August 23, 2018
Issue 242  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

Despite policy ebbs and flows, India’s transition to clean air and energy continues. The financial stress of India’s private coal power producers is reaching a critical moment, with a raft of plant operators in default of loan repayments facing an August 27 deadline to restructure their finances. Despite having won up to five more years to comply with new air pollution standards, India’s private power producers have now discovered that private banks are refusing to fund their proposed upgrades.

In Australia, internal splits in the Turnbull Government have seen the collapse of a proposed pro-coal energy plan in large part because it did not favour coal power enough for a minority of members. In the US, the Trump administration has unveiled its proposal to weaken the Obama era Clean Power Plan to ease pressure on coal power plants. However, in both Australia and the US there is a lot of uncertainty about how much difference these changes will make given technology changes, utility trends and the role of the states and direct corporate purchasing. In Germany, new modelling for Greenpeace suggests the country’s 2020 emissions reduction targets are still achievable with a mix of coal plant closures, increased renewables and a shift in the balance between power exports and imports.

Elsewhere, cost of reliance on expensive imported coal is driving change. In Malaysia, the new government has flagged its intention to boost renewables in order to reduce the role of coal power as the country is entirely reliant on imported coal. In Turkey, the depreciation of the lira is likely to boost the short-term prospects of renewables and lignite generation at the expense of imported gas and coal plants.

Bob Burton


India’s war on dirty air boosts hope on global emissions

India, despite sometimes contradictory signals, is moving decisively towards renewables and cleaner air, writes Vandana Gombar for Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Financial distress in India's thermal power sector

Simply switching promoters is not a solution for US$40–60 billion of potentially stranded thermal power plants, warn Tim Buckley and Kashish Shah from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in the Business Standard.

Puerto Rico's coal ash pollution galvanises citizens

After Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico in September 2017, coal ash spread from the island’s only coal plant into the air and groundwater, galvanising community opposition to further disposal, writes Katie Rice in Huffington Post.

Top News

New Malaysian government to axe new agreements and boost renewables: The new Minister for Energy, Yeo Bee Yin, has flagged that the new government will cancel between four and seven new contracts with independent power producers (IPP) that were awarded by the previous government without open tenders. Yeo said that if the IPP contracts were not cancelled the country would have reserve capacity of up to 46 per cent. In mid-July, Yeo, who inferred some of the IPP contracts were for new coal plants, outlined that the government wanted to reduce its dependence on coal plants, all of which are reliant on imported coal. The government’s policy is to boost solar and wind generation from two per cent to 20 per cent of power generation by 2025. Malaysia currently has 11,008 megawatts (MW) of operating coal plants and a further 2600 MW under construction. (The Edge, Climate Tracker)

Residents to appeal Indonesian court ruling on Bali coal plant: Three residents from Bali villages will appeal a decision by Denpasar administrative court allowing the proposed 660 MW Celukan Bawang power plant expansion to proceed. The villagers argued that pollution from the plant would damage the tourism, agricultural and fishing industries and affect wildlife at a nearby national park. However, the court ruled the residents had no standing to bring the action and claimed proposed pollution control standards were sufficient. (Reuters, Greenpeace Indonesia [Google Translate])

Appeal likely against Adani land-use agreement ruling: An appeal by the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people against Adani's Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) was dismissed by a Federal Court of Australia judge. The W&J have flagged they will appeal the decision in the High Court of Australia and have requested the Queensland Government refrain from extinguishing their native title rights until the appeal has been filed. The legal uncertainty over the ILUA has been one of the factors deterring global banks from supporting the project. In a separate development Adani has failed to identify the source of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex which the Queensland Government require before it will approve a Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan for the Carmichael coal mine. The springs host unique plants and animals. (ABC, ABC)

