March 2, 2023
Issue 455  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The week’s big news is the startling new data on the vast amount of new coal plant capacity approved by Chinese provincial authorities in 2022. The dramatic rise in proposed new capacity, much of it in areas with a significant surplus, highlights the likely waste of vast amounts of money on plants that, at best, will drive down the utilisation of existing coal plants. In September 2021, China announced, with caveats, it would ban support for new overseas coal projects. That announcement affected coal plants with a combined capacity of about 102,000 MW. The latest data reveals 98,000 MW of new projects were granted permits within China in 2022.

In South Africa, the financial consequences of overinvestment in new coal plants and the poor management of the existing power stations are on display. The government will take over almost half of the utility’s debt to restore Eskom’s viability. Part of Eskom’s problems originates from corrupt contracts for the new Kusile and Medupi coal plants. The former CEO of Eskom angered government ministers and board members by stating in a February 21 interview that some of those involved in corruption at the power utility had ties to the ruling African National Congress. In Serbia, police have arrested six people because work associated with expanding a lignite plant was paid for but not done. In Bulgaria, 140 anti-corruption officers raided offices across 11 cities as part of an investigation into the underreporting of coal plant emissions to avoid paying the European Union’s carbon price. In Bangladesh, the controversy over the high cost of coal allowed for in a contract for power from Adani’s Godda plant in India continues to stir controversy.

Bob Burton


Canadian coal spinoff is greenwashing and a blow to the ESG movement

Teck recently unveiled a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too deal that makes a mockery of the environmental, social and corporate governance strategy that had been pushing the resource industry to get rid of its dirtiest products, writes Eric Reguly in the Globe and Mail.

South African game reserve threatened by ‘get-rich-quick’ coal prospecting rights

Existing coal mines and new prospecting blocks now virtually encircle the Hluhuluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal, writes Tonie Carnie in the Daily Maverick.

Heads Adani wins, tails Bangladesh loses

The Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) rushed to sign a deal in 2017 that allows Adani Power to mint money from coal purchase to electricity export from its Godda coal plant in India, write Ramisa Rob and Asifur Rahman in the Daily Star.

How India allowed a conglomerate to bypass coal auction safeguards

Internal Comptroller and Auditor General documents reveal that in 2015 the newly-elected Modi government allowed private firms to bypass competitive processes to corner large coal reserves such as the Sarisatolli coal mine in West Bengal, write Kumar Sambhav and Shreegireesh Jalihal in Al Jazeera.

Top News

Surge in new permits for coal plants in China: A report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and Global Energy Monitor estimates the number of new coal plants approved by local governments in China surged in 2022. Researchers estimate 98,000 MW of new coal power projects were permitted in 2022, up from 23,000 MW the year before. The report estimates construction has commenced on 50,000 MW of new capacity, a 50 per cent increase on the preceding year. The report notes that 50 per cent of the newly announced projects and 40 per cent of projects where construction commenced are in regional grids with significant overcapacity. The amount of new capacity commissioned and old plants closed remained on par with 2021. (Guardian, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air/Global Energy Monitor)

Bulgarian power company offices raided as part of a fraud investigation: The Bulgarian government’s General Directorate Combating Organized Crime has raided 40 locations across 11 cities as part of an investigation into potential fraud regarding the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The raids, under the supervision of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), centred on allegations that a company responsible for verifying the greenhouse gas emissions of thermal power plants and heating plants in Bulgaria submitted falsified emissions data. The EPPO stated that the investigation centred on the under-declaration of emissions from power plants, millions of euros lost to EU and national budgets and an impact on air quality in Bulgaria. Bulgarian media outlets reported that the raids affected coal power plants directly owned by or connected to local businessman Hristo Kovachki. (BNE Intellinews, European Public Prosecutor’s Office)

Serbian prosecutors file changes over lignite plant: Six people associated with the construction of the 350 MW expansion of the Kostolac lignite plant have been arrested over allegations they defrauded Elektroprivreda Srbije of US$7.48 million. The arrests were undertaken at the request of the anti-corruption unit of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade. The six people allegedly oversaw the construction of a railway track to expand the power plant and approved payments for work that was not undertaken. Civil society groups expressed alarm that two of the prosecutors involved in the case were transferred to other duties despite other arrests reportedly pending. Construction of the plant is scheduled to be completed later this year (B92, Ne davimo Beograd [Twitter])

