May 30, 2019
Issue 277  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The strong performance of the Greens in the European Parliament elections raises the possibility of stronger climate action in Europe. In France, BNP Paribas has announced it will “significantly” cut its financing of Polish coal projects this year and be entirely out of the industry there by 2028. This comes at a time when debt-laden Polish utility Tauron is looking to sell one of its coal mines and boost its investments in renewables.

In China, a tender for 21,000 megawatts (MW) of new subsidy-free solar capacity this year is yet another signal that coal exporters are likely to face a tough time if they rely on continued high levels of Chinese thermal coal imports. In a defensive move, Indonesian coal exporters are lobbying to become a preferred supplier to China for thermal coal imports. If successful, it is a move that would hurt Australian exporters in any market downturn.

In the wake of the re-election of the conservative Australian government, the pro-coal lobby is out in force. The Queensland State Government, stunned by the federal election result, is now going all-out to approve Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine. Clive Palmer, a mining billionaire and founder of a political party, is lobbying for a coal power station his company has proposed that would be supplied by one of the new Galilee coal mines he wants to open.

Coal industry scandals keep bubbling up. In Pakistan, the government’s anti-corruption agency has arrested the chair of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company. In Indonesia, a local politician, who has been sentenced to five years in prison, is set to face more charges over alleged bribes paid for the allocation of land for a Japanese-backed coal plant. In a separate development, the government’s anti-corruption commission has also arrested the chair of the country’s power utility, PLN, over his alleged role in bribes paid for approval of a new coal plant.

Bob Burton


Standard greenwash: a coal-fired power plant spews carbon — no matter what the bank says

Standard Bank, Africa’s largest lender, is urging that on May 30 shareholders vote against a resolution that would require it to disclose its exposure to climate risk, writes David Hallowes in the Daily Maverick.

Grandma Ca: the 99-year-old standing up to Vietnam's coal rush

A 99-year old grandmother is refusing to move from her land despite Vietnamese Government officials bulldozing her house to make way for a Japanese-backed coal plant, write Jenny Vaughan and Tran Thi Minh Ha in Agence France Presse.

Top News

European elections boost prospects for climate action: The election for the 751-seat European Parliament has seen a fall in support for both the centre-left and centre-right parties combined with increased support for Eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties and Green parties. While the broad right–left balance remains relatively unchanged, Green parties across Europe polled far better than in the 2014, increasing their representation from 52 seats to 69 seats and potentially holding the balance of power. Support for the German Greens surged to 21 per cent but in the lignite mining regions in the country’s east support grew for the right-wing AfD, which is opposing the fossil fuel phase-out and the expansion of renewables. The European Greens have made action on climate central in negotiations over possible support for a coalition government. (Clean Energy Wire, EnergyTransition, Guardian)

Indonesian regent sentenced to 5 years jail: The regent of Cirebon, Sunjaya Purwadisastra, has been sentenced to five years in prison after the Bandung Corruption Court in West Java found him guilty of receiving bribes of millions of rupees from government officials he promoted and about 40 million rupees a month from district officials. Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is also set to file another charge against Sunjaya over an alleged 6.5 billion rupiah (US$451,000) bribe paid by Hyundai Engineering & Construction in return for providing land for the construction of the 924 MW PLTU Cirebon-2 coal plant. The plant has been backed by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Export–Import Bank of Korea. In a separate development, KPK arrested Sofyan Basir, the suspended president director of state power utility PLN, over allegations he was involved in bribes made to facilitate the development of the proposed 600 MW Riau-1 coal plant. (Jakarta Post, Jakarta Globe)

Pakistan anti-corruption agency arrests mining company chairman: Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), has arrested Khursheed Jamali, the chairman of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), and two executives from other companies over alleged financial “irregularities” associated with the proposed 100 MW gas-fired Nooriabad power project. NAB stated that the arrests related to an investigation into favours awarded to the power company and an associated transmission company which allegedly caused a US$16 million loss to the national government. SECMC is currently developing a 660 MW lignite-fired power plant with proposals for up to 3950 MW of capacity fuelled from a 33 million tonnes a year lignite mine in the Thar desert. (Dawn,  Dawn)

