March 16, 2023
Issue 457  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The US$15.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership between a coalition of funding countries and Vietnam raised hopes that the government might soon make a decisive shift away from new coal generation projects. However many details remain unclear, including the nature of the funding on offer. A central element of the change will be ensuring support from civil society. But Vietnam’s history of imprisoning leaders of clean energy and environmental NGOs highlights the limits on public advocacy that displeases incumbent power holders. There are also significant questions over the financial capacity of the state-owned power utility EVN, which has been hit over the last year by the high costs of imported coal.

A European Union Court of Justice ruling against the Bulgarian government’s support for polluting coal plants is likely to accelerate the closure of some of the country’s worst air polluters and have implications for other countries. In South Africa, a court decision is due within days on the government’s appeal against a landmark court ruling that extreme air pollution violated citizens’ right to a clean and healthy environment. In the US, a jury has convicted the former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives on a racketeering charge over a US$61 million campaign by FirstEnergy and others to bailout two loss-making coal plants and two nuclear plants.

Bob Burton


What is slowing Vietnam’s just energy transition?

Vietnam has negotiated a US$15.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership funding package with wealthy nations, but progress may be undermined by domestic politics and a narrow understanding of ‘just transition’, writes Johanna Konig in China Dialogue.

Vietnam’s energy transition deal is a ‘black box’, partner warns

Many critical details of Vietnam’s Just Energy Transition Partnership remain shrouded in secrecy. At the same time, the country’s treatment of climate activists will likely remain a sticking point during the negotiations, writes Matteo Civillini in Climate Home.

Why Vietnam’s state-owned electric utility EVN is in financial trouble

Hit by the rising cost of imported coal and prevented from raising electricity prices, the Vietnamese government may soon have to cover the operating losses of the state-owned utility EVN, writes James Guild in The Diplomat.

Top News

European court rules against Bulgarian coal plant pollution exemption: The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that the Bulgarian government’s decision to allow the state-owned 1602 MW Maritsa East 2 lignite plant to breach European Union (EU) sulphur dioxide pollution limits is illegal. Two NGOs, Greenpeace Bulgaria and Za Zemiata, challenged the government’s 2018 decision to indefinitely emit almost double the amount of sulphur dioxide allowed by the EU despite the extreme air pollution affecting the nearby town of Galabovo. The court ruled that the Bulgarian authorities must refrain from granting an exemption from EU pollution standards if it contributes to breaching air quality standards. Greenpeace Bulgaria expects the Bulgarian court to review its 2021 decision that allowed the plant to continue operating in breach of EU air quality standards. (SeeNews, Court of Justice of the European Union, Client Earth)

Jury finds former Ohio Speaker guilty of racketeering: After a six-week trial, the former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry Householder, and the Ohio Republican Party Chairman, Matt Borges, have been found guilty by a jury for their roles in a US$61 million scheme to pass House Bill 6 to bailout two coal and nuclear plants and gut the states clean energy standards. Householder and Borges, who have not yet been sentenced, were charged with violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in a scheme primarily funded by FirstEnergy. While the case’s revelations led to repealing of the subsidies for the two nuclear plants, the support for the coal plants remains. The state’s former clean energy standard has not been reinstated. Previously, two others involved in the HB6 scheme, Jeff Longstreth and Juan Cespedes, pled guilty, while Republic lobbyist Neil Clark pled not guilty and later committed suicide. Legal observers expect more people involved in the scheme will likely be charged. (News5 Cleveland, Energy News Network, Department of Justice)

US EPA proposes tighter water pollution standards for coal plants: The US Environmental Protection Agency proposes to impose tighter limits on toxic metals in coal plant wastewater emissions. In September 2015, the EPA updated emissions limits, but these were reversed in August 2020 in the dying days of President Trump’s administration. The EPA estimates the proposed limits could reduce wastewater emissions from coal plants by 584 million pounds (248,570 tonnes) per year. The rule would apply to water emissions from flue gas desulfurization units, bottom ash from boilers and coal ash leachate. The EPA proposes that plants committed to closing or converting to gas before 2028 can operate according to the weaker 2015 and 2020 rules. A spokesperson for the Sierra Club welcomed the proposed rule as a “big step” towards coal plants reducing wastewater emissions. “At this point, it is cost-effective and technologically feasible for ... coal plants to eliminate those discharges,” said Sierra Club attorney Joshua Smith. The EPA will host online public hearings on the proposed rule on April 20 and 25, 2023. (ABC News, US Environmental Protection Agency)