Dozens missing after Chinese coal mine disaster: Fifty-five coal miners are feared to have died in a massive landslide at the open-cut Alxa Left Banner Xinjing Coal Mine in the Inner Mongolia region. Eight are confirmed to have died, and 47 are missing. Video footage of the February 23 landslide revealed a large section of a pit wall collapsing into the mine where dozens of workers and truck drivers were operating. The mine, which had a nominal production of 900,000 tonnes annually, was listed in January 2022 regional government documents as under construction. In the wake of the disaster, China’s Ministry of Emergency Management said 20 teams of inspectors were dispatched to review safety standards at other mines. The National Mine Safety Administration reported that the death toll in China’s coal sector was 245 in 2022, with the number of accidents nearly doubling compared to the year before. (Independent,

Eskom CEO forced out after comments alleging corruption ties to ANC: The board of Eskom agreed to end the term of outgoing CEO André de Ruyter on February 28, a month earlier than scheduled, after the executive alleged in an interview that he estimated Eskom was losing about 1 billion rand (US$55 million) per month to corruption and theft. He said the people involved are often affiliated with the ruling African National Congress (ANC). De Ruyter said he had expressed his concern to a “senior government minister” about attempts to “water down governance” around the US$8.5 billion for a just transition strategy. The comments angered Eskom board members, who decided to end the CEO’s term immediately. The ANC called on de Ruyter to formally report his corruption allegations, or the party would bring charges against him. Subsequently, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan confirmed that de Ruyter had spoken to him about corruption at Eskom and other agencies but said he had not provided direct evidence. (Tech Central, News24, Moneyweb, Daily Maverick)

Report estimates US fine particle pollution kills 3800 a year: A report by the Sierra Club estimates that 3800 people die prematurely, and the health of up to 300,000 people is adversely affected by PM2.5 fine particle pollution from US coal power plants. (The report refers to PM2.5 fine particle pollution as soot.) Based on an analysis of county-level data, the report estimates that 17 coal plants are responsible for over half of the 3800 premature deaths and are concentrated in just nine states. The report notes that soot pollution is widely dispersed due to high smokestacks at many plants, with only four per cent of premature deaths occurring in the same county of the coal plant and only 18 per cent occurring in the same state. The report estimates that Cook County in Illinois is ranked as one of the two countries with the highest premature death toll from coal power plants, although  the closest large coal plant is hundreds of miles away. The club estimates that the 15 most deadly parent companies are responsible for more than 60 per cent of premature mortality from PM2.5 pollution, with the federal government’s Tennessee Valley Authority the worst. (Sierra Club)

NSW government faces decisions on eight proposed coal mines in 2023: Lock the Gate has revealed the New South Wales state government will face decisions on eight coal mine expansions or new projects this year. Based on documents submitted by the companies, the group estimates that coal from the mines would emit 1.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions after burning. The largest project, Glencore and Yancoal’s Hunter Valley Operations project, would produce coal emitting 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions when burnt. The group notes that the NSW government has approved 26 new coal and gas projects since the Paris Agreement came into force in November 2016, with the projects responsible for about 4.4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. It was recently revealed that Premier Dominic Perrottet told a community meeting late last year that the government was open to investing in the coal mining sector if companies couldn’t access capital. Opinion polls suggest the incumbent conservative Liberal Party may lose government at the March 25 state election. (Guardian, Lock the Gate, Guardian)


Australia: Former New South Wales Minister for Mines, Ian Macdonald, was found guilty of misconduct in public office after awarding a coal exploration licence without a competitive tender.

Australia: Hong Kong-based CLP Group reports EnergyAustralia, which operates the 1480 MW Yallourn lignite and Mt Piper coal plants, recorded a $HK5.3 billion (US$680 million) loss in 2022.

Germany: Since 2019, police have paid RWE €143,000 (US$151,000) for assistance, such as the provision of equipment in dealing with climate protests at the utility’s mines and power plants.

South Africa: A court has granted an order to freeze assets allegedly bought from the proceeds of a water carting contract for the 4800 MW Kusile coal plant. Eskom lost 400 million (US$21.7 million) on the contract.

US: The Sierra Club has sued the Environmental Protection Agency over failure to eliminate harmful sulphur dioxide pollution from Luminant’s 2379 MW Martin Lake coal plant in Texas.