Australian mining billionaire pitches coal power plant: Representatives of Waratah Coal, which is owned by Clive Palmer, have been meeting Queensland Government agencies to advance a proposed 1400 MW coal power plant. Waratah Coal is also proposing two coal mines in the Galilee Basin which would supply the plant. In the recent federal election Palmer is estimated to have spent A$56 million (US$39 million) in an advertising blitz aimed at supporting the political party he created, the United Australia Party, and block the possible election of a Labor government. Palmer’s campaign is widely considered to have been one of the factors in the narrow re-election of the pro-coal Liberal-National Party Government. While Palmer is talking his projects up, MacMines Austasia, a subsidiary of the Meijin Energy Group, has abandoned its bid for a mining licence for a proposed 38 million tonnes a year thermal coal mine in the Galilee Basin. (ABC News, ABC News)

Queensland Government sets deadline for Adani decisions: Panicked by the swing against the Labor Party in the recent federal election, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the decision on Adani’s proposed management plan for the endangered black-throated finch will be made by May 31 and another plan on the management of groundwater resources will be finalised by June 13. Other decisions required before the Carmichael coal project can proceed include finalising a lease for railway access and agreement on the royalty rate. The incumbent state Labor Government would be defeated if the anti-Labor swing in the federal election was replicated in a state poll. Adani’s project faces ongoing legal challenges, with a group of Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council challenging a land use agreement the company entered into with some traditional owners. (ABC News, SBS)

Myanmar detains journalist and villagers over coal and cement plant protest: Police have arrested 12 residents of Aungthabyae over a May 15 protest against continued road construction work and the operation of a coal plant associated with the Chinese-owned Alpha Cement Plant. At the protest police fired ‘rubber’ bullets and tear gas into the crowd of protesting residents, injuring 20. Police have also arrested and detained a reporter from Channel Mandalay TV who livestreamed the May 15 protest via Facebook. Villagers have protested against the confiscation of their land without compensation since work on widening the road to the cement plant began in late 2017, and in mid-2018 four community leaders were arrested and charged with refusing to remove fences around their land. (Myanmar Times, Radio Free Asia)

“Japan is internationally ill-reputed for being negative about going coal-free, all the more because the country is exporting coal-fired thermal power generation technologies to Southeast Asia,”

states an editorial in Asahi Shimbun, a leading Japanese newspaper.


Australia: Alcoa pitches for A$150 million eco-tourism project by Eden Project on abandoned Anglesea coal mine site.

Australia: The Minerals Council of Australia, the peak coal industry lobby group has appointed former Liberal Party Minister Helen Coonan as Chair.

Australia: The Independent Planning Commission flags 14 issues that need to be addressed before a decision can be made on the proposed Hume underground mine.

Greece: Deadline for bids on PPC’s lignite plants deferred from May 28 to July 15 due to snap election.

South Africa: Carbon tax of US$8.34 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent to take effect from June 1.

South Africa: Eskom CEO will leave by the end of July over health concerns, deepening the management crisis at the troubled utility.

Thailand: Residents oppose proposed coal mine in forest in Chiang Mai’s Omkoi district.

Turkey: Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources plans mid-June announcement on proposed sale of up to 500 coal mines.

UK: A 45,000-strong petition opposing plans for coal mining at Druridge Bay has been submitted to the UK Government.

UK: Latest coal-free generation record for Great Britain passes 12 day mark and still going.

“For the global steel industry, that [operating fossil-fuel-free] means while it continues to reduce its carbon footprint through energy efficiency, ultimately it needs to use an energy source other than coal to extract iron from iron ore, a critical part of the primary steelmaking process,”

writes Lakshmi Mittal, the Chairman of AcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, in the Financial Times.

Companies + Markets

China shifts to support subsidy-free solar: China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission and National Energy Administration have announced support for 20,800 MW of renewable power capacity in 2019 on condition that the sale price of the power generated must be cheaper or equal to the cost of coal generation. The new capacity is expected to include 14,800 MW of solar and 4500 MW of wind capacity. The announcement signals a shift from subsidising new renewables generation to a more market-based system. Fitch Solutions estimates China could install about 37,000 MW of solar in 2019, down from 44,000 MW installed in 2018. Fitch Ratings, a part of the Fitch Group, estimates that due to the 25 to 35 per cent decline in solar module costs in 2018, projects in regions in China with good solar resources already generate power on a par with coal plants. (Bloomberg, Fitch Ratings)

