How the environment ministry lets Coal India break the rules
India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has a record of overlooking Coal India’s lack of compliance with pollution standards and environmental safeguards, write [registration required] Meenakshi Kapoor, Krithika and Sneha Thapliyal in The Morning Context.
India’s power crisis is an opportunity to spur a clean energy transition
Investing in thermal energy to help India through the power crisis risks diverting limited financial resources away from cheaper clean energy resources, writes Vibhuti Garg from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in MoneyControl.
India’s abuses of tribal women defending ancestral lands from mining
Women leading the movements to protect Adivasi (Indigenous) lands from the threat of mining in central Indian states are being abused at an appalling rate, write Survival International in Adani Watch.
China’s promise to stop building coal plants overseas is full of caveats and loopholes
China announced the ban last year, but Chinese companies are still pursuing carbon-intensive coal projects abroad, writes Lili Pike in The Grid.
New South Wales Government rules out two coal exploration areas
The New South Wales Deputy Premier, Paul Toole, has told a parliamentary committee that the government has ruled out granting coal exploration licences over two areas due to “environmental and cultural constraints” and “uncertain economic prospects”. The Wilderness Society welcomed the decision to exclude the Ganguddy-Kelgoola region and an area near Wollombi in the Hunter Valley from coal exploration and mining. The two areas cover an 80-kilometre strip adjoining the western boundary of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area. Lock the Gate welcomed the decision on the two areas but condemned the government’s failure to rule out coal projects in a further 10 areas identified in July 2021 as open for coal projects. The government ruled coal exploration out for two other areas late last year. (Sydney Morning Herald, Wilderness Society, Lock the Gate)
Chinese announcement of big coal and renewables growth: An analysis Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air of renewables targets announced by national and provincial governments reveals China could add over 570,000 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power between 2021 and 2025. Achieving the announced targets would double China’s wind and solar capacity compared to the 536,000 MW installed by the end of 2020. Solar and wind capacity of 1100 gigawatts (GW) by 2025 would put China well ahead of President Xi Jinping’s commitment to have 1200 GW installed by 2030 as part of the country’s plan to peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. However, plans for renewables come as provincial officials are also pressing ahead with new coal plants, mainly as a short-term boost to the construction industry. (Carbon Tracker)
Indian and Pakistan heatwave hits power utilities, citizens: Scorching temperatures across northern India and Pakistan have shattered weather records, damaged crops and strained the power grid. In India, the Central Electricity Authority reported that utilities had shuttered 36,735 MW of coal and gas plants due to equipment breakdowns and a lack of fuel. The heatwave spurred a surge in power demand, depleting domestic coal stockpiles. In Pakistan, coal shortages led to between 7000 and 8,500 MW of capacity going offline, resulting in blackouts across broad areas of the country. Three coal plants reliant on expensive imported coal — Hubco, Sahiwal and Port Qasim — have each closed one of their two units due to a lack of coal. (Bloomberg, Guardian, Express Tribune, Express Tribune)
South African inquiry urges charges against ex-Eskom board members: The Zondo Commission of Inquiry report into the state capture of Eskom recommended that former senior utility executives Matshela Koko and Anoj Singh be charged over their role in facilitating the business interests of the Gupta family. The Gupta family leveraged a commitment from Eskom to pre-pay for coal supplies for the Arnot power station to buy the Optimum coal mine from Glencore. The report stated Koko, Singh, former Minister for Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane, and former Eskom chief executive, Brian Molefe, were “complicit in knowingly assisting the Guptas to acquire the Optimum coal mine”. Zondo stated this was “an act of state capture”. The report also found former President Jacob Zuma “was a critical player” in the Gupta family’s plan to capture Eskom. (Mail & Guardian, IOL, News24)
