October 27, 2022
Issue 440  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The recent decision by an Indonesian court to reject the environmental permit for a proposed coal plant sets a welcome precedent for considering the climate impacts of new projects and may spell the end of this project. But 87 operating coal plants, many commissioned in recent years, remain. A new report estimates that all the existing coal plants in the country and associated power purchase agreements could be bought for US$37 billion and closed by 2040. However, as the study notes, a just transition strategy for those involved in mining coal presents a formidable challenge.

The Energy Charter Treaty, an international agreement allowing investors to sue governments for energy policy changes affecting investments, is under extreme strain. In the last week more governments have opted to leave, declaring it an impediment in an era where stricter climate policies are required. In other legal cases, a civil society group has sued Deutsche Bank over promotional claims about the exclusion of coal from one of its investment funds. A coalition of European NGOs has filed a complaint over the long-running saga over the cross-border impacts of the Turow lignite mine on residents in the Czech Republic. Like Poland, Canada seems determined to avoid mediating a dispute with First Nations groