June 30, 2022
Issue 423  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

Countries and utilities that assumed a low price for imported coal are now paying a punishing price as seaborne thermal coal is bouncing around at US$400 per tonne. Pakistan, which had curtailed coal imports because of high international prices, is now pursuing supplies from Afghanistan as an alternative. Sri Lanka, struggling with a significant financial crisis, is attempting to raise enough US dollars to buy coal and spare parts for its unreliable Norocholai coal plant. In desperation, it is looking to Russia to source discounted cargoes of coal. Eskom, the troubled South African power utility, has responded to its load-shedding crisis caused by unreliable coal plants by seeking proposals from independent power producers for renewable projects on surplus land near its mines and power stations.

For countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh considering building new plants reliant on imported fossil fuels, plenty of current case studies illustrate the risks of new coal projects. The decision by Japan to end its support for the second stage of the Matabari coal plant avoids one of the potential traps for Bangladesh. But as Munira Chowdhury from the NGO Market Forces notes, Japanese companies are still pushing for other fossil fuel projects.

In the US, two more coal plant closures have been confirmed. One, the 1560 megawatt (MW) J.H. Campbell plant in Michigan, is now slated to close in 2025 when two of its three units will be over 60 years old. In Australia, the Bluewaters power station, commissioned in 2008 and owned by two Japanese companies, looks likely to lose two of its three customers in 2025. The reason? The influx of rooftop solar has upended the economics of coal plants, even when supplied by a nearby mine.

Bob Burton


The rich–poor divide on clean power is getting wider

One of the most troubling aspects of the International Energy Agency’s latest report on energy investment trends is the extent to which coal, the dirtiest fuel, is still sucking up capital, writes David Fickling in Bloomberg.

‘Gross environmental mismanagement’: Adani’s Udupi coal power plant fined over US$6 million

India’s National Green Tribunal has found Adani’s 1320 MW Udupi power plant has polluted local fields and villages with emissions, coal dust, fly ash and wastewater and fined the company US$6 million, writes Ayaskant Das in Adani Watch.

Behind Bangladesh’s carbon catastrophe

Despite having abundant potential for solar and wind energy, Bangladesh is ranked in the top five for global coal and gas power projects in development, with Japanese companies playing a lead role, writes Munira Chowdhury from Market Forces in The Diplomat.


Indonesia and Bangladesh axe coal plants after Japan ends financial lifeline

Indonesia’s publicly-owned utility PLN has cancelled the plan for a 990 MW expansion of the Indramayu coal plant in Indonesia. The decision follows the announcement by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs it had suspended financial aid through Official Development Assistance for new coal plants in Bangladesh and Indonesia. The Bangladesh Government has cancelled the proposed 1200 MW expansion of the Matabari coal plant, but it plans to build an imported gas plant instead. Civil society groups in Japan, Indonesia and Bangladesh have welcomed the decision but called on the Japanese Government to rule out support for any fossil fuel projects. (Jakarta Post, Nikkei Asia, Daily Star, Market Forces)

Top News

Regulator confirms 2025 retirement date for US plant: The Michigan Public Service Commission has approved the closure of the three units of Consumers Energy’s 1560 MW J.H. Campbell coal plant in 2025. In 2018 the utility had proposed closing two of the three units at the plant by 2031, when they would have been 70 and 64 years old. The final unit, which was commissioned in 1980, was proposed to run until 2040, when it would have been 60 years old. The plant accounted for more than 20 per cent of Michigan’s coal-based carbon dioxide pollution. Consumers Energy must allocate US$30 million in shareholder funds for low-income bill assistance. (Earthjustice)

Swiss NGO scrutinises Russian coal trading subsidiaries: Public Eye, a Swiss NGO, reports that 18 Russian-owned coal traders operating in the country face restructuring or closure. The Swiss Government has imposed a ban on new coal contracts, with existing contracts to expire by August 29, in line with the European Union sanctions. The sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine include a ban on brokering, financing and financial assistance for exporting Russian coal. Public Eye estimates that Swiss-based companies traded three-quarters of Russia’s coal exports. The group estimates that eight of the nine largest coal producers, which produce about 225 million tonnes of coal a year, operate trading arms, including Suek, SDS, Evraz and the Sibanthracite Group. In early June, the federal parliament rejected a proposal by Public Eye to establish a regulatory body to supervise the Swiss commodities trading sector. (Global Trade Review, Public Eye)