Australian Government’s internal disputes leave states to boost renewables: The Australian Government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG), which was aimed at curbing the growth of renewable power capacity and slowing the retirement of coal plants, has collapsed due to internal divisions within the government. In a bid to salvage part of the proposal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the emissions reduction target component, which pro-coal members objected to, had been dropped. This triggered a challenge to his leadership, which he narrowly survived, but the government is now in crisis. Some state governments, which have a major role in power supply, refused to endorse the NEG unless a more ambitious emissions reduction target was adopted otherwise new renewable capacity in their states would have stalled. (RenewEconomy, RenewEconomy)

Trump administration proposes to weakens Clean Power Plan provisions: Former coal industry lobbyist and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has proposed a new rule to weaken the provisions of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Key provisions include allowing states to select from a range of options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at power plants and weakening pollution standards for plants requiring upgrades. The EPA estimates that at best greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 1.5 per cent by 2030. However, the agency also estimated the changes would cause between 470 and 1,400 more premature deaths a year by 2030. The EPA estimates that even if the plan is implemented as envisaged it could result in US coal production for the US power sector in 2025 of between 517 and 524 million US short tons (469–475 million tonnes) compared to 495 million US short tons (449 million tonnes) in the Clean Power Plan. The proposed plan is open for 60 days public comment and is likely to be subject to legal appeals. (US EPA, New York Times, S & P Global)


Canada: Environmentalists warn coal mine plan by Australian company would damage critical habitat for a threatened fish species.

India: Share price slide prompts two year deferral of sale of 5–10 per cent stake in Coal India.

India: Court files new charge of abetment of corruption against Naveen Jindal, the Chairman of Jindal Steel and Power, over the allocation of the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand.

Oman: Plan to release tender documents by the end of October for 1200 MW plant, the country’s first.

Pakistan: Investigation launched into imported coal being stored in open stockpiles in violation of Supreme Court order.

Pakistan: Interim Minister for Energy urges greater use of wind and solar as alternatives to coal and LNG.

New Zealand: High Court directs Bathurst Resources to honour US$40 million payment agreement even though the Escarpment mine has been now been mothballed.

UK: Over the last quarter coal power provided just 1.3 per cent of the UK’s electricity.

US: Utility proposes 240 MW solar plant to power Colorado steel mill as part replacement of Comanche coal plant.

US: Five Virginia public officials involved in regulating Dominion Energy revealed as stockholders.

Companies + Markets

Reserve Bank of India rejects bankruptcy deadline for power sector: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has rejected a Ministry of Power claim before the Allahabad High Court that the problems with stressed coal plants were due to factors beyond the control of the companies. The RBI told the court that the power industry had seen many “chronic defaulters” and that private power producers were “suppressing facts” about the impact of a February rule on companies that defaulted on loan repayments. The RBI’s February directive specified that if companies failed to make loan repayments for 90 days then the following day banks should report them as in default and seek a plan to resolve their financial problems. The RBI also set August 27 as a deadline for lenders to resolve loans which companies had been in default on for over 180 days. The RBI directed that after 180 days the companies should be referred to the National Company Law Tribunal, India’s bankruptcy court, for resolution. It is currently estimated that there are loans for US$35.8 billion for 34 stressed power plants that are in default. The plants have a combined capacity of 39,000 MW. (Financial Express)

Indian power lobby urges cheap public loans for pollution upgrades: The Association of Power Producers (AAP), the lobby group for private power generators including Adani Power, is pressing the Department of Financial Services to direct public banks such as Power Finance Corporation and Rural Electrification Corporation to provide low-cost loans for the costs of mandatory pollution upgrades. An estimated 60,000 MW of coal plants are required to install pollution control equipment by the end of 2022. However, AAP complains commercial banks, which are already facing major write-downs on loans to stressed power plants, are refusing to loan the estimated US$25.8 billion needed for the upgrades. (Economic Times)

India’s coal imports now hinge on non-power sectors: India’s increasing imports of thermal coal have remained strong despite seaborne market prices of up to US$120 a tonne in large part due to 30,000 MW of coal-fired generation capacity that is used by captive power plants in sectors such as aluminium and cement. Captive power plants, which are a lower priority for coal supply by Coal India than grid-connected plants, could now account for as much as two-thirds of thermal coal imports. Central Electricity Authority data indicates that coal imports for on-grid power plants fell by 14 per cent in the June quarter. (Reuters, IEFFA)

