in the US and those that have closed or are slated for retirement before 2030.

This 26-page page report finds that since 2008 Korean public financial institutions have provided about US$17 billion for coal power projects with about half spent on international plants.