Japan drags feet on G20 statement on 2030 coal plant exit: Climate and energy ministers’ draft G7 joint statement calls for coal power plants to be phased out by 2030. However, Japan is opposing the deadline. At its June 2021 meeting, the G7 leaders committed to ending new direct government support for international coal plants by the end of the year but didn’t commit to a 2030 domestic coal power phase-out due to opposition from Japan. The Japanese Government is resisting lobbying pressure to lift its climate ambition, arguing that the increased cost of fossil fuels due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made its energy security harder. Japan’s energy plan estimates coal generation could account for 19 per cent of electricity generation in 2030. (Asahi Shimbun)
UK steel industry executive dismisses the need for a new coal mine: A senior executive has dismissed the claim that the UK steel industry needs metallurgical coal from West Cumbria Mining’s proposed Whitehaven coal mine. Chris McDonald, the chief executive of the Materials Processing Institute – a steel industry research centre – said there are only two potential customers for the mine’s metallurgical coal: Tata Steel and British Steel. British Steel uses coal with a lower sulphur content than the mine could supply, and Tata Steel has only said they may or may not source coal from the mine. Supporters of the mine have also claimed it would displace Russian coal. However, Tata Steel has stated it does not import Russian coal. (Guardian)
French power generation from abandoned underground coal mines: Francaise de l’Energie (FDE) has established a plant to process methane for on-site power generation in one of the hundreds of abandoned coal mines in France and southern Belgium. FDE operates 10 sites, including for combined heat and power supply. Methane accounts for about nine per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. (Bloomberg)
“Fossil fuel interests are now cynically using the war in Ukraine to try to lock in a high carbon future. A shift to renewables is crucial to mending our broken global energy mix & offering hope to millions suffering climate impacts today,”
said [Tweet] Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General.
Australia: AGL Energy estimates the generator fault at the 535 MW Unit 2 of the Loy Yang A plant will cost $73 million in lost income and repairs. The fault occurred on April 22, with the unit scheduled to be back online by August.
Canada: ArcelorMittal successfully tested hydrogen as a partial substitute for methane gas in producing direct-reduced iron at its Contrecoeur steel plant.
Greece: Supreme Court prosecutor has rescinded the acquittal of three Public Power Corporation officials accused of allowing hexavalent chromium pollution of drinking water from coal ash.
India: National Green Tribunal to hear an appeal against the cancellation of allotment of Suliyari coal block in Madhya Pradesh over pollution and risk to elephant corridor.
New Zealand: Thirty activists occupied Bathurst Resources’ Takitimu mine, which supplies coal to a Fonterra processing plant to produce milk powder.
“Even the private Chinese coal traders these days don’t want to touch Russian coal because of the fear of Western sanctions,”
said Zhou Xizhou, a specialist in Chinese energy at S&P Global.
Funding deal for Indonesian transition hits hurdles: Officials from donor countries have anonymously flagged concern that concluding a coal transition financing deal with Indonesia is proving harder than expected. Ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November 2021, the UK, US and European Union announced an US$8.5 billion fund to support South Africa’s transition away from coal. It aims to serve as a template for India, Indonesia and Vietnam. The agreement with South Africa is expected to be finalised before the COP27 conference in Egypt later this year. However, officials from donor countries have expressed concern over the prospects of reaching an agreement with the Indonesian Government, with the cabinet divided over ending coal power. As the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, Indonesia has benefitted from the recent boom in prices. Indonesia’s finance minister said convincing privately owned coal utilities to close plants is a major hurdle, along with the financial impacts on the government-owned utility PLN and revenue to the government from coal. (Bloomberg)
Billionaire moves to block demerger of Australia’s largest coal utility: Grok Ventures, an investment company owned by Mike Cannon-Brooks, one of the billionaire founders of the Atlassian software company, has spent about A$600 million (US$426.7 million) on an 11.28 per cent stake in AGL, Australia’s largest coal plant utility. AGL is set to vote on June 15 on a plan to split the company to retain its retail arm and spin off its generation, mostly coal plants, into a new company Accel Energy. Cannon-Brooks, who has launched a website titled Keep It Together Australia, aims to enlist support from other shareholders to block the demerger. Cannon-Brooks wants AGL to gradually retire its existing coal plants and play a major role in Australia’s transition to renewables. (Guardian, RenewEconomy, KeepItTogetherAustralia)
RWE shareholders reject split to spin-off lignite division: German utility RWE shareholders have overwhelmingly rejected a shareholder resolution by Enkraft Capital to spin off the utility’s brown coal assets. Enkraft, which owns 600,000 shares in RWE, argued the spin-off could boost the value of the company by up to €16 billion (US$17.6 billion). While the company agreed on the need to phase out coal generation, it opposed the resolution. Of the shares that voted on the resolution, 97.56 per cent opposed Enkraft’s proposal. (Renewables Now, Reuters)
China abolishes coal import tariffs until the end of March 2023: China’s Ministry of Finance has abolished tariffs on all coal imports until March 31, 2023, to reduce the costs of imported coal and increase short-term supplies. China imported 323 million tonnes of coal in 2021 with tariffs set at three per cent for metallurgical coal, and the rates on other types of coal ranging between three and six per cent. With no tariffs on Indonesian coal and an unofficial ban on Australian cargoes, the primary beneficiary of the changes could be Russian exports which attract a six per cent surcharge on thermal coal. However, one anonymous coal trader said the impact of the change might be limited. Domestic coal is selling at 1200 yuan (US$181.61) per tonne and coal bought under a long-term contract is capped by the government at 770 yuan (US$117). Benchmark Newcastle thermal coal is currently selling in the Pacific market for US$326 per tonne. (Reuters)
China approves electric arc furnace plants to lower emissions: China has approved 16 proposed electric arc furnaces between January and April, with a total crude steel capacity of 13.67 million tonnes per year. The increase is predicated on the closure of existing blast furnace capacity. Demand for steel in China is highly dependent on construction industry activity, with the current crude steel production capacity of about 900 million to one billion tonnes per year. Electric arc furnaces, which smelt scrap steel, have a lower greenhouse gas emissions profile than conventional blast furnaces, which rely on metallurgical coal. Electric arc furnaces are also favoured for requiring reduced water demand and producing lower air emissions. European producers are pursuing hydrogen-based steel production. (S & P Global)
Glencore suffers shareholder revolt over climate plan: Glencore has sustained an embarrassing rebuff after 2.4 billion shares representing 23.7 per cent of the shares voted were against approving the company’s 2021 climate progress report, up from 6 per cent against in 2020. A further 93.9 million votes abstained from voting on the resolution. Under the terms of the UK’s Corporate Governance Code, a vote of over 20 per cent of shares against a resolution requires the company to consult shareholders on its Climate Transition Action Plan within six months. Glencore, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, operates coal mines in Colombia, South Africa and Australia. It has proposed major expansions at its existing coal mines, developing a major new mine and has been accused of underreporting methane emissions. (Reuters, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, Glencore)
India mandates utilities bundle renewables with conventional generation: India’s Minister for Power, RK Singh, announced it will become mandatory for all power generation companies, including privately owned utilities, to bundle renewable power with other generation to lower the cost of electricity sold to distribution companies. The government is also considering requiring all existing power projects, including the captive plants, to establish renewable projects at their current sites. “What will happen is that the requirement of coal will come down by about 25–30 per cent, and [the] price of power will reduce because renewable energy is cheaper,” said Singh. (Hindustan Times)
The Capture of Eskom, The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State, April 2022. (Pdf)
This 22-page report details the results of the investigation into a series of scandals involving the attempted ‘state capture’ of South Africa’s power utility, Eskom.
Renewable energy is the real jobs winner, Australian Conservation Foundation, April 2022. (Pdf)
This 6-page report estimates that replacing the 2880 MW Eraring coal plant in New South Wales with rooftop solar would create 63,562 jobs.