October 13, 2022
Issue 438  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

Attempts by some US power utilities to keep coal plants have had mixed success. A Montana law seeking to block utilities wanting to retire the Colstrip plant in the US has been rejected as unconstitutional. Meanwhile in Texas, power utilities have sought to exempt some polluting coal plants from pollution control standards. So far, the US Environmental Protection Agency has taken no action to reject that plan, something that a new legal action by two environmental groups may remedy. In India, a court has delivered a mixed result on a challenge against a new 4000 megawatt (MW) coal plant in Telangana. The court ruled that the environmental clearance for the part-built plant is not valid but has allowed construction to continue while government agencies consider further information.  Funding on a massive scale continues to flow for new coal projects. A new report estimates that between 2019 and 2021, 46 members of the Net Zero Banking Alliance provided US$202 billion in loans and underwriting to developers of new coal projects.

One of the targets of Russia’s recent missile barrage against Ukraine was the country’s energy infrastructure, including a coal power plant. The latest attacks are in addition to the unsuccessful international attempts to get Russia to remove its military forces from the site of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine. The plant previously accounted for 10 per cent of Ukraine’s generating capacity. With reduced generating capacity, Ukraine has halted power exports to Europe. The upheaval in European power markets due to Russia’s curtailment of gas exports and the subsequent impact on coal generation and deferral of coal retirements may have almost run its course. An analysis of the latest prices in the seaborne coal market indicates prices have declined dramatically and are almost back at levels prevailing before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Bob Burton


To avoid climate disaster, one task is more urgent than anything else

The world’s leaders are failing badly in ensuring the rapid phase-down of planet-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants in emerging economies, writes Joseph Curtin from the Rockefeller Foundation in the New York Times.

The ill-fated Petra Nova CCS project: NRG Energy throws in the towel

NRG Energy’s fire sale of half of the Petra Nova carbon capture and storage project in Texas is a declaration that the taxpayer investment was a technological failure and a financial loss, write Suzanne Mattei and David Schlissel from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Top News

US court rules as unconstitutional Montana's coal plant laws: Magistrate Judge Kathleen DeSoto has ruled as unconstitutional two Montana laws that punish utility shareholders looking to close Montana coal plants. In 2021 the Republican-controlled legislature passed legislation allowing the Montana Attorney General to impose fines of up to US$100,000 per day against co-owners who took action or refused to share operating or maintenance costs that could result in a coal plant’s closure. Another law requires contract disputes to be mediated in Montana. Talen Energy and NorthWestern Energy, minority owners of the 1647 MW Colstrip plant in Montana, supported the adoption of the legislation. However, Puget Sound Energy and other utilities that own 70 per cent of the plant challenged their validity. Most of the power from the plant is sold to Washington state, where a 2018 law bans power utilities from supplying coal power to the state after 2025. (Billings Gazette)

Indian tribunal suspends permit for 4000 MW plant: India’s National Green Tribunal has suspended the environmental clearance for the 4000 MW Yadadri Thermal Power Station in Telangana state. The Conservation Action Trust had challenged the project over the impact on forests and the conduct of public hearings required to gain local community agreement. The tribunal dismissed these appeal elements but accepted that the proximity to the Amrabad Tiger Reserve might require clearance from the National Board for Wildlife. The tribunal also noted that the switch from imported to local coal would have implications for air quality and directed that the impact on air quality within 25 kilometres be reconsidered. However, the court has allowed the construction of the plant to continue. The tribunal granted the state-owned Telangana State Power Generation Corporation nine months to be reappraised by the Expert Appraisal Committee in the aspects cited and obtain fresh clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. (The Hindu)

Legal challenge against pollution exemption bid for Texas coal plants: The Environment Integrity Project and the Sierra Club have filed legal action against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to allow the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to effectively exempt eight coal plants from fine particle pollution control standards during shutdown, startup and maintenance works. In August 2020, Texas requested EPA approval to amend its State Implementation Plan for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards by incorporating side agreements for coal plants operated by utilities including AEP, NRG and Luminant. The environment groups want the EPA to reject the exemption request. The legal complaint argues the EPA’s failure to act will allow the plants to emit dangerous levels of fine particle pollution “for hundreds and in some cases thousands of hours each year.” (Reuters, Environment Integrity Project)

Report reveals big pipeline remains of new coal power and mine projects: The latest update of the Global Coal Exit List by the German environmental group Urgewald estimates almost half of the 1062 companies involved in thermal coal are still developing new coal projects. The 2022 update estimates about 476,000 MW of new coal power projects are still under consideration, with 61 per cent in China. The report estimates over 2500 million tonnes a year of new coal mining capacity are in some stage of development, with Coal India the single largest project developer. China, India, Australia, Russia and South Africa account for 92 per cent of the new mine capacity under consideration. “Investors, banks and insurers should ban these coal developers from their portfolios immediately,” said Heffa Schücking, the director of Urgewald. (Guardian, Urgewald [Pdf])