Boom in Indian coal mine approvals: An analysis by an Indian legal NGO has found that 39 new environmental clearances for coal mines were granted between 2019 and 2021, accounting for more than 103 million tonnes per annum production capacity. The Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment found a majority of the increased capacity was associated with expansions of existing mines. It stated that 18 mines, with a combined capacity of almost 40 million tonnes a year, had been approved without public participation. Over the 2019–21 period, environmental clearances were granted for new mines with a combined capacity of 45 million tonnes of coal a year. Further coal allocations are underway, with the Ministry of Coal announcing that 38 bids have been submitted on 24 mines up for auction. Details of the bids will become public in early July. (New Indian Express, Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment [Pdf], Economic Times)

Doubt over South Korean summertime coal curbs: An anonymous source has told Argus that the new South Korean Government intends to suspend restrictions on the operation of coal plants between July and August to cut imports of expensive LNG. The previous government introduced restrictions to curb fine particle pollution during summer. In March 2022, the conservative People Power Party candidate, Yoon Suk-yeol, was elected President, defeating a candidate endorsed by the incumbent Democratic Party to succeed President Moon Jae-in. The new government has backed the revival of the country’s nuclear industry. However, it is uncertain whether the new government will retain the goal of requiring utilities to source 25 per cent of their electricity from renewables by 2026 and phase out coal by 2050. (Argus)

Queensland approves mine expansion and drops prosecution: The Queensland Department of Environment and Science has granted environmental approval for the New Acland thermal coal mine to operate for a further 12 years and increase production from 4.8 million tonnes to 7.8 million tonnes a year. New Hope Corporation has yet to obtain other approvals, including a water licence. The decision followed the department agreeing to a company proposal to drop enforcement action against the company for the illegal expansion of the West Pit at the New Acland mine in return for an agreement to rehabilitate the mine site. Environmental lawyer Chris McGrath said the decision was farcical as the company was required to rehabilitee the area anyway, and the department had allowed itself to be bullied “into effectively taking no action for a major breach of our state’s environmental laws.” (Guardian, ABC News, Lock the Gate, Queensland Government)


Australia: Adani amends legal claim to seek A$17 million in damages from Queensland activist.

Australia: WaterNSW has objected to the expansion of South32’s underground Dendrobium coal mine as a threat to water quantity and quality, and risk to the stability of the Avon Dam from subsidence.

France: Government may reopen the 1473 MW Emile Huchet coal plant as backup winter generation capacity.

Philippines: Unplanned outages at seven coal units with a combined capacity of 1592 MW prompted the grid manager to warn of potential power shortfalls in the Luzon grid.

US: In its latest long-range energy plan, Ameren has proposed delaying the closure of its 1099 MW Sioux Energy Center from 2028 to 2030 and keeping its 2389 MW Labadie plant open until 2042. Both plants are in Missouri.

US: The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approves Xcel’s plan to close the 1635 MW Comanche 3 coal power plant by January 1, 2031, three years earlier than proposed.

Vietnam: Prime Minister questions why the latest draft of the national power plan doesn’t include more solar until 2030 despite falling costs.

Zimbabwe: National Railways of Zimbabwe reaches agreement on transporting coal from Botswana through Zimbabwe and then to the port of Ponta Techobanine in Mozambique.

Companies + Markets

Marsh dumps Adani as insurance client: Marsh, a major global insurance company, has dropped Adani Australia as a client and ended its role in supporting the construction of the Carmichael coal mine and rail line. Market Forces, which led the campaign against Marsh’s role with the company, said a source suggested Lockton, a private US-based insurance company, has been appointed as Adani Australia’s new insurance broker. The company has not responded to Market Forces’ request to clarify whether Adani Australia is a client. (Market Forces)

Japanese insurance company restricts coal financing: At its annual general meeting, the Japanese insurance company Sompo ratified its revised climate policy which commits to excluding new investment or providing new underwriting for new or existing coal mines or power plants. However, it includes a loophole that allows it to invest in or insure projects that include carbon capture and storage or co-firing with ammonia, strategies favoured by Japanese utilities. Sompo also committed to phasing out by 2025 investments and insurance for coal companies without transition plans. The company defines a coal company based on earning more than 30 per cent of revenue from coal mining or coal power generation, a high threshold that Urgewald estimates would include only half of the coal sector. Insure Our Future, an NGO, welcomed Sompo’s announcement but urged it to strengthen the policy to eliminate loopholes and align it with the International Energy Agency’s net-zero emissions pathway. (Insurance Business, Sompo [Pdf], Insure Our Future)

