January 18, 2018
Issue 215  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

While January is often a slow news month, there have already been some surprising developments suggesting momentum towards a coal power phase-out could accelerate rapidly in 2018. There are early indications that Japan — which has proposals for many new coal plants at home and involvement in others abroad — may be softening its position on coal power. In Germany, the two major political parties have reached a tentative agreement on setting an as-yet unspecified end date for coal power.

In Thailand, speculation is mounting that the military government may dump proposals for two controversial major coal plants in the country’s south. In South Africa, the coal-heavy utility Eskom is staggering towards a financial crisis, due in large part to its unresolved governance problem. In India, a new report has documented the growing impact of water constraints on major coal and other thermal power generators, a trend that will worsen with climate change. India’s rapidly increasing renewables capacity is one way of alleviating water stress.

CoalWire will take a short break and return on February 8.

Bob Burton


Key trends to watch in 2018 to keep the world moving beyond coal

As pressure on coal power grows, key trends to watch in 2018 include what happens with coal demand in China, how India grapples with its worsening air pollution problem and the burgeoning anti-coal movement in Europe, writes Justin Guay from the Clean Air ClimateWorks Foundation.

Insurers need to pull the plug on coal

In spite of their self-interest in avoiding climate disasters, insurers continue to prop up coal and other fossil fuel industries, writes Peter Bosshard from the Sunrise Project in Energy Voice.

Top News

Japan’s Environment Minister warns industry on coal power: Japan's Environment Minister, Masaharu Nakagawa, has warned the chairman of Japan Business Federation, Sadayuki Sakakibara, that companies should reconsider involvement in overseas coal projects due to growing international concern. Nakagawa also told the industry lobby group that, as other countries shifted away from coal power, Japanese companies risked being excluded from global energy deals and finance. Renewable generation in Japan has grown from 9 per cent in 2012 to 15 per cent in 2016. (NHK News, Renewable Energy Institute)

Thai energy minister says southern coal plants may be dumped: The Minister for Energy in Thailand’s military government, Siri Jirapongphan, has suggested that two proposed coal plants in the country’s south could be shelved in a revision of the national Power Development Plan. The plan is due to be released in March. Despite strong community opposition and preference for renewable power, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has aggressively lobbied for the proposed 800 megawatt (MW) Krabi project and the 2200 MW Thepha plant. An anonymous EGAT source insists the utility has received no formal advice to drop the projects. (Phuket Gazette, The Nation)

German coalition negotiators seek to resolve energy differences: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democrats have tentatively resolved their energy policy difference and agreed to meet the 2020 emissions reduction target “as far as possible” and establish a commission to detail a plan for phasing out coal power generation. They also agreed to increase the share of renewable power to 65 per cent by 2030 from the current target of 50 per cent. The formation of a coalition government between the two parties has yet to be finalised. (Clean EnergyWire, EnergyTransition)

Water shortages hit Indian coal plants: A report by the World Resources Institute has found that 14 of India’s 20 top power utilities experienced water shortages at their coal, gas or nuclear plants on at least one occasion between 2013 and 2016. The report finds that 40 per cent of India’s thermal power plants — which are predominantly coal-fired — are located in high water-stress areas. The report estimates water-stressed thermal power plants could potentially increase to 70 per cent of the country’s capacity by 2040 unless rapid action is taken to address climate change. (Reuters, World Resources Institute)

Study finds big gains from targeted pollution control efforts: A study published in Nature estimates that the retirement or installation of pollution controls on just 0.8 per cent of the world’s coal plant capacity could reduce PM2.5 fine particle emissions by between 7.7 and 14.2 per cent. It also estimates that in India and China the retirement of coal plants representing 1.8 per cent and 0.8 per cent of national power capacity could cut PM2.5 fine particle emissions by 13.2 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. (Nature)

“Japan’s coal expansion drive is criticized roundly by international environmental groups, a situation that is threatening to put the nation into international isolation along with the United States, where the Trump administration is promoting the use of coal as a fuel for power generation,”

states a powerful editorial in the widely respected Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

Asahi Shimbun, a leading newspaper in #Japan, calls for shift away from #coal and argues that “an energy policy that runs counter to the powerful global trend cannot be sustained over the long-term” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201801130012.html


Australia: Minerals Council acknowledges donating to political parties to meet politicians.

US: Coal barge headed for power plant grounded near Fort Pickens, Alabama, polluting beach.

Companies + Markets

Eskom's financial day of reckoning nears: Eskom has been warned that its bonds would be delisted from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange unless its latest financial statements are filed by the end of January. Eskom’s financial statements were due in November. The utility has belatedly stated it will meet the deadline. The utility is facing a major financial crisis as it requires up to 20 billion rand (US$1.63 billion) by the end of March to fund its operations and major ongoing construction projects. Eskom spokesperson, Dikatso Mothae, confirmed the utility has had difficulty raising funds from domestic and international markets “due to concerns of governance.” (Mail & Guardian, Fin24)

Renewables stall growth of Indian coal power: The rapid growth in solar and wind generation in India is affecting coal power generation. In the nine months to the end of December India’s electricity demand grew by 5.8 per cent but the plant load factor of coal plants increased only marginally by 0.5 per cent to 59.7 per cent. Renewable generation grew by one per cent to 7.9 per cent over the last nine months of 2017, with more major solar and wind projects being developed. (Economic Times)

US coal bailout plan would not have been legal, regulators state: Two of the five members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have stated that US Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposed plan to subsidise coal and nuclear plants would not have been legal. “By focusing on 90 days of on-site fuel, it seemed to be favouring certain fuel sources, and that’s why it didn’t meet legal muster and we voted unanimously to turn it down,” said Neil Chatterjee, who was nominated to the FERC board by Trump. (The Hill)

Adani struggles for support among mining workers: A survey by a mining industry recruiting firm found that only a narrow majority of 500 mining industry workers supported Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. Just over one-quarter of respondents opposed the mine due to environmental damage. (Australian Mining)


India Energy Mapping Initiative Web Portal, Vasudha Foundation, January 2018.

This online database provides detailed maps and data on the existing and proposed coal power plants in India.

Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017, International Renewable Energy Agency, January 2017. (Pdf)

This 160-page report provides a detailed overview of the global cost reductions in renewable power generation and highlights the major trends affecting the main renewable power technologies.

“Shuttered coal plant fixer-uppers for sale all over the US.”, Utility Dive, January 16, 2018.

This article canvasses the debate on what happens with old coal plants sites after the power station is closed.