US utility seeks to block public release of bailout scandal documents: The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will soon decide on a request from FirstEnergy, the utility at the heart of the US$61 million coal and nuclear plants bailout scandal, to block the release of 39 documents provided to an independent watchdog agency on power utilities. The documents would shed light on the names of government officials and energy industry executives anonymously referred to in FirstEnergy’s deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice. The utility has objected to the public release of the documents because they are “commercially sensitive.” FirstEnergy has stated in court filings that it paid US$4.3 million to the former PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo and bribed former Ohio Speaker Larry Householder. Randazzo has been charged and denies the claims. Householder has pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges for which he will face trial in January 2023. (Ohio Capital Journal)

UK mine pushes for extension and claims rehabilitation underfunded: Merthyr (South Wales), a privately owned company, has proposed extending the life of the Ffos-y-Fran metallurgical coal mine despite an earlier pledge it would cease operation in September this year. The mine has been operating for 15 years. The company claimed the mine — originally pitched as a land reclamation project along with coal extraction — did not have sufficient funds to complete the rehabilitation as proposed. It is seeking an initial nine-month extension and public consultation on plans to operate for a further three years. Residents said the proposal to continue the operation beyond the September 6 closure date was a “kick in the guts” and that they were “absolutely devastated.” Friends of the Earth Cymru (FOE) said the company could mine a further 250,000 tonnes of coal in the next nine months. FOE said the Welsh Government had reiterated over the last five years that further fossil fuel extraction is incompatible with national climate change targets. (BBC, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, Friends of the Earth Cymru)

BHP seeks approval to operate Queensland coal mine to 2116: BM Alliance Coal Operations, a joint venture between BHP and Mitsubishi Development, has applied for a 4062-hectare expansion that would allow the Peak Downs metallurgical coal mine in Queensland to operate for a further 93 years to 2116. The consortium states the proposed mine expansion would clear native vegetation of threatened species and ecological communities home to koalas, greater gliders and other species. WHarriet Kater from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility said the company was “delusional” if it thought the mine would operate for another 93 years. “What part of net zero by 2050 does [BHP] not understand?” she said. (Guardian, BHP [Pdf])

Poland clears the path for Turow mine expansion: Poland’s General Director for Environmental Protection has approved PGE’s Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposal to extend the operation of the Turow lignite mine to 2044. PGE has yet to obtain a licence for the project. The mine is near the borders of both the Czech Republic and Germany. Residents across the borders oppose mine extension due to the impacts on groundwater supplies and structural damage caused to buildings by drawdown. In late 2020 the European Commission found Poland had violated European law in assessing the project. After prolonged negotiations, the Czech Government agreed to a compensation package, and Poland agreed to reassess the project. Residents remain opposed to the proposal and have indicated they will file further legal challenges against the project. (Europe Beyond Coal)


India: Villagers block surveyors from conducting a land survey for an additional rail track to facilitate the expansion of coal transport in Goa.

Slovenia: UN human rights special rapporteur urged faster climate action noting Slovenia’s sole coal plant is not due to close until 2033.

South Africa: Germany pledges an additional 6.2 billion rand (US$342 million) to support South Africa’s just transition away from coal.

US: Low water levels in the Ohio River and Mississippi River threaten coal cargoes reliant on barges.US: Low water levels in the Ohio River and Mississippi River threaten coal cargoes reliant on barges.

“Normally investments in coal and tobacco bonds give good yields, but on the other hand it can lead to catastrophes like big disasters and many people suffer because of climate-related topics. Then the additional yield on the coal investment is not justified when you look at the claims that you have from the health catastrophe,”

said Thomas Buberl, the CEO of AXA, a global insurance company.

Companies + Markets

Russia targets the Ukrainian power sector: Russia’s barrage of missiles fired into Ukraine has targeted civilian sites and the country’s power sector infrastructure, including power stations and transmission infrastructure. In the recent attacks, Russian drones targeted the 1800 MW Ladyzhyn coal power plant. Ukraine’s Minister of Energy, Herman Haluschenko, said that in recent days Russian attacks had hit about 30 per cent of the country’s energy infrastructure. Following attacks on energy infrastructure in Kryviy Rih district in Dnipropetrovsk province, the operation of four coal mines was suspended. In 2021 Kryviy Rih district accounted for about 55 per cent of Ukraine’s coal production. Ukraine has also suspended power exports to Europe, a key source of foreign earnings for the government. (Meduza, Kyiv Independent, SP Global, Reuters)

Report finds finance restrictions leave most coal projects unscathed: A report by Global Energy Monitor estimates that about US$60 billion a year is flowing to support new coal plants, mines and ports, much of it from banks with policies restricting coal lending. The report argues current finance industry restrictions mainly do not restrict general corporate finance, which accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the support for new coal projects. The report argues that achieving the International Energy Agency’s target for OECD countries to phase out coal power by 2030 and a complete global phase-out by 2040 will require far tighter policy restrictions by finance companies, including those that are members of Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA). Between 2019 and 2021, 46 NZBA members provided US$202 billion in loans and underwriting to developers of new coal projects. The report notes that the pre-construction pipeline of new coal power projects had collapsed from 1553 gigawatts (GW) at the time of the Paris Agreement to 280 GW, with 176 GW under construction as of January 2022. (Reclaim Finance, Global Energy Monitor)

