July 8, 2021
Issue 376  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

A letter from the Philippines Department of Energy has confirmed that three more proposed coal plants – with a combined capacity of 1500 megawatts (MW) – have been dropped with another big project looking very shaky. In the UK, the government has announced the coal end date has been brought forward a year to October 2024. In the Netherlands, three political parties are pushing the government to shut one of the country’s four coal plants this year to comply with a 2019 court ruling. In South Africa, Eskom is pitching a US$10 billion plan to retire coal plants early. In Chile, Fitch ratings has warned that two power utilities which planned on operating coal plants until 2040 would take a financial hit if a 2025 coal exit date comes into effect.

There are many upsides to coal plant closures. In the US, a team of researchers has estimated coal closures, along with other pollution reduction measures, have resulted in increased corn and soybean production worth up to US$5 billion a year.

New satellite data has revealed pollution from coal projects takes many forms, with a major methane plume detected originating from the Bowen Basin coal field in Australia. Most of the coal produced from the mines may be metallurgical coal but the end use makes little difference to calculating the climate impact. A new report outlines how encouraging buyers of clean steel could help catalyse investments in new primary steel production which would bypass the need for metallurgical coal. This comes as a global industry lobby group has flagged the need for "coal free supply chain plans" and the Canadian Government has offered to fund a large part of the cost of converting Algoma Steel’s plant in Quebec to operate on a technology that is not reliant on metallurgical coal.

Bob Burton


India’s elephant reserves need protecting from coal and oil projects

Local communities are pressing for the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve in Assam to be protected from coal mining and oil exploration, writes Neha Sinha in The Third Pole.

A decade of resistance to the Pench power project in India

For over a decade the local community has been resisting plans by power companies, including Adani, by Adani to build the 1320 MW Pench coal plant in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, writes Geoff Law in a four-part series for Adani Watch.

The inside story of an Alberta coal mine devastated by a financial crisis

The company operating the Vista thermal coal mine in Alberta has been skating on thin financial ice for a while, raising concerns about the adequacy of Alberta’s rehabilitation bonds, writes Sharon J. Riley in The Narwhal.


Philippines utility scraps three coal plants

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has informed the Philippines Department of Energy (DOE) it has dropped plans for three coal plants which have a combined capacity of 1500 MW. In a July 1 letter to the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development the DOE stated SMC has “discontinued” plans for the 600 MW Ibabang plant, the 600 MW Sariaya plant and the 300 MW Looc Malabuyoc plant. The letter also confirmed three other projects – the 300 MW expansion of SMC’s Malita plant, the proposed 600 MW Merbau plant and the 300 MW Ozamiz plants – had all been removed from the DOE’s list of potential projects “due to non-submission of the required monthly power project updates.” DOE also confirmed Meralco was in discussions with lenders as it had had encountered “challenges” in securing power purchase agreements for its proposed 1336 MW Atimonan plant. Monsignor Noel Villareal, a Catholic Church leader who has campaigned against the coal plants, welcomed DOE’s confirmation of the end of the three projects and said he hoped other projects such as the Atimonan plant would also be cancelled. (Business World)

UK brings coal end date forward a year to October 2024

The UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, has announced the end date for coal generation has been brought forward to October 1, 2024, a year earlier than previously planned. After the closure in March of the Drax coal plant and EDF Energy’s announcement the West Burton A plant will close by September 2022, only Uniper’s 2000 MW Ratcliffe plant will remain online. Platts Analytics estimates generation from the Ratcliffe plant will be “effectively zero” in the summer months until it closes. In 2020 UK coal generation provided only 1.8 per cent of the UK's electricity, down from 40 per cent almost a decade ago. (S & P Global, UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change Anne-Marie Trevelyan)

Top News

Dutch parties press government to shut a coal plant this year: Three Dutch political parties – D66, GroenLinks and PvdA – are pressing the caretaker Cabinet to close one of the country’s four coal plants this year. The parties argue the closure of a plant is necessary to comply with the Supreme Court ruling requiring greenhouse gas emissions reductions of at least 25 per cent by 2020 compared to 1990 to meet its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. The three parties combined have 38 seats in the 150 member House of Representatives; Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People's Party for Freedom and Democracy holds 33 seats. The plans to negotiate compensation for the closure of the country’s coal plants have been stalled by utilities filing legal claims against the government. (NL Times)

US study finds increased crop yields after closure of coal plants: Stanford University researchers estimate reductions in ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide pollution between 1999 and 2019 accounted for almost 20 per cent of the increase in corn and soybean yield over the period. The increase is estimated to worth about US$5 billion per year. The study reviewed air pollution and crop production data from the nine states – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin – that produce about two-thirds of US maize and soybeans. The study noted there was a clear yield increase for corn and soybeans the further they were away from power plants and especially from coal units. It also noted fine particle and nitrogen oxides pollution appear to be more damaging to the crops at current levels than ozone or sulphur dioxide emissions. (Stanford News, IOPScience)