European Union carbon prices could climb quickly and drive sift away from coal: A new report by Carbon Tracker estimates that recent policy changes affecting European Union carbon prices could result in average prices increasing rapidly to €35–40 per tonne (US$40.5–46) over the 2019–2023 period and help drive utilities to switch old coal and lignite plants to gas. In addition, the think tank says high power prices from higher carbon prices may also drive energy efficiency gains. However, they caution higher prices could trigger a political backlash aimed at undermining changes pushing the carbon price higher. Beyond 2024, Carbon Tracker suggests energy efficiency, renewables and batteries will lead to the retirement of old coal plants. (Euractiv, Carbon Tracker)

Lira depreciation and US tariff war hits Turkey coal imports: Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group estimates that, in the short term, the depreciation of the Turkish lira is likely to result in increased generation from domestic lignite plants and renewables at the expense of plants reliant on imported coal, oil and gas. In 2017 imported coal plants generated 17.49 per cent of Turkey’s electricity while renewables and lignite accounted for 59 per cent of generating capacity. After US President Trump doubled tariffs on imported Turkish aluminium and steel, Turkey’s President Erdogan increased the import tax on US thermal coal from five per cent to 13.7 per cent. Turkey currently imports about 30 million tonnes of seaborne thermal coal a year with the US supplying about 1 million tonnes of that. The other major suppliers are Colombia, Russia, South Africa and Mozambique. (Platts,

Modelling indicates Germany can still meet 2020 targets: Ahead of the August 23 meeting of the coal exit commission, Greenpeace has released a report by research agency Fraunhofer which argues Germany could meet its 2020 climate targets by closing 6100 MW of lignite units older than 20 years and auctioning 8000 MW additional wind and solar capacity to boost supply. The report also argues Germany can substantially reduce power exports and increase imports. A separate report by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) argues that an accelerated coal phase-out would not significantly increase coal-fired generation in neighbouring countries. DIW argues the phase-out could be undertaken to avoid the destruction of any further villages for the Garzweiler II plant and to protect the Hambach forest. (Platts, Greenpeace [Google Translate], DIW)

US banks backsliding on coal lending: The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) estimates the six biggest US banks increased coal financing in 2017 despite adopting policies in 2015 and early 2016 aimed at reducing fossil fuel financing in line with the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. However, RAN finds that in 2017 the banks increased their overall coal financing. Citi, which had the lowest increase compared to 2016, increased coal financing by 16 per cent. JPMorgan Chase increased its coal sector loans by 3014 per cent. RAN argues that while all the banks appeared to comply with the provisions of their policies the loopholes included enabled coal funding to increase. RAN argues the policies need to include a commitment to year-on-year reductions and specify an end date for coal funding. (Rainforest Action Network)


Redirecting Federal Funds Toward Coal and Nuclear Plant Communities, Energy Innovation, August 2018. (Pdf)

This two-page briefing note argues the estimated US$2 billion floated as needed to keep unviable coal and nuclear plants open for two years would be better spent supporting economic diversification for communities.

Wie Deutschland sein Klimaziel 2020 noch erreichen kann Teilergebnisse eines 1,5°C-Szenarios (How Germany can achieve its 2020 climate goal Partial results of a 1.5 ° C scenario), Fraunhofer, August 2018. (Pdf) (In German)

This 14-page presentation outlines a strategy for how Germany can meet its 2020 targets by closing coal plants, boosting renewables and limiting exports.

Banking on Coal: U.S. Banks’ Performance Against Their Policies Since 2015, Rainforest Action Network, August 2018. (Pdf)

This 38-page report finds that loopholes in coal lending policies of the six largest US banks have enabled support for coal plants to increase in 2017.

Unlocking Rooftop Solar in the Philippines, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analytics, August 2018.

This 19-page report outlines the potential for rooftop solar in the Philippines and its potential to undercut the country’s expensive dependence on imported coal and diesel generation.