November 8, 2018
Issue 253  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

Coal power pollution, other industrial emissions and the burning of agricultural waste have produced extreme levels of fine particle air pollution across a vast swathe of northern India. Having previously deferred pollution upgrades and other measures to cut air pollution, federal and state governments find themselves playing catch-up. The good news is that at last week’s United Nation’s conference on air pollution and health, the Indian Government vowed that the national air pollution plan due to be released in a few weeks’ time would commit to major cuts in fine particle pollution by 2024. The Indian company Adani has suffered a rebuff with major South Korean financial institutions refusing to fund its Carmichael coal project in Australia.

Despite the likelihood the US mid-term election will produce a mixed result with a rebuff to President Donald Trump in Congress and a continued Republican majority in the Senate, coal power is set for a continued decline. As the US coal industry has lost the argument on costs, it has sought to claim that coal plant closures jeopardise grid stability. A major new study finds otherwise. Another new analysis finds that unsubsidised wind power is now the cheapest form of new generation in many states and that, if the social costs of carbon dioxide emissions are accounted for, wind and solar are the cheapest everywhere in the US.

In South Africa, the Treasury estimates Eskom’s bid for steep power price increases will accelerate the drive for major customers and many residents to dramatically reduce their use of grid power.

While some utilities are exiting coal faster than originally planned, others are going in the opposite direction. The Egyptian Government is pressing the Chinese consortium behind the proposed 6000 megawatt (MW) Hamrawein coal plant to complete it in just three years rather than the seven years originally proposed. In Russia, a subsidiary of VostokCoal is pressing ahead with plans to pioneer the development of year-round coal exports through the Arctic Ocean.

Once more, the coal industry failed to have a scandal-free week. In Zimbabwe, the country’s main coal mining company has been put into administration amidst allegations by board members of misappropriated funds.

Bob Burton


Shifting Chinese interest in overseas coal plants won't be easy

Shifting the Chinese Government and companies away from pursuing new coal plant projects overseas will require significant changes by host countries and policy makers, writes Ma Tianjie in Panda Paw Dragon Claw.

Dying of thirst, Colombian indigenous community blames coal mine for water woes

Declining water supplies are having a devastating effect on indigenous Wayuu villages located near the Cerrejon mine operated by a consortium of BHP, Glencore and Anglo American, writes Lucy Sheriff in Mongabay.

Top News

Korean companies rule out funding for Adani’s Australian project: Just days before a visit to South Korea by Aboriginal traditional owners opposed to Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine the Korean Development Bank, its infrastructure arm KIAMCO and the Korean Export Import Bank have ruled out financial support for the mine and associated infrastructure. Representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council and Market Forces plan to visit Mirae Asset Daewoo and the Korean National Pension Service, two financial institutions that have yet to rule out support for the project. While Adani has talked up how close it is to finalising finance for the project, the Queensland Government has confirmed that a deal for deferred payment of royalties, which is conditional on the company providing security for the owed money, has not yet been finalised. (ABC News, Market Forces, Guardian)

South Korea institutes limits on coal plants: Following an air pollution advisory warning that PM2.5 fine particle air pollution was projected to exceed 50 micrograms per cubic metre, the South Korean Government has limited generation of some coal- and oil-fired plants to 80 per cent of their capacity. The move affected seven coal-fired units with a combined capacity of 820 MW. The capping of generation on high pollution days was instituted on a trial basis in October and will become a permanent measure in 2019. (Reuters)

India Government promises significant cuts in air pollution: The Deputy Secretary of India’s Ministry of the Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Satyendra Kumar, announced at the World Health Organization’s recent Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health that India would cut fine particle air pollution by 20–30 per cent by 2024 in the 102 cities that routinely breach air pollution standards. Kumar said the government had set a target to reduce PM10 and PM2.5 fine particle pollution levels which would be included in the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to be announced on November 26. The draft NCAP was released earlier this year but failed to include any specific emission reduction targets or timetables, despite earlier promises that it would. (Huffington Post)