Satellite data reveals huge methane emissions in Australian coal field: European Space Agency satellite data has revealed Australia’s Bowen Basin coal field released 1.6 million tonnes of methane per annum in 2019 and 2020. A geoanalytics company, Kayrros, estimates the emissions are the equivalent to the climate impact of about 30 million fossil-fuelled cars. The Bowen Basin mostly produces metallurgical coal, with BHP and Anglo American among the major producers. Methane is estimated to have a global warming potential of over 80 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Kayrros also revealed a far smaller methane plume near Yangquan City in Shanxi province, the largest coal producing region in China. In the five year plan released in March the Chinese Government included a provision to reduce methane emissions. (Financial Times [paywall], Bloomberg)

Vietnam police arrest founder of group that cosigned Greenpeace letter: Hanoi Police have arrested Dang Dinh Bach, the founder of a Vietnamese NGO group, and ordered he be detained for three months while possible “tax evasion” charges are investigated. In late May Bach’s group, The Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research Center, was one of 10 co-signatories on a Greenpeace letter to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. The letter urged President Moon to adopt a far more ambitious position on the financing of international coal projects ahead of the P4G summit later that month. Police also arrested Mai Phan Lo, the president of the Center for Media in Educating the Community on identical charges of “tax evasion” on the same day. Human Rights Watch, a US NGO, estimates over 130 political human rights activists, environmentalists and others have been imprisoned for exercising their basic rights. (Nguoi Lao Dong [Vietnamese], Nguoi Lao Dong [Vietnamese])

Pakistan coal company security staff arrested over death of worker: Police have filed an initial legal case against five security guards employed by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) after hundreds protested after a worker was allegedly tortured to death. Dodo Bheel was one of a number of workers detained by the security staff for 14 days over accusations they had stolen scrap from the store of Thar Coal’s Block-II. SECMC is a joint venture between the Government of Sindh and the Engro Energy Corporation and is developing a major lignite mine and power plant with funding from the China Development Bank Corporation. (Dawn)

Key US Senator earned US$492,000 from coal interest: Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat Senator central to the fate of President Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill, earned US$492,000 from his shareholding in Enersystems, a coal brokerage firm. Manchin founded the firm in 1988 and ran it until he was elected as West Virginia Secretary of State in 2000. In his most recent financial disclosure Manchin stated his shares in the Enersystems are worth between US$1 million and US$5 million. Manchin is Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and, with the Senate split evenly 50:50 between Republicans and Democrats, has significant influence over Biden’s legislation. In June, Manchin spoke at a conference organised by the Edison Electric Institute, a utility lobby group, and criticised Biden’s plan to end coal generation by 2035. (Sludge)

Flood damage raises doubts over future of Australian lignite plant: EnergyAustralia, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-headquartered CLP Group, has confirmed it could cost tens of millions of dollars to repair flood damage to an embankment that diverts the Morwell River around the operating part of the Yallourn brown coal mine. Geoff Dyke, a union official for members at the mine, said the June floods have resulted in cracks extending for up to 200 metres along the embankment. Earlier this year EnergyAustralia announced the Yallourn power station, which relies on the mine for its brown coal, would close in mid-2028. Dyke said a big bill for stabilisation of the embankment could force the earlier retirement of the 1480 MW plant. In June 2012 part of the embankment collapsed resulting in part of the mine being flooded and equipment damaged. (The Age, Global Energy Monitor)


Australia: AGL Energy fined A$15,000 (US$11,240) for a fly ash slurry spill into Bayswater Creek near the Bayswater Power Station.

Australia: Australian Government loans A$175 million (US$131 million) to Pembroke Resources for Olive Downs metallurgical coal project.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: NGOs call for clarification on the proposed 600 MW expansion of the Ugljevik lignite plant after China Electric and the Polish–Chinese company Sunningwell International signed construction contracts.

Canada: Forest fires disrupt Teck Resources’ coal shipments by rail to ports in British Columbia.

Croatia: Croatia, which has only one coal plant, has joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance.

India: India's coal production declined by two per cent in 2020 financial year to 716 million tonnes.

India: Protest continues over failure of Mahanadi Coalfields to provide jobs and compensation to Darlipali villagers displaced by the expansion of Belpahar opencast coal mines.

South Africa: Derailment of 31 loaded coal cars disrupts rail line to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.

US: Collapse of cooling tower at San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico results in the 369 MW Unit 1 being taken offline.

