The real-world costs of the digital race for Bitcoin
Bitcoin mines cash in on electricity — by devouring it, selling it, even turning it off — and they cause immense pollution. In many cases, the public pays a price, writes Gabriel J.X. Dance in the New York Times.
Explained: Why ammonia co-firing in coal power generation is a flawed approach
The Japanese government and the coal industry are promoting ammonia as a fuel for co-firing in coal power plants as a supposed decarbonisation strategy. However, ammonia co-firing has limited emissions reduction potential, write Katrine Tilgaard Petersen, Hanna Hakko, and Leo Roberts from E3G.
Indonesia’s Just Energy Transition Partnership must increase transparency
If corruption occurs in the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) program, it will harm the public interest, and the energy transition program will fail, writes Firdaus Cahyadi in Mongabay.
Farmers celebrate decision to drop three areas from Indian coal block auction
Tamil Nadu farmers are celebrating the decision by the Minister of Coal, Pralhad Joshi, to exclude three lignite blocks in the Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu from the list of 101 coal blocks up for auction. The minister’s decision came ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state. The proposed auction of the East of Sethiathope, Vadaseri and Michaelpatti coal blocks had drawn opposition from farmers’ organisations and political parties. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu had complained in a letter to Modi that the state government had not even been consulted on the proposal to auction the coal blocks. The Coordination Committee of Tamil Nadu All Farmers Associations had announced that it would organise protests against the auction, arguing the projects would deplete regional groundwater, undermine local agricultural production and result in the displacement of local people. (The Hindu, Economic Times)
Global coal fleet keeps expanding, despite Paris Agreement goals: Global Energy Monitor’s Boom and Bust 2023 report estimates that the world’s fleet of coal plants grew by 19,500 megawatts (MW) capacity or less than one per cent in 2022, with 59 per cent of the 45,500 MW of half newly commissioned capacity located in China. The report estimates 26,000 MW of coal plants closed in 2022, with the US accounting for 13,500 MW. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, closures in Europe dropped from 13,500 MW in 2021 to 2200 MW in 2022. The retirement of a further 25,000 MW of coal capacity by 2030 was announced last year, and 23,000 MW of proposed coal plants were scrapped. However, China’s plans to build 126,000 MW of new coal plants overshadow progress in shifting away from coal power elsewhere. The report estimates that achieving the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°Celsius increase will require OECD countries to close about 60,000 MW a year by 2030 and non-OECD countries to close 91,000 MW yearly to meet the 2040 deadline. The report estimates that to meet the Paris Agreement goal, the rate of coal capacity retirement needs to be four and a half times faster. (Guardian, Global Energy Monitor)
International Energy Agency head says no need for new coal projects: The Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, has criticised fossil fuel companies that propose increasing production and claim they support the goal of the Paris Agreement. “If they see an increase of unabated oil, gas or coal production in their strategies... and at the same time they say that the company strategy is in line with the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F) target, there is a problem,” he said. “We have to bring the consumption of oil, gas and coal down. And if we are able to do that, if we have a trajectory like that, the current existing oil and gas fields and coal mines are more than enough to meet the demand growth.” (Deutsche Welle)
US regulator proposes to tighten mercury emissions from coal plants: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new emissions limits under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for coal-fired power plants to cut mercury, nickel, arsenic, and lead pollution. The EPA has proposed to reduce the current filterable particulate matter standard of 0.030 pounds per million British thermal units of heat input (lb/MMBtu) to 0.010 lb/MMBtu. The EPA proposes that lignite-fired units meet the same mercury emissions standard of coal plants of 1.2 pounds per trillion British thermal units of heat input (1.2 lb/TBtu). The current mercury emission standard for lignite plants is 4.0 lb/TBtu. The EPA estimates net public health benefits over the ten years from 2028 to 2037 to be US$2.4 billion to US$3 billion, with about 500 megawatts of coal capacity forced to retire by 2028 because of the new standard. It estimates 91 per cent of coal plant capacity without known retirement plans either meets or operates below the proposed measure. The EPA has also flagged that it has modelled but not recommended a filterable particulate matter standard of 0.006 lb/MMBtu or lower. The proposed new standard is open for public comments for 60 days. (NPR, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Environmental Protection Agency [Pdf])