BNP Paribas dumps Polish coal: BNP Paribas, a global bank headquartered in France, will cease financing coal power generators in Poland as they show little interest in diversifying their generation portfolio with more renewables despite being placed on review in 2019. BNP Paribas said they will honour existing contracts but expect that between 2019 and 2023 loans will decline “significantly” and that by 2028 they will have no loans to the coal sector in Poland. (S & P Global Intelligence)

Polish utility Tauron looks to offload a coal mine: Tauron, a government-owned utility, is considering selling its Janina mine in a bid to cut debt. Tauron is under financial pressure as a result of a government-mandated cap on electricity prices while the increased costs of European Union carbon permits have hit the cost of coal generation. Tauron is currently completing the construction of the 910 MW Jaworzno III lignite plant which is due to be commissioned in November 2019. In late 2018 Tauron, which is Poland’s second largest power company, said that it planned close two old coal units with a combined capacity of 320 MW, invest in up to 150 MW of solar capacity and 700 MW of onshore wind capacity. Tauron is now flagging that it could invest in up to 900 MW of onshore wind capacity and 300 MW of solar capacity. (Reuters)

Indonesian exporters try to shore up Chinese market: The Indonesian Coal Mining Association (ICMA) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the China National Coal Association aimed at ensuring priority for Indonesian coal exports. ICMA is also lobbying for China to drop its requirement that by June all coal cargoes be covered by national insurance. In 2018 China imported 125 million tonnes of Indonesian coal, accounting for about a quarter of the country’s coal exports. The MOU comes at a time when Chinese imports from Australia, Indonesia’s largest rival in the thermal coal market, are taking between 40 and 50 days to clear customs. In 2018 most Australian cargoes cleared customs in 5–20 days. The Chinese Government attributes the increase to ensuring cargoes meet coal quality criteria. However, some analysts argue that as only Australian coal cargoes have been affected it may be a retaliatory response to the Australian Government’s ban on the use of Huawei technology in the new 5G communications network. (Jakarta Post, Platts)

Upstart US utility offers to accelerate Tri-State Generation’s coal retirements: A new US utility, Guzman Energy, has offered to provide a “substantial cash infusion” to Tri-State Generation to retire three coal plants with a capacity of 800 MW. The three plants comprise about half the utility’s existing coal plants that are not already slated for retirement. Guzman also proposed replacing the plants’ generation capacity with alternative capacity which it stated was over 70 per cent renewable, as well as “substantial financial assistance to communities negatively impacted by the early retirement of coal plants.” Tri-State Generation, which supplies power to 43 rural electric cooperatives, has been seeking to block members leaving to source cheaper renewable generation elsewhere. Tri-State Generation has deferred consideration of the proposal until late in 2020. However, recent Colorado legislation making the utility’s integrated resource plan subject to oversight by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission may force a rethink. Guzman’s approach may well be replicated elsewhere and be used to lower costs and accelerate the closure of old coal plants. (Energy News Network, Utility Dive, Guzman Energy)

Under pressure from investors, CEZ flags shift in strategy: The Czech energy group CEZ has flagged a likely shift in its corporate strategy, including the sale of its Romanian lignite plants, after investors raised concerns that the company’s Eastern European projects would be unprofitable. The CEO of CEZ, Daniel Benes, said that the company is also considering selling its assets in Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey, though no timetable was specified. As major utilities retreated from coal and lignite plants, CEZ expanded rapidly snapping up old polluting plants cheaply. (Renewables Now)

South Africa’s Standard Bank faces climate disclosure resolution: On Thursday 30 May South Africa's largest bank, Standard Bank, will hold a vote on a shareholder-proposed resolution asking the bank to disclose the climate risks in its portfolio and to make publicly available its coal power and mining financing policy. The resolution was brought forward by shareholder activist Theo Botha and the RAITA Foundation, with support from JustShare, and the vote will be the first of its kind in South Africa. Standard Bank’s largest shareholder is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which holds a 20.1 per cent stake in the bank.  ICBC is a signatory of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure which backs “better disclosures of climate-related risks” but to date there has been no indication which way the Chinese bank will vote on the resolution. (JustShare, Daily Maverick)


Just Transition or Just Talk?, Sandbag and Climate Action Network Europe, May 2019. (Pdf) (The supporting data in an Excel sheet is here.)

This 27-page report finds that of the 21 European Union countries that still have coal power plants, only eight are planning on phasing it out by 2030. This would leave 60,000 MW of coal plants still operating after 2030.