“We [South Africa] will be left in this little bubble where we are not going to be able to export our wine or our fruit or our cars if we don't transition [away from coal] … The whole world is transitioning, we have to get on this bandwagon - for South Africa to remain competitive and for our economy to grow,”

said Mandy Rambharos from the South African power utility Eskom.

Companies + Markets

Eskom pitches for funding for coal closures as breakdowns drive up costs: Eskom, the South African government-owned utility, is hoping to attract support from funders ahead of the COP26 climate conference in November for its US$10 billion plan to fund coal closures. Under South Africa’s 2019 power plan 35,000 MW of coal power plants will close by 2050. Under an accelerated plan all its coal plants would close by the 2040s including the new 4800 MW Medupi and Kusile plants. However, Eskom’s financial position is so dire it does not currently have the financial capacity to repair or upgrade 16 of its 99 current coal units. Many of the units in the Eskom fleet are unreliable, with new data revealing 711 trips in the 2020 financial year, driving up fuel oil costs by over 130 per cent. Fuel oil is used in restarting coal units. (Reuters, MyBroadband, News24)

Ratings firm warns 2025 Chilean coal exit would hit slow-moving utilities: The financial services firm, Fitch Ratings, has warned two utilities that planned to keep coal plants operating until 2040 would be adversely affected if the 2025 coal phase-out legislation passed by the Chamber of Deputies becomes law. Fitch noted that Guacolda Energia, which operates the 760 MW coal plant in Huasco, has a US$500 million bond due to be refinanced or repaid in 2025 and has power purchase agreements that expire between 2025 and 2030. Empresa Electrica Cochrane, which operates the 550 MW Cochrane coal plant, has power purchase agreements with mining companies that run well beyond 2025. Fitch states a 2025 coal end date would be credit neutral for Enel and Engie which have already announced an early exit from coal generation and begun diversification into renewables. Colbun, which operates the 350 MW Santa María power station commissioned in 2012, has not nominated a coal exit date. (Fitch Ratings)

Global industry lobby group flags need for coal-free supply chains: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD), a lobby group representing 200 major multinational companies, has joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance. BCSD stated it would “leverage” its global network of 60 partner national business organisations “to develop coal-free supply chain plans, in addition to their commitments to renewable deployments.” BCSD partner groups represent about 5000 major companies. (World Business Council for Sustainable Development)

Canadian Government funds steel company to shift from coal: The Canadian Government has announced it will provide up to C$420 million (US$337 million) as part of a C$703 million (US$564 million) Algoma Steel project to part fund the cost of transitioning the Sault Ste. Marie steel mill to produce steel from electric arc furnace technology. Electric arc furnaces (EAFs) use little to no coal and rely on scrap steel to produce secondary steel. About one-quarter of global steel production is currently produced via EAFs. Algoma Steel said EAF production would allow it to sell “green steel products” to auto and consumer products customers as well as for use in infrastructure. (CBC, Algoma Steel, Prime Minister of Canada)

New Indian coal units break down: Punjab State Power Corporation (PSPCL) has been struggling to avoid power restrictions after two of the three units at the 1980 MW Talwandi Sabo coal plant broke down. The number three unit at the plant has been offline since February 27 with PSPCL seeking an explanation from Talwandi Sabo Power Limited as to why capacity charges should not be deducted for the unit for 2021–22 and penalties be imposed for the failure to provide power from the unit. Last weekend the first unit at the plant also went offline due to a boiler problem. Unit 3 was first commissioned in March 2016 and the first unit was brought online in 2014. (Daily Pioneer, Global Energy Monitor)

Major proxy advisory firm warns shareholders of Adani risks: The major proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis has recommended shareholders vote against the re-election of Pranav Adani as a member of Adani Enterprises’ risk committee. The firm also flagged concerns about the company’s push to continue work on the Carmichael mine and its role with a Myanmar military company in a port project. The firm urged a vote against Pranav Adani due to a Queensland Supreme Court A$107 million (US$80.7 million) judgement against Adani Abbot Point Terminal over its business practices. Glass Lewis also rated Adani as facing a “severe” risk of adverse financial impacts due to its development of “the globally unpopular Carmichael Mine.” (Reuters)

France and Germany press President Xi to end international coal finance: French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a conference call with China’s President Xi Jinping in which they discussed “the end of funding coal-fired power stations” as a key element in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving carbon neutrality. (Elysee)


Steeling Demand: Mobilising buyers to bring net-zero steel to market before 2030, Mission Possible Partnership and Energy Transitions Commission, July 2021. (Pdf)

This 37-page report outlines how mobilising potential buyers for clean steel can help drive investment decisions in new plants to bring net-zero primary steel to market.