Indian port expansion part blocked: In response to opposition by local residents and fisherfolk MoEFCC has rejected a proposal by Kamarajar Port to build port-related buildings and carparks on the eastern banks of the Kosasthalaiyar River in Chennai. Over the last two decades over 1000 hectares of the Ennore Creek wetlands have been lost to various development projects at the expense of the fishing industry. “The water bodies and wetlands are more important than the development activity,” the ministry said of the proposed port works. However, MoEFCC has approved plans for the port to build coal yards on the western part of the Ennore wetlands, a move fisherfolk have vowed to oppose. (DNA India)

Zimbabwean coal company collapses amidst accusations of mismanagement: The Zimbabwean Government has put Hwange Colliery, which is 36 per cent owned by the government, into administration amidst accusations by a board member that US$4.6 million had been misappropriated by the mine managers and some contractors. The Chair of Hwange Colliery’s board, Juliana Muskwe, told a parliamentary committee of a coal transport contractor ordering her around in the presence of the Minister for Mines and of the abduction of potential whistleblowers. Hwange Colliery supplies coal to the country’s only coal plant, the Hwange power station. (Business Day, Business Day)

Egyptian PM meeting with Chinese coal plant consortium: Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly has met with executives of Shanghai Electric and Dongfang Electric Corporation, the companies that have been selected to build the US$4.2 billion 6000 MW Hamrawein coal plant. Consortium officials reportedly told Madbouly that the emissions from the plant would be completely safe. Madbouly wants the companies to cut the construction time for the plant from seven years to three years. “In case any obstacles face you, tell me and I will remove them,” he said. (Egypt Today)


Canada: Federal Government moves to sell 90 per cent stake of the Ridley export terminal in British Columbia.

Germany: Renewables share of power generation increases to 38 per cent, just short of coal and lignite.

Philippines: Residents argue permit for 670 MW La Union plant was issued without a final environmental impact statement.

Greece: Government-owned PPC plans to keep operating polluting lignite plants beyond their November shut-down date until fined by the European Commission.

Romania: Greenpeace Romania launches legal challenge against a permit for the Rovinari lignite plant which allows pollution in breach of European Union limits.

Maecenas: sed ante pellentesque, posuere leo id, eleifend dolor.

Companies + Markets

US renewables  freeze coal out of the market: The Energy Institute at the University of Texas estimates unsubsidised wind power is now the cheapest source of new generation in the US. The institute estimates the cost of wind and solar have declined by 20 per cent and 40 per cent respectively compared to their 2016 study. In Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas unsubsidised wind power is estimated to cost US$46.76 per megawatt hour (MWh) to around US$48.85/MWh. “With gas and renewables in the system there's just no room for coal anywhere,” said Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at the institute. Coal was the cheapest option in only three remote Washington State counties with an estimated cost of US$111/MWh. When accounting for the social cost of carbon dioxide emissions, set at US$62/ton (US$56 per tonne) of carbon dioxide, new wind and solar generation were the lowest-cost new generation across nearly the whole country. (S & P Global)

US grid operator rejects claim of retirements causing grid instability: The grid operator of the PJM Interconnection, which covers 13 states and the District of Columbia, assessed 300 plausible but extreme scenarios including power plant retirements over the next five years that could pose a risk to the reliability of the system. PJM’s analysis found that even accounting for potential oil and gas supply disruptions and extreme winter loads, PJM’s system “would still be reliable.” The findings are a rebuff to industry lobbyists promoting subsidies for struggling coal and nuclear plants. PJM has flagged they will explore “proactive measures to value fuel security attributes” which critics fear will prioritise fossil fuels. The final report on PJM’s study is due to be publicly released in December 2018. (Utility Dive, PJM Interconnection)