Report says UK underestimated methane emissions from proposed mine: In a review of the West Cumbria Mining’s proposed Whitehaven mine, the climate policy think tank Ember argues that the UK government has underestimated methane emissions by up to 15 times. In December 2022, the Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities granted planning permission for West Cumbria Mining’s proposed mine, citing a report by a planning inspector. Ember argues that the inspector relied on the company’s estimates of methane emissions and the mitigation measures rather than accepted international standards. Rather than use the UK’s National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory estimates for underground coal mines, the company used its estimates. Ember argues these estimates understate likely emissions by 3.5 times. The company stated it would destroy over 95 per cent of coal mine methane emissions from the project. But the International Energy Agency estimates that 69 per cent is a more realistic performance standard for an underground coking coal mine. Ember argues the company underestimates the methane impact of the mine by up to 15 times compared to international benchmarks. Two UK NGOs – Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action on Climate Change – have filed legal challenges against the government’s decision. (Ember)

Ruling soon on South African government appeal in ‘deadly air’ case: A decision is expected within the next few days on the appeal by Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Barbara Creecy against part of a March 2022 judgement ordering regulations to improve poor air quality in the Highveld Priority Area.  In her original judgement, North Gauteng High Court judge Colleen Collis found that poor air quality in the Highveld Priority Area violated residents’ “constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing”. The Highveld Priority Area covers 12 Eskom coal plants and Sasol’s coal-to-liquid fuels refinery. In her original decision, Collis directed Creecy to prescribe regulations within 12 months to give effect to the Highveld Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan. Creecy appealed part of the judgement, arguing that section 20 of the Air Quality Act stated that the Minister “may” prescribe regulations for implementing and enforcing air quality management plans, suggesting this was a discretionary power. The original case was filed by environmental justice groups GroundWork and Vukani Environmental Justice Movement. (News24)

Glencore push to bypass rejection of mine expansion plan: Glencore opposes the heritage listing of the historic Ravensworth Homestead in the New South Wales Hunter Valley. Glencore recently briefed the Singleton Council about its opposition to the listing, which would block the proposed 135 million-tonne expansion of its Glendell open-cut coal mine. The council now opposes the listing. Glencore has funded a community group lobbying to relocate the building to the nearby town of Broke. The Plains Clan of the Wonnarua People supports the heritage listing of the homestead property, the site of a colonial-era massacre. In September 2022, the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission determined the mine expansion would have “significant, irreversible and unjustified impacts on the historic heritage values of the Ravensworth Homestead complex” and was therefore “not in the public interest”. (Sydney Morning Herald)


Australia: A day before the election caretaker period began, the NSW retrospectively offered water licences to companies operating coal mines in Sydney and Illawarra drinking catchments.

India: Adani Power has commissioned the first 800 MW unit of Adani Power’s 1600 MW Godda plant. The plant will supply electricity to Bangladesh.

Indonesia: Bukit Asam forecasts an 11 per cent increase in coal production to 41 million tonnes in 2023.

Thailand: Authorities are searching for a tube containing highly radioactive Caesium-137 that has gone missing from the 328 MW Tha Tum power station.

US: Norfolk Southern has been fined just US$27,500 for the October 2020 train derailment that resulted in over 1300 US short tons (1180 tonnes) of coal into the Roanoke River.

US: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined a contracting company $304,556 over the death in June 2021 of two workers at the Comanche Generating Station in Colorado.

Companies + Markets

US company exits from two Indonesian coal gasification projects: Indonesia’s Acting Director-General of Minerals and Coal, Idris F Sihite, has confirmed that the US-based chemical company Air Products has withdrawn from all coal processing projects in the country. Air Products was part of a consortium with state-owned miner PT Bukit Asam (PTBA) and state-run oil and gas giant Pertamina proposing a US$2.1 billion coal-to-dimethyl ether project. The consortium proposed processing six million tonnes of coal annually at Tanjung Enim. Air Products was also involved in a consortium with PT Kaltim Prima Coal and PT Arutmin Indonesia, both subsidiaries of PT Bumi Resources, promoting a coal-to-ethanol project. (Jakarta Post)