Legal challenges against climate-wrecking corporations are an important step forward. Fossil fuel producers and their financiers must understand one simple truth: pursuing mega-profits when so many people are losing their lives and rights, now and in the future, is totally unacceptable,”

said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Companies + Markets

South Africa takes on half of Eskom’s debt as load shedding crisis grows: South Africa’s National Treasury has announced 254 billion rand (US$14 billion) of Eskom’s 423 billion rand debt is at risk of default. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana told parliament the treasury would take on 168 billion rand of Eskom’s debt and 86 billion rand in interest payments over the next three years. The treasury said Eskom’s reduced debt would allow the utility to increase spending on maintenance of its faltering coal fleet and transmission and distribution networks, essential investments to cater for the projected surge in new renewables projects. Under the terms of the agreement, Eskom will not be allowed to invest in new generation projects during the three years. A separate deal to address the 56.3 billion rand municipalities owed to Eskom at the end of December 2022 is under negotiation. Data from the Energy Research Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has revealed that the energy availability factor (EAF) for Eskom’s generation fleet has declined to 48.6 per cent in January, a historic low. As recently as 2017, Eskom’s plants had an EAF of almost 80 per cent. (Reuters, Tech Central)

Report finds Russian fossil fuel exports rely on European shipping: A year after the invasion of Ukraine, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) estimates Russia is still earning about €60 million (US$83.5 million) per day from exports of coal. The largest importers of Russian coal in 2023 are China, Turkey, India and South Korea. In August 2022, the European Union (EU) banned Russian coal and instituted a price cap on crude oil of US$60 per barrel. Despite these restrictions, CREA estimates Russia is earning about €560 million per day from exporting coal, oil and gas. The report argues that the European shipping industry is the “key enabler” of Russia’s continued fossil fuel exports. CREA estimates that ships owned or insured in the EU and the UK account for about €310 million per day or 65 per cent of Russia’s fossil fuel exports. The G7 countries have agreed to review the price cap on Russian oil exports in March. CREA also proposes introducing export restrictions on software, technology and equipment for coal, oil and gas use. (Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air,  Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air)

India announces plan to auction 27 more coal blocks: India’s Ministry of Coal has announced that of the 141 coal blocks put up for auction in November 2022, just 27 attracted two or more bids to allow the sale to proceed. The Ministry stated that 96 submissions were received for 36 coal mines and noted that many were “first-time bidders”, suggesting they are not major mining, power or industrial companies that have dominated earlier rounds of the sale of coal blocks. (Economic Times, Ministry of Coal [Pdf])

Australian climate plan proposes offsets loopholes for coal production: A report by Climate Analytics argues greenhouse gas emissions from the Australian coal mining sector will increase by between 23 per cent and 116 per cent by 2030. The Australian Government is proposing to amend the previous government’s Safeguard Mechanism and require the 215 biggest greenhouse gas emitters to reduce emissions by 4.9 per cent annually. Government modelling assumes emissions from the coal sector will increase by just 10 per cent. Coal production accounted for 31 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (MtCO2e) in 2020/21, about 23 per cent of the emissions covered under the scheme. The government projects the sector will emit between 22 and 29 MtCO2e by 2029/30. Climate Analytics estimates that, after allowing for likely closures, committed expansions of existing mines would take emissions from the sector to 32 MtCO2e in 2030. The report estimates that emissions from new coal mines (6 MtCO2e), projects at the feasibility study stage (22 MtCO2e) and publicly announced projects (7 MtCO2e) could push emissions from the sector to 67 MtCO2e. The report notes that the government has proposed a cap for companies in the mechanism of 100 MtCO2e, implying companies outside the coal sector would have to bear a disproportionate share of emissions reductions if coal expansions under consideration are allowed to proceed. (Guardian, Climate Analytics [Pdf])

Indonesia launches carbon trading for plants of state-owned utility: The Indonesian Government has launched its carbon trading scheme for the 99 power plants owned by the state-owned utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN). The plants have a combined capacity of 33,600 MW. Under the scheme, 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent has been set as the threshold quota for all PLN plants. Only plants with a capacity of over 100 MW are included in the scheme. Plants emitting over their allocated share must buy carbon credits from renewable projects or other power projects with a surplus from their allocation. A Ministry of Energy study estimated that carbon credits might range between US$2 and US$18 per tonne. Indonesia aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31.89 per cent by 2030 or a more ambitious 43.2 per cent target if it attracts international financial support to transition away from fossil fuel generation. (Reuters)


A reality check for Australian thermal coal exporters: coal’s role in Southeast Asia’s growth is declining, Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, February 2023. (Pdf)

This 15-page report argues that key Australian thermal coal export markets, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, are forecast to decline, with countries like Vietnam looking to Indonesian coal and boosting renewables.

Out of Control: The Deadly Impact of Coal Plant Pollution, Sierra Club, February 2023. (Pdf)

This 22-page report provides a detailed state-by-state breakdown of the locations with the most significant soot pollution burden and which power plants and companies are most responsible.