Russian coal exporter signs five-year deal for Arctic shipping: The Murmansk Shipping Company (MSC) has signed a five-year deal with Sibanthracite Overseas AG, a subsidiary of VostokCoal, to ship coal from 2019 through the Arctic Ocean via the Northern Sea Route to Europe. Under the agreement, MSC will export coal from two new coal terminals on the Taimyr Peninsula. VostokCoal’s mining subsidiary, the Arctic Mining Company, plans to export up to 30 million tonnes of coal a year from the Malolemberovskoye coal field and ensure the development of the Northern Sea Route as a viable year-round route for cargo ships. The reduction in the Arctic sea ice has made the Northern Sea Route more attractive. (TASS)

Eskom price hikes likely to further undermine demand: South Africa’s Treasury agrees with energy analysts that Eskom’s bid for 15 per cent per annum price increases for each of the next three years and further subsequent increases would undercut demand for grid electricity. Treasury estimates that if Eskom was only granted 10 per cent price increases for each of the next five years, 26 per cent of total residential electricity sales could go off-grid by 2030. It also estimates that of 21 stock exchange-listed companies, 34 per cent of Eskom’s electricity sales to mining companies and 8 per cent to industrial firms could go off-grid by 2040. (Mail & Guardian)

Japanese company looks to sell stake in Australian thermal coal mine: Mitsui’s Chief Executive Officer, Tatsuo Yasunaga, has told analysts that the company may sell its 10 per cent stake in the Bengalla thermal coal mine in New South Wales. In July, the company ruled out investing in new thermal coal mines. However, as a result of its stake in the Moatize coal mine in Mozambique, which produces both thermal coal and metallurgical coal, Mitsui’s share of thermal coal production will increase in the short term. Mitsui currently has about 2000 MW of coal plants in its 9000 MW power plant portfolio and is aiming to double its renewable generation to 30 per cent by 2030. (Reuters)

Generali defies warning and insures Czech lignite plant: The Unfriend Coal campaign has revealed that the Italian insurance company Generali and the Vienna Insurance Group have entered into a €365,000 (US$416,000) contract to insure CEZ Group’s new Ledvice III lignite-fired plant in the Czech Republic. A coalition of civil society groups had written to leading insurance companies warning them not to insure the project as it would be completely at odds with the goals of the Paris Agreement. (Unfriend Coal)

BHP vows it will stick with coal: In response to a shareholder question BHP’s Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Mackenzie, said that the company is “not going to move away from coal mining” and defended its position by claiming that developing countries needed cheap coal power. BHP estimates it will produce about 75 million tonnes of coal this year with about 29 million tonnes of thermal coal from the Mt Arthur mine in Australia and the Cerrejon mine in Colombia. The former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, dismissed BHP’s claim. “Developing nations will unlock the solutions to poverty with renewable energy. Not with toxic, expensive coal,” she said. (BHP [registration required], Sydney Morning Herald)


New South Wales Thermal Coal Exports Face Permanent Decline: Grim Outlook Prompts the Need for a Planned Transition, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, November 2018. (Pdf)

This 47-page report argues coal exports from New South Wales have peaked and are now entering a long-term decline, making the need for a transition strategy for the Hunter Valley urgent.

“The Real Costs of Coal: Mugla”, Climate Action Network Europe, November 2018. (Media release here.)

This article investigates the health and environmental costs of lignite mines and three associated coal-fired power plants in Mugla city in Turkey and the need for a transition plan.

“Embodied energy injustices: Unveiling and politicizing the transboundary harms of fossil fuel extractivism and fossil fuel supply chains”, Energy Research and Social Science, October 2018.

This paper argues major fossil fuel projects, such as the Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia, impose injustices on communities far from where the fuel is used and which fall outside the scope of conventional impact assessments.

Mind the Gap: how fixing mine rehabilitation shortfalls could fuel jobs growth in the Hunter Valley, Lock the Gate, October 2018. (Pdf)

This 12-page report estimates that more than 1,200 new jobs could be generated in New South Wales if the state government were to implement mandatory progressive rehabilitation targets.