May 18, 2023
Issue 466  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The release of Nguy Thi Khanh, a leading Vietnamese clean energy advocate, after 16 months in prison was a long-overdue move. Just days after her release, the Vietnamese government approved a new power development plan reliant on attracting international investors. The plan trims the growth in coal capacity compared to earlier drafts and boosts the role of renewables and gas generation. Meanwhile, three other environmental advocates remain in Vietnamese prisons.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled proposed regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power plants. While President Biden had campaigned for the US to have 100 per cent clean energy by 2035, the proposed standards allow coal plants to operate beyond 2035, albeit with restrictions. The US is not the only country backsliding on earlier commitments. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has endorsed delaying the closure of Eskom’s unreliable old coal plants. It is a decision that may come back to haunt the country as there is no guarantee that spending more to prop up the existing old coal plants will improve their reliability. Standard Chartered, one of the largest lenders in Africa, has warned that delaying closures will likely make it even harder for Eskom to attract the finance it needs.

Co-firing coal plants with other fuels is one of the strategies promoted by the Japanese government to extend the life of existing plants rather than make an earlier switch to renewables. A new report finds the extensive co-firing of the Japanese fleet of coal plants with ammonia would result in a significant increase in pollution.

Bob Burton


China’s coal use increased in the first quarter of 2023

Coal power generation in China increased in the first quarter of 2023. But the growth of low-carbon energy means new coal capacity is not guaranteed to raise China’s emissions, writes Lauri Myllyvirta from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in CarbonBrief.

Case against Indian environmental lawyer lacks evidence to back allegations

A case filed by India’s investigating agency against one of the country’s most prominent environmental lawyers is rife with factual inaccuracies and lacks evidence to support the allegations made, writes Rishika Pardikar in Article 14.

Despite promises, the coal industry’s grip on British Columbia’s government is tight as ever

Coal and fossil fuel companies enjoy a constant influx of staffers from British Columbia’s government. One Green member of parliament wants to change that, writes Kai Nagata in The Breach.

Top News

Vietnam clean energy advocate released from prison: Nguy Thi Khanh, the founder of the Green Innovation and Development Centre, has been released after serving 16 months in prison. Khanh, who won a 2018 Goldman prize for her clean energy advocacy, was sentenced to serve two years in prison for alleged tax evasion, later reduced on appeal to 21 months. United Nations human rights advisers have expressed concern about Vietnam’s punitive approach to civil society groups and journalists, including restrictions on sharing information and receiving international funding. The plight of Khanh and other environmental leaders imprisoned on tax charges has been highlighted by international civil society groups and raised during negotiations over a US$18.5 billion funding package for a just transition away from coal generation. Three others that have supported communities affected by coal pollution or promoted new climate policies — Dang Dinh Bach, Mai Phan Loi and Bach Hung Duong — remain in prison on tax charges. The 88 Project, a human rights group, recently detailed the level of political interference in the criminal prosecution of the activists. (VOA [Vietnamese], Climate Home News, International Rivers Network, The 88 Project)

Vietnamese Prime Minister approves new power development plan: Vietnam’s prime minister Phạm Minh Chinh has approved the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s (MoIT) Power Development Plan VIII (PDP8) for the period to 2030. MoIT has not yet released details of the final plan but a draft seen by Reuters a week before the announcement proposed coal generation would increase from 21,400 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2020 to 30,100 MW by 2030. The plan backs a significant expansion in rooftop solar and offshore wind generation. The draft plan also proposed gas and LNG generation capacity would expand to 37,330 MW by 2030. The plan’s development has been a protracted process since 2019, with some provincial officials supporting the expansion of renewables as an alternative to proposed coal plants. Key central government agencies and fossil fuel-oriented groups have resisted a significant increase in renewables. In the last few years, growing civil society opposition has also pushed local governments to support cleaner power options consistent with the growth in tourism, agriculture and protecting public health. (Reuters)

US releases proposed carbon capture plan for fossil fuel power sector: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new carbon dioxide emission guidelines that will only affect existing coal plants that continue operating from 2032. The EPA proposes the only restriction on coal units slated to retire before January 1, 2032, will be that they don’t increase the rate of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated. Coal units slated to retire before 2035 will be limited to operate at no more than 20 per cent capacity without any increase in the carbon dioxide emissions rate per MWh. The EPA is proposing the units scheduled to retire before January 1, 2040, be required to co-fire with 40 per cent gas. The EPA estimates this could achieve a 16 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Coal units planned to operate after 2040 will be required to install a carbon capture and storage plant capable of capturing 90 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. The proposed standards are open for public comment for 60 days. (Inside Climate News, US Environmental Protection Agency)

Report raises questions over impactsof Japan’s ammonia burning push: A report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) estimates the push by Japanese utilities and government to co-fire coal with ammonia at all supercritical coal plants would lead to a substantial increase in pollution and public health impacts. Chubu Electric Power Company’s 1000 MW Unit 4 of Hekinan Thermal Power Station is the first plant adapted to use ammonia. CREA estimates that with ammonia as 20 per cent of the fuel mix, total emissions at the Hekinan unit increased by 67 per cent to 2249 tonnes. The report estimates that if ammonia is increased to half the fuel mix, emissions will increase by up to 167 per cent. The production, transport and burning of ammonia increase emissions of PM2.5 fine particle pollution, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gases. The Japanese government estimates that demand for ammonia for co-firing could increase from three million tonnes in 2023 to 30 million tonnes by 2050.  (Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air)

Australian government approves new coal mine: Australia’s Minister for Environment, Tanya Plibersek, has approved Bowen Coking Coal’s proposed 500,000 tonnes a year Isaac River metallurgical coal mine in Queensland. The approval of the mine, which would operate for five years, is the first new coal mine approved by the Labor government elected in mid-2022. “The fact that this is a small coking coalmine is beside the point – fossil carbon needs to stay in the ground,” said Rod Campbell from the Australia Institute. Plibersek also revealed that three other larger coal projects – MACH Energy’s Mount Pleasant mine, Whitehaven Coal’s Narrabri Coal mine expansion and Idemitsu Australia’s Ensham mine would proceed to the next assessment stage. Last year the Environment Council of Central Queensland (ECoCeQ) sought to have 19 projects – including the three but not including the Isaac River mine – reconsidered based on their impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on nationally significant species, places, and ecological communities. Environmental Justice Australia, a legal NGO acting for ECoCeQ, said the group is considering the possibility of an appeal against the minister’s decision to allow the projects to proceed to the next stage of assessment. (Guardian, Environmental Justice Australia)

Report flags water pollution problems with Pakistan lignite mine: The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency has defended the groundwater extraction practices of Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) and insisted that water consumed by Thar residents is not polluted. Mehran University of Engineering and Technology analysed nine water quality samples collected by the Alliance For Climate Justice & Clean Energy, a Pakistan NGO, from areas near the Thar Coal Block II mine operated by SECMC. A report released in April by Dr Mark Chernaik of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide found elevated levels of selenium, arsenic, mercury, chromium, and lead rendered the drinking water samples unfit for human consumption. (The Nation, Tribune)


Australia: Oakey Coal Action Group has filed a legal challenge against the Queensland government’s decision to issue a water licence for the expansion of the Acland coal mine without adequately assessing the impacts on groundwater that farmers rely on.

India: The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons has extended the deadline for bids on 16 coal bed methane blocks until June 30, 2030. The coal blocks do not overlap with existing or proposed coal mines.

Pakistan: Fifteen people have been killed in a fight between two tribes over control of a coal mine in Dara Adam Khel.

Pakistan: K-Electric, which supplies Karachi with electricity, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sindh provincial government, US-based Oracle Power and PowerChina, to investigate a 1320 MW coal plant based on Thar lignite.

UK: Lawyers for South Lakes Action on Climate Change and Friends of the Earth UK will appear at the Royal Courts of Justice on May 23 to request permission to challenge the UK government’s decision to approve the Whitehaven coal mine.

US: Montana has adopted a law that bans state agencies from considering climate impacts in its analysis of large projects such as coal mines and power plants.

Companies + Markets

Key global index drops two Adani subsidiaries from the end of May: MSCI, a global stock market index provider, announced it will exclude Adani Total Gas and Adani Transmission from its India Domestic index from May 31. The exclusion could result in the sale of up to US$400 million of the company’s stocks by investors that base shareholdings on the index weightings. Six other Adani subsidiaries – including Adani Power, Adani Enterprises and Adani Ports and SEZ – remain in the MSCI indexes. Brian Freitas, an independent analyst, said the change might hamper plans by the Adani Group to sell shares as part of its planned financial restructuring in the wake of the Hindenburg Research report. “The company has done very little, if anything at all, to provide a different narrative and show things are not how Hindenburg said,” said Freitas. (Financial Times)

Indian regulator confirms no investigation of Adani since 2016: The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the corporate regulator, has told the Supreme Court that statements that it has been investigating the Adani Group company since 2016 are “factually baseless”, contradicting a July 2021 statement to parliament by the Minister of State for Finance, Pankaj Chaudhary. On March 2, the Supreme Court directed an expert committee it appointed and SEBI to complete their investigations into the claims by Hindenburg Research about Adani by May 2. The committee filed its report, which hasn’t been made public, on May 10, but SEBI has requested a six-month extension. A public interest lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, has objected to the extension. SEBI said that of the 51 companies it has been investigating over Global Depository Receipts, a financial instrument used for shares issued in foreign countries, none related to Adani entities. SEBI stated that it is currently seeking information from securities regulators in 11 countries to check whether Adani has complied with the regulatory requirement that companies trading on the Indian stock exchange must have 25 per cent of shares held by the public. (Indian Express, The Wire)