Seaborne thermal coal prices slump: Thermal coal prices from key producing nations of Indonesia, Australia and South Africa have rapidly fallen in the last weeks. They are nearing the levels that prevailed before Russia’s late-February invasion of Ukraine. Indonesian 4200 kilocalories per kilogram (kcal/kg) coal, mainly exported to China and India, has fallen 26 per cent from the post-invasion peak to US$89.75 per tonne, marginally above the US$79.54 before Russia’s invasion. South African 6000 kcal/kg coal, mainly exported to Europe and India, has dropped by 41 per cent from the post-invasion peak of US$426.90 per tonne and now sits at US$43 per tonne above the pre-invasion price of US$210.79. Australian 6000 kcal/kg coal, mainly exported to Japan, has dropped by 17 per cent from the post-invasion peak, and 5500 kcal/kg coal had fallen by 43 per cent to US$161 per tonne, marginally above the pre-invasion price of US$155.30 per tonne. (Reuters)

Eskom CEO highlights challenge of controlling corruption: André de Ruyter, the CEO of South Africa’s publicly owned utility Eskom, has warned that corruption “is really a huge challenge” for the utility. In a conference presentation, he said the high export coal prices provided a massive incentive for some coal suppliers to deliver low calorific grade thermal coal and export higher grade Eskom specification coal. De Ruyter said the decision to encourage coal deliveries to its power stations by truck instead of rail increased the opportunity for corruption and fraud in the coal supply chain, which he described as “a massive problem, and we are regrettably not getting the necessary support from law enforcement that we would have liked.” (News24)

NGOs say consumers shouldn't carry any SMC losses on coal contracts: SMC Global Power Corporation has said that notwithstanding the Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) rejection of its bid for higher power prices despite the provisions of its power purchase agreement, it would continue to supply Meralco with electricity. SMC said it would review its legal options. A coalition of consumer and environmental groups opposed SMC’s bid for a power price increase and submitted a request to the ERC that SMC’s application be dismissed. They argued that if SMC had not included a provision in the power purchase agreement covering increased fuel prices, it should not expect consumers to pay for its mistake. Luke Espiritu said other utilities, such as AC Energy, are not seeking to renegotiate power purchase agreements, while SMC had provided no financial statements to demonstrate claimed losses. (BusinessWorld, Daily Tribune)

Pakistan PM pushes to connect Thar lignite mines to other coal plants: At the commissioning of the 330 MW Thar Energy lignite-fired plant, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif committed the government to work with the Sindh Government to expand production of the Thar mines to enable sales to other coal plants with a combined capacity of 4000 MW. Sharif said Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company’s mine, which supplies Thar Energy and adjoining plants, would be connected to the national rail network by March 2023. The development of polluting coal plants and associated mines in the Thar sparked sustained community opposition due to the environmental impacts, water depletion and displacement of 1800 villagers. The steep rise in imported coal and gas prices led to Pakistan experiencing power shortages, with the government seeking to boost domestic coal generation. (Dawn, Global Energy Monitor)

Major US banks threaten to drop membership over coal commitments: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley have reportedly threatened to terminate their membership of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero over policy restrictions on new coal and fossil fuel projects. The alliance was launched at the Glasgow climate talks in late 2021, with the UN-backed Race to Zero proposing in June this year the requirement for alliance members to “restrict the development, financing and facilitation of new fossil fuel assets” and not finance new coal plants. The condition has subsequently been weakened to allow alliance subsectors, such as banks, to comply only with each sector’s independent governance standards. Justin Guay from the Sunrise Project said the banks have sought to “wiggle out” of responsibility for implementing commitments they had signed up for at Glasgow. (Financial Times, Bloomberg, Banking Dive)

Two German states won’t budge on 2038 coal exit date: Two German states — Eastern Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg — have ruled out following the commitment of North Rhine-Westphalia to bring forward the coal phase-out date from 2038 to 2030. A third eastern state, Saxony, had previously ruled out an accelerated phase-out. Legislation adopted in 2020 set 2038 as the end date, with the goal of bringing it forward to 2035 if possible. Eastern states have developed major lignite mines and power plants and have strongly resisted proposals to close coal plants. (Clean Energy Wire)


Latin America Energy Portal, Global Energy Monitor, September 2022.

Global Energy Monitor’s America Energy Portal, is a first-of-its-kind, trilingual resource for researching energy and climate in Latin America and the Caribbean, including coal plants.

South32: Climate Transition Action Plan Analysis, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, September 2022. (Pdf)

This 25-page report reviews South32’s Climate Change Action Plan submitted to shareholders with a particular focus on the company’s coal and aluminium projects in Australia and South Africa.