Internal documents reveal Teck breached selenium emissions limits: An internal British Columbian government memo from March 2022 has revealed that selenium emissions from Teck Resources Elk Valley metallurgical coal mines were 267 times higher than the two parts per billion limit the province deems safe for aquatic life. While Teck’s permit allows selenium levels of up to 63 parts per billion in the Fording River downstream from its five mines, government data has revealed it exceeded this in each of the first four months of 2022. The government memo reveals selenium levels ranged between 171 parts per billion and 534 parts per billion above the company’s three water treatment plants. Below the treatment plants, levels ranged between 8.48 parts per billion and 24.6 parts per billion. The Ktunaxa Nation Council estimates Teck Resources treatment plants process between five and ten per cent of selenium released into the waterways from the mines. Teck Resources has proposed to spin its coal mining division off into a new company, Elk Valley Resources, and has appointed a former BC premier to the board of the new unit. Glencore has proposed to take over Teck Resources and merge its thermal coal projects into Elk Valley Resources and combine the two companies’ metals projects in a separate entity. Teck Resources has rejected the proposal. (The Narwhal, Glencore)
Secrecy over Polish mine groundwater pollution: Civil society groups say critical information on the ongoing impacts on groundwater from the Turow mine has been classed by Poland as trade secrets and banned its publication. Association Uhelna, a local NGO, said that the Czech Environment Ministry has refused to release the information due to the secrecy of the Polish government. In February 2022, the Czech Republic agreed to drop its legal case against Poland over the cross-border impact of the Turow mine on the region’s groundwater. The Czech Republic decided that constructing an underground barrier would be sufficient to protect groundwater supplies. However, the Czech Geological Service, which is responsible for monitoring the impact of the mine, has confirmed that the barrier has not resulted in any significant benefit so far. (Euractiv)
United Arab Emirates court rejects request to extradite Gupta bothers: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has rejected a South African government request to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta to face charges after the Zondo Commission of Inquiry highlighted their dealings with former President Jacob Zuma. An Interpol warrant was issued in mid-2021 for the brothers’ arrest citing a 25 million rand (US$1.6m) contract paid to a Gupta-linked company for an agricultural feasibility study. The brothers were arrested in the UAE in June 2022. The Zondo Commission also referred to the Gupta brothers using their political connections to win lucrative contracts from the government and government-owned businesses, including Eskom. The brothers have rejected allegations they were involved in any wrongdoing. On April 6, South Africa’s Minister for Justice, Ronald Lamola, was informed that a UAE court hearing on February 13 had ruled against extradition. The court determined that the UAE had jurisdiction to prosecute the brothers for money laundering offences allegedly committed in the UAE and South Africa. Lamola said the government would appeal against the decision. (Al Jazeera, Daily Maverick)
Adani executive resigns from media company: Aman Kumar Singh, the Adani Group’s Corporate Brand Custodian and Corporate Affairs, has resigned from the board of NDTV, the independent media company taken over by the group. In November 2022, Singh was appointed to the board by the Adani Group, which formally took a controlling stake in the media company in March 2023. In a statement to the stock exchange, NDTV stated that Singh resigned on April 1 “due to his preoccupation with other engagements.” In February 2020, an initial investigation was filed against Singh and his wife by the Economic Offences Wing, an anti-corruption agency in Chhattisgarh. The High Court of Chhattisgarh ruled against allowing the investigation proceeding, but the Supreme Court recently set aside this decision. (Indian Express)
“As a business plan, coal no longer works. And the corporations that sell us our power are clear-eyed enough to see that,”
wrote the Editorial Board of the Salt Lake Tribune about the decision by Rocky Mountain Power to bring forward the closure date of its remaining coal plants.
Australia: The West Australian government has paid A$7.3 million (US$4.9 million) to keep the Griffin Coal mine operating after the Indian-owned company went into receivership in September 2022 with almost A$1.5 billion (US$1 billion) in debts.
Colombia: For four days, local community representatives blocked the railway and entrance to the coal export terminal used by Glencore subsidiary, Cerrejon.
Germany: GKM says that its 425 MW unit 7 at the Mannheim coal plant will cease market operations and enter the strategic reserve in June.
Japan: Imports of Russian coal in February were down 73 per cent on the year before. Russian cargoes accounted for just two per cent of imports compared to nine per cent in February 2022.
South Korea: Korea Electric Power Corporation plans to announce asset sales and reschedule investment projects to offset losses incurred due to high imported fuel costs.
Thailand: The Ministry of Finance’s Excise Department plans to impose a carbon tax to cut greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel imports. Thailand imported 21 million tonnes of thermal coal in 2022, mainly from Indonesia.
Philippines: Department of Energy announced it will auction 11,600 MW of renewable energy capacity in June for installation in 3600 MW tranches in each of the next three years.
US: Buoyed by increased power demand from cryptocurrency miners, Otter Tail Power decided to keep its minority stake in the 450 MW Coyote Station Power Plant in North Dakota.
US: Court of Appeals confirms that Southern Coal Corporation and Premium Coal, subsidiaries owned by West Virginia’s Governor Jim Justice, must pay US$2.54 million in penalties and clean-up sites as previously agreed with Tennessee environmental regulators.
“Carbon capture and sequestration, statistically, has been a massive, abject failure. It literally waits for the next sucker to come along,”
said Andrew Forrest, the Chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, an Australian mining company involved in green hydrogen developments.