Review finds the economic benefit of Canadian coal projects exaggerated: A study of three coal mines in British Columbia in critical caribou habitat by university researchers found economic benefits of the projects were “significantly overestimated”. The study, published in Environmental Impact Assessment Review, said decision-makers often decided these overstated benefits outweighed the potential environmental and social effects. “But rarely are the economic impacts monitored and audited,” they wrote.  The study found that the Willow Creek, Wolverine and Brule coal mines projects delivered only 59 per cent of the projected jobs and 34 per cent of predicted tax revenue between 1999 and 2019. “The results challenge the credibility of trade-off analyses that underpin rationales for these project approvals and more broadly raise questions about the confidence and uncertainty of economic predictions in other EIAs and decision rationales,” they wrote. (CBC, Environmental Impact Assessment Review)

Turkiye coal generation surged in 2022: A review of Turkiye’s power sector by the climate policy think tank Ember reveals coal generation set a record after increasing by 10 per cent over the year before and marginally higher than the previous record in 2018. Part of the increase in coal generation is due to the commissioning in the latter half of 2022 of the 1300 GW Hunutlu imported coal plant. Power generation from imported coal is now four times greater than in 2010, accounting for 20 per cent of total generation. In 2022 imported thermal coal cost US$5.3 billion. Russia has become Turkiye’s leading coal supplier, with 11.3 million tonnes imported in 2022, up from 5.2 million tonnes the year before. Colombia was previously Turkiye’s leading supplier. The country’s energy plan published late in 2022 flags the construction of up to 2500 MW of additional coal capacity by 2035. Wind and solar generation have almost doubled since 2017, accounting for 15.5 per cent in 2022. (Ember)

Indian minister informs parliament of Adani investigations:  The Minister of State in Finance Ministry, Pankaj Chaudhury, has confirmed that the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the securities regulator, is “undertaking investigation into the market allegations against” Adani Group companies. In late January, Hindenburg Research alleged Adani Group companies had breached Indian securities regulations. In written answers submitted to the Indian parliament, Chaudhary confirmed that an investigation by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) into equipment associated with Adani Ports and SEZ has been concluded and “submitted before the relevant judicial authorities.” The Minister said a separate DRI investigation relating to imports of Indonesian coal by Adani Group companies “have not reached finality as information sought from exporting countries” is still subject to legal challenges. Adani Group companies have challenged legal requests to access documents sought by DRI. Since 2014 DRI has been investigating allegations that Adani companies overvalued imported coal from intermediaries based in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and the British Virgin Islands. (Business Standard, Ministry of Finance)

Coal company turns to Botswanan government for help paying contractor: Minergy, the company developing the 1.5 million tonnes per annum Masama coal mine in southern Botswana, has requested financial support from the government to pay its mining contractor. Last week Minergy informed investors that Jarcon Open Cast Mining had ceased mining operations until the debt had been resolved. Sales from coal stockpiles continue. Minergy said the recent 33 per cent fall in the price for thermal coal and reduced demand made it “marginal” for the company to truck coal almost 1500 kilometres for export through the port of Walvis Bay in Namibia. Minergy confirmed that it had requested funding from the Mineral Development Company of Botswana (MDCB) and Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) to pay Jarcon Open Cast Mining. The company did not say how much it is requesting from the government. (Reuters)

Mozambique official blocks debate on displacement for Jindal coal mine: Justica Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique) has been barred from discussing the failure to resettle people displaced by coal projects in Tete province with the 1400 families threatened with displacement by the Mphanda Nkuwa hydro project. Poor resettlement practices associated with major coal and gas projects in Mozambique have fuelled local protests and ongoing conflicts. The Marara district administrator reportedly told local community leaders from the hydro project area they should not meet Justica Ambiental representatives. “The dam project should in Mozambique not be crucified for the sins of Jindal’s previous coal projects. We cannot be pessimistic and think that will happen here in Marara,” he said. (AllAfrica)


India’s Energy Transition: Impact of Coal Phase-Out on Government’s Tax Revenue, Just Transition Research Centre, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, March 2023. (Pdf)

This 36-page report looks at the impact of transitioning from coal on national and state tax revenues.

Driving forward: world outside China closes in on no new coal and Diverging pathways: China’s new coal boom takes it on a detour, E3G, March 2023. (Pdfs)

These two briefing papers, 18 and 13 pages, respectively, provide a good overview of the shift away from new coal plants in most of the world except China.