Sri Lanka struggles to buy fuel as the economy melts down: Sri Lanka’s Power and Energy Minister, Kanchana Wijesekera, said two ministers have travelled to Russia in a bid to negotiate coal, oil and gas supplies. Sri Lanka has defaulted on US$7 billion in payments on foreign debt due this year and has struggled to buy coal for a power plant and oil and diesel for industry and household use. Power cuts have been widespread due to outages at the notoriously unreliable 900 MW Norocholai coal plant. The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), hit by the surge in imported coal prices, has struggled to cover the costs of parts for the plants and the cost of Chinese engineers to maintain the plant. The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka has revealed that some customers – such as exporters, embassies and hotels – will be required to pay their electricity bills in US dollars to assist the CEB in covering the cost of imported coal and spare parts. (ABC News, Argus, Newsfirst, EconomyNext)

Pakistan approves coal imports from Afghanistan to cut costs of imports: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has approved a proposal to import coal from Afghanistan to fuel the 1320 MW Sahiwal and 1320 MW Hub power plants. Officials estimated importing coal from Afghanistan  could save up to US$2.2 billion a year as an alternative to coal imported from the seaborne market. The government also wants to pay for the coal with Pakistani rupees to conserve foreign exchange rather than buying coal denominated in US dollars. The Hub plant was initially proposed in 2015 when the Indonesian benchmark thermal coal price was around US$64 per tonne and is now around US$285 per tonne. In the absence of international financial support, Afghanistan has recently ramped up coal exports, but this has fuelled local tensions, with factions of the Taliban feuding over control of the coal mines in the Balkhab district. (Business Recorder, Menafm)

Newcastle coal prices surge: For the first time, the Newcastle spot price for physical coal crossed the US$400 per tonne threshold, reaching US$402.50 per tonne, driven by increasing demand in Europe and Asia. Russian restrictions on gas exports have utilities scrambling for alternatives, including increased coal generation. In Asia, major utilities are restocking ahead of summer. Indonesia, the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal, reportedly has limited ability to increase exports to European utilities due to volumes contracted to Asian customers and the impact of monsoon rain hampering mine production. Rail capacity bottlenecks have constrained South African exports. (Bloomberg, S & P Global)

Australian coal plant set to lose two of three major customers: The future of the 466 MW Bluewaters power station looks shaky after the Western Australian Government announced that the government-owned power and water utilities, Synergy and the Water Corporation, are unlikely to extend their contracts which expire in 2025. The other customer for the plant is Newmont’s Boddington Gold Mine, with an approximate demand of 150 MW capacity. The plant, which was commissioned in 2009, is jointly owned by the Japanese companies Kansai Electric and Sumitomo Corporation. In late 2020 Sumitomo reported a US$241 million loss on the plant and wrote off its US$250 million investment in the plant. (WA Today)

Eskom looks to 1800 MW of independent projects to ease load shedding: Eskom is aiming to complete agreements with 18 independent power producers by August to use about 4000 hectares of the utility’s land for about 1800 MW of renewable power capacity. Eskom had called for expressions of interest for renewable energy proposals on land near coal mines and power stations. South African energy analyst, Chris Yelland, says that the projects will supply power directly to energy-intensive industries rather than Eskom. However, he said the reduced demand on Eskom will relieve pressure for protracted load shedding. Yelland estimates the 1800 MW of capacity is close to two stages on Eksom’s eight-step scale for load shedding. (Eyewitness News)


“Why steel is our most important (and dirtiest) metal”, Deutsche Welle, June 2022.

This 13-minute video explores the challenges of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the steel industry.

Safety First: Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailings Management, Earthworks, May 2022. (Pdf) (The Executive Summary is here [Pdf].)

This 55-page report outlines changes required in the design, construction, operation and closure of tailings facilities that require significant changes to protect people and the environment.

Health & Economic Impacts of the Lae- Papua New Guinea Coal Power Plant, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, June 2022. (Pdf) (The Executive Summary is here.)

This 15-page report estimates the health impacts and associated economic costs of the proposed 52–200 MW coal plant in Lae, Papua New Guinea. The Australian company, Mayur Resources, is proposing the plant.