Private sector arm of World Bank to end financing for new coal projects: The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector lending arm of the World Bank, announced that from January 1, it had required a commitment from private sector financial institutions not to originate and finance any new coal project. For existing clients seeking support for new business and new clients, the IFC states it will require coal exposure to be cut by 50 per cent by 2025 or to “no more than 5 per cent of total loan portfolio (whatever is stricter).” By 2030 all clients must have reduced their coal exposure to “zero or near zero”. In the last five years, IFC lending has supported new coal plants in Indonesia and Vietnam. Kate Geary from Recourse, a sustainable finance NGO, said the change was “a long time coming.” David Pred from Inclusive Development International said the IFC must enforce the new policy with its current clients, such as the Postal Savings Bank of China, which is a major supporter of new coal projects in Asia. (Climate Home News, International Finance Corporation [Pdf])
Shareholder climate resolutions filed against seven Japanese companies: A coalition of investors and NGOs, including Friends of the Earth Japan, Kiko Network and Market Forces, have filed shareholder resolutions with three major Japanese banks and three power utilities. The resolutions submitted to Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, and Mizuho Financial Group would require the banks to produce and disclose a transition plan to align their lending and investment portfolios with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree goal requiring net zero emissions by 2050. Resolutions have also been filed with Mitsubishi Corporation, TEPCO and Chubu Electric Power. TEPCO and Chubu jointly own JERA, the country’s largest thermal power generator. The resolutions filed with the three utilities require the disclosure of how the companies evaluate new capital expenditure against a net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 scenario. (Asia Shareholder Action)
Japanese coal-to-hydrogen project pitches for more public funding: The Japanese consortium proposing to build the 20 billion yen (US$1.65 billion) brown-coal-to-hydrogen project in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley are seeking additional funding from the Victorian and Australian governments. The Australian and Victorian governments each contributed A$50 million to a pilot project which exported 2.6 tonnes of liquefied hydrogen to Japan in 2022. The Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project is being promoted by a consortium comprising Kawasaki Heavy Industries, J-Power, Iwatani Corporation, Marubeni Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation, and the Australian power utility AGL. Earlier this year, the Japanese Government’s Green Innovation Fund announced it would provide $A2.3 billion (US$1.53 billion) in funding for the commercial phase of the project. However, the Japanese government’s funding is only for the liquefaction plant and export facilities. The Victorian Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said that Japanese funding for the project would not cover the cost of the carbon capture and storage (CCS) unit. “100% of that risk … sits with Victorians,” she said. Large-scale CCS projects are notoriously expensive and prone to technical problems and significant cost overruns. (Guardian)
Glencore abandons Queensland mine but touts hydrogen scheme: Ahead of its May annual general meeting, Glencore has announced in its latest climate report that it won’t develop the 30 million tonnes a year Wandoan coal project in central Queensland “as a traditional coal mine for the purpose of servicing traditional coal markets.” Instead, Glencore is considering a coal gasification project processing up to 4 million tonnes a year of coal as a feedstock for hydrogen and ammonia production. The company said its pre-feasibility study assumes the project would feature a carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant capturing 90 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said CCS technology remains unproven and costly and that the project was unlikely to proceed. (Michael West Media, Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis)
South African minister floats plan to extend life of coal plants: South Africa’s recently appointed Minister for Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has flagged that he will propose extending the life of Eskom’s fleet of poorly performing coal plants. Analysts view Ramokgopa’s comments as symptomatic of chaotic policy shifts by the government. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the government had declared a “State of Disaster” due to widespread load shedding in February. At the time, the energy availability factor of Eskom’s coal plants was 55 per cent. Last week the government announced the emergency was over, even though the energy availability factor of the coal fleet is lower than it was two months ago, and load shedding persists. The government has also backtracked on a National Treasury’s decision to grant a three-year exemption to Eskom from disclosing in its financial statements losses from criminal conduct and wasteful expenditure. Civil society groups and energy analysts argue that Ramokgopa’s enthusiasm for touting a coal revival is aimed at blunting criticism of the ruling African National Congress government ahead of the 2024 general election. In its latest report, Eskom states that the country faces a 2000 MW generation shortfall every week for the next year. (Daily Maverick, Daily Maverick)
Pakistani company aims to revive coal plan with Saudi and UAE funding: K-Electric, a privately-owned utility, is lobbying the Pakistan government to support its proposed construction of a 660 MW coal unit at the Jamshoro power plant in Sindh province. The current coal and gas plant at Jamshoro is owned by Jamshoro Coal Power Limited, a subsidiary of the government’s Water & Power Development Authority. The project was proposed a decade ago and has struggled to attract international finance. K-Electric is pinning its hopes on retaining the support of the Saudi Fund for Development and Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, both of which had committed to support the plant in 2019. However, the Pakistani government has ruled out providing guarantees for the project or making representations to the two funds supporting the project. K-Electric said it planned to approach the Asian Development Bank. The bank recently announced it would not finance new coal projects. (Pakistan Today, Global Energy Monitor)
Net Zero Steel Emissions Measurements and Data Collection, International Energy Agency, April 2023. (Pdf)
This 54-page report reviews existing methodologies and frameworks for measuring emissions at steel plants and products. (The report favourably mentions Global Energy Monitor’s Global Steel Plant Tracker as “the most comprehensive effort to aggregate and disclose key production method and capacity data for public use.”)