South African President backs delays in coal plant closures: Standard Chartered, one of the largest lenders in Africa, has warned that South African government plans to extend the life of Eskom’s coal plants would make attracting investment to the country harder. Standard Chartered Bank Southern Africa CEO Kweku Bedu-Addo said extending the life of coal plants would also undermine the use of bond sales to fund Eskom as some major financial institutions restrict the use of funds to exclude coal projects. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently told South Africa’s National Assembly that he had been convinced by the recently appointed Minister of Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, to delay previously agreed closure dates for many of Eskom’s aging and increasingly unreliable coal plants. “We are saying the timetable and scheduling of decommissioning must be relooked at,” he said. Ramaphosa said funding offered as a part of the US$8.5 billion Just Energy Transition Programme would only be used for renewables and other clean energy transition projects, not for investment in extending the life of coal plants. Civil society groups have expressed alarm at the push by pro-coal advocates to delay coal closures and the requirement for pollution controls on the remaining plants. (Iol, MoneyWeb)

Indonesian coal company queries viability of coal to gas projects: The president director of coal miner PT Adaro Energy Indonesia, Garibaldi Thohir, has questioned the economic viability of plans to convert coal into dimethyl ether (DME) as an alternative to importing LPG. “I don’t understand how the math would [make DME projects feasible]. For example, if coal prices rose significantly, the calculation would not make sense,” Garibaldi told reporters. The Indonesian government has promoted the increased downstream processing of minerals. In March, the US-based chemical company Air Products announced it had withdrawn from all coal processing projects in the country. Air Products had been part of a consortium with state-owned miner PT Bukit Asam (PTBA) and state-run oil and gas giant Pertamina proposing a US$2.1 billion DME project. The Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis estimated DME projects in Indonesia would require a subsidy of at least US$354 per tonne to be profitable. Garibaldi said Adaro, which produced 63 million tonnes of coal in 2022, is considering the option of processing coal into petrochemicals. (Jakarta Post)

Japan’s largest steel producer looks to cut coal-based steel production: Nippon Steel, Japan’s largest steel producer, has announced it will shift some capacity from blast furnace based production to electric arc technology “as soon as possible” in order to meet its 2030 emissions reduction target. In response to pressure from a coalition of investor groups, Nippon Steel announced at its general meeting that it had selected Kyushu Works Yawata Area and the Setouchi Works Hirohata Area as sites to investigate electric arc furnace production. Conventional blast furnace relies on metallurgical coal to smelt iron ore, while electric arc furnaces use scrap steel. Several global steel producers are also pursuing the use of hydrogen produced from renewable energy as an alternative to the use of coal. Nippon Steel will commission a small hydrogen-based direct reduced iron furnace at its Hasaki research and development centre in 2025. The investors understand that Nippon Steel is considering converting blast furnaces at the end of their economic life to electric arc furnaces or retrofitting them to cut greenhouse gas emissions. (Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, Nippon Steel [Pdf])

Italian direct reduced iron plant likely to be commissioned in 2026: A subsidiary of Acciaierie d’Italia, Italy’s largest steel producer, is expected to decide in July on plans for the development of a direct reduced iron (DRI) plant that could be commissioned in 2026. DRI D’Italia is considering the construction of two DRI plants, each with a capacity of 2 million to 2.5 million tonnes a year. One of the plants will supply Acciaierie d’Italia’s Taranto steel mill, with a second plant to cater for private steelmakers currently relying on scrap metal to feed their electric arc furnaces. Acciaierie d’Italia is a joint venture between the Italian government and the global steel producer ArcelorMittal. (S&P Global)


Delta’s dirty deeds done dirt cheap: the impacts of Vales Point power station on Lake Macquarie, Hunter Community Environment Centre, May 2023. (Pdf)

This 60-page report details the profound environmental impacts on the Lake Macquarie ecosystem from the operation of Delta Electricity’s Vales Point power station in New South Wales, Australia.

Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom, Penguin Random House South Africa, May 2023. (Some extracts are available here, here and here.)

This book by former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter recounts his difficulties grappling with the problems of an unreliable fleet of old coal plants, corruption at the utility and haphazard government decision-making.

“Scavengers, miners, and climate activists: can Poland ditch coal?”, Guardian, May 16, 2023. (Video)

This 13-minute video covers the debate over phasing out coal mining in southern Poland. It documents the views of current and past coal miners and clean air and climate advocates.