Thermal coal’s record price run may end up its own worst enemy
The coal industry’s mantra for much of the past two decades in Asia has been that coal is the fuel of choice because it’s cheap and reliable. However, the surge in prices and opposition to new projects may accelerate the switch to cleaner alternatives, writes Clyde Russell in Reuters.
India’s technology path key to global steel decarbonisation
Recent announcements by global steel companies in India highlight how critical the nation’s steel technology path will be to achieving global decarbonisation of the steel sector, write Soroush Basirat and Simon Nicholas in Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
In Southeast Asia, decades-long deals stymie shift away from coal
Long-term power purchase agreements for coal power projects are holding the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries back from phasing out coal sooner, writes Nyshka Chandran in Al Jazeera.
How poisonous mercury gets from coal-fired power plants into the fish you eat
Much of the mercury emitted from coal power plant stacks falls out within about 15 kilometres of the plant and eventually into fish, writes Gabriel Filippelli in The Conversation.
Australian court rejects KEPCO mine challenge: The High Court of Australia has rejected an application by the South Korean company KEPCO seeking special leave to appeal against a 2019 decision by the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC) denying the company’s proposed Bylong Coal Project. The court ruled the company’s application identified “no question of principle” and dismissed the request with costs against the company. The IPC found the mine would have adverse impacts on groundwater, agricultural land and a range of scenic, heritage and natural values. KEPCO appealed the IPC decision in two separate cases before the NSW Land and Environment Court and, after losing those, an unsuccessful appeal before the NSW Court of Appeal. The Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, which has campaigned against the mine, called on KEPCO not to submit a new mine proposal but to sell the land back to farmers. (Guardian, Environmental Defenders Office, High Court of Australia)
Indian state backs study into phasing out coal plants: Aditya Uddhav, Maharashtra’s Minister for Environment, has announced the state will undertake an audit on how the state’s coal plants “may be phased down in a systematic manner”. He also committed the state government to ensure all coal plants would install flue gas desulphurisation units and comply with the federal standard requiring all fly ash to be used in the construction and other industry sectors. Uddhav stated on Twitter that all coal plants “not meeting prescribed standards will face decisive actions”. The announcement followed protests by villagers over coal ash pollution, with a recent study revealing extensive heavy metal pollution of ground and surface water around the Koradi and Khaparkheda coal plants operated by the state-owned Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (Mahagenco). Thirty-three coal plants operate in the state with a combined capacity of 26,102 MW. Mahagenco operates seven plants. (NDTV, Deccan Herald, Aaditya Thackeray [Twitter])
Canada moves to water down coal mining pollution standards: Environmental groups have criticised Environment Canada, the federal environmental regulator, for bowing to demands by the coal industry and provincial governments to weaken proposed water effluent standards to allow a doubling of selenium pollution to 20 micrograms of selenium per litre in any one sample and a monthly average of 10 micrograms per litre. The regulator has also proposed that limits for suspended solids be increased by about a third compared to an earlier draft. It has also been suggested that sodium, antimony and chloride be excluded from monitoring. The regulator is proposing the new standards would not take effect until three years after coming into force, potentially resulting in new mines commissioned before 2027 operating to even weaker standards. (Toronto Star)
Polish utilities bankroll campaign against European climate policy: The Polish Power Plants Association (TGPE), which represents utilities including PGE, Tauron and Energa, has launched a €2.6 million (US$2.95 million) campaign inaccurately blaming the European Union’s climate policies for 60 per cent of the cost of electricity. A news outlet reported the idea for the campaign originated with the Ministry of State Assets, the Polish Government agency responsible for negotiating with the European Commission over state aid for coal mines and power plants. The campaign, featuring billboards and TV advertising, was dismissed by European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans as misleading. (Climate Home News, Euractiv, Wiadomosci [Polish])
Rent dispute hangs over utility that buys coal from Manchin family company: American Bituminous Power Partners (Ambit), which has purchased millions of dollars of coal from US Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s family company, Enersystems, is locked in a bitter legal dispute over Ambit’s failure to pay rent since 2012 to Horizon Ventures, the owner of the former mine site the plant uses. In a recent filing with the West Virginia Public Service Commission, Horizon stated Ambit had “found various reasons to pay, among others, stakeholders and executives” instead of paying rent and now owes Horizon Ventures millions of dollars. In a separate development, Larry Puccio, a close friend and Democratic Party associate of Manchin, registered as a federal lobbyist after the Senator held the swing vote in the Senate after the last election. Since then, Puccio has earned US$310,000 lobbying mostly Senators, with the largest contract with the Appalachian Natural Gas Operators Coalition. (ClimateWire, Washington Post)
China and Mongolia resolve rail crossing point location: Mongolia’s Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene and Chinese President Xi Jinping have tentatively agreed to support the construction of a railway to the Gashuunsukhait-Gantsmod border crossing. Currently, coal and copper exports are trucked to the border crossing. However, there are significant outstanding issues to be resolved, including the high cost of the railway and the project’s environmental impacts. China has expressed interest in supporting the project as part of the Belt and Road Initiative and supporting the development of renewables projects in Southern Mongolia. The official joint statement also restated support for developing the Mongolia–China–Russia Economic Corridor. (The Diplomat, Montsame, Mongolian Government [Mongolian])
Australia: Proponents seek to recast the proposed Collinsville coal plant as “flexible” as the grid shifts to renewables.
Australia: Call to reject Whitehaven Coal’s proposed 13-year extension of the Narrabri mine.
India: Ministry of Coal completes auction of 10 coal blocks with a combined annual production capacity of 22 million tonnes a year.
Mozambique: Grindrod touts expansion of Maputo terminal to cater for South African coal exports.
Netherlands: Tata Steel pays ship crews to dump coal scraps into the ocean after leaving port.
South Africa: Earth Life Africa and groundWork have appealed against Eskom exceeding pollution limits at eight coal plants.
US: Excessive boron levels have been detected in six private wells near the City of Lansing’s 155 MW Erickson Power Station.
US: Emails reveal former regulator proposed allowing FirstEnergy to show it didn’t use ratepayer money for the nuclear and coal bailout law at the heart of Ohio’s largest corruption case.
“No utility wants to put capital into [US] coal plants these days,”
said Travis Miller, a Morningstar analyst.
Duke Energy plans 2035 coal exit and renewables boost: Duke Energy, one of the largest US power utilities, has announced it will exit from coal power generation by 2035. Duke estimates coal will account for an estimated five per cent of generation in 2030. The plan affects 11 coal plants in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and the Midwest. The Global Coal Plant Tracker estimates Duke Energy currently operates 19,029 MW of coal plant capacity. The company is proposing to increase its renewables capacity from the current 10,000 MW to 24,000 MW by 2030. Duke CEO Lynn Good was in a delegation of utility executives who met President Biden lobbying for financial support for renewables, transmission, storage and nuclear plants in the “Build Back Better Act” blocked by Senator Joe Manchin. (EnergyWire, Duke Energy)
US retirements accelerate in 2022: US utilities have slated 51,000 MW of coal plants for closure by 2027. Since 2015, 71,400 MW of coal-fired power plant capacity has been shuttered due to the costs of upgrades to meet environmental standards, increasing renewables generation and until recently, the comparatively low cost of gas generation. US utilities have indicated a further 23,000 MW will close in 2028 alone as plants must comply with Environmental Protection Agency’s Effluent Limitation Guidelines, which regulate coal ash and toxic metals to protect drinking water supplies. (S & P Global)
Indian proposal to end new coal plants opens door for renewables: Supporters of Indian renewables have welcomed the Ministry of Power’s consideration of ending support for new coal plants apart from about 30,000 MW already under construction. Ashish Fernandes from Climate Risk Horizons and Aditya Lolla from Ember warn 33 “zombie” coal plants that have or are seeking permits but have not yet commenced construction should be cancelled. They estimate the projects would cost US$33 billion and generate electricity at two to three times the price of renewables. (Economic Times)
Report finds banks keep pouring money into the coal sector: The annual review by a coalition of NGOs has found that between January 2019 and November 2021, just 12 banks accounted for 48 per cent of the US$363 billion loaned to companies on the Global Coal Exit List. The largest lenders were three Japanese banks – Mizuho Financial, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and SMBC Group – along with the UK-based Barclays and US-headquartered Citigroup. The report also found US$1.2 trillion has been provided to coal companies on the list from 484 banks. Eleven of the top supporters are Chinese banks, with US-based JPMorgan rounding out the top dozen underwriters. (International Business Times, Urgewald)
Credit Agricole breached policy to finance coal plants: Reclaim Finance has criticised Credit Agricole for providing loans and underwriting bonds for companies such as Glencore, Itochu and Marubeni even though they have plans to expand coal mining, infrastructure and power generation. In 2020 Credit Agricole announced it would only provide financial services after 2021 to clients, not developing new projects and phasing out existing projects by 2030 for the European Union and OECD countries and 2040 for the rest of the world. Reclaim Finance said Credit Agricole had provided support to Korea Electric Power Corporation, Gulf Power in Florida, and State Grid Corporation of China even though the utilities have no plans to phase out coal and earn over 25 per cent of their revenues from coal. (Financial Times, Reclaim Finance)
Doubt over outlook for South African exporters: Coal exports from South Africa hit record lows in 2021 mainly due to problems with rail logistics, but this may become normal due to the heavy reliance on the import demand of just three countries: Pakistan, India and China. In 2021, 86 per cent of South African coal exports went to these three countries, but each is looking to cut expensive imports. Demand for South African coal has been buoyed by China’s unofficial ban on Australian imports, but this may ease in the medium term due to new internal rail developments and Mongolian export capacity. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis argues a significant reduction of Chinese import demand would hit Indonesia hard with surplus production diverted to the Indian market, undermining South African producers. (Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis)
Investor launches plan for Glencore to spin off its coal operations: Bluebell Capital Partners (BCP), a UK-headquartered hedge fund, has proposed Glencore spin off its thermal coal operations with a fund to cover rehabilitation costs as mines close. Glencore is the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, producing 90 million tonnes in 2021 and a further 14 million tonnes of metallurgical coal. Under BCP’s plan, Glencore would launch a new company with a dual share structure and retain Class A shares. It would maintain management control of the company and the right to market all the coal produced but just over a nine per cent economic share in the new company. The balance of the class B economic shares would be allocated to existing Glencore shareholders. (Financial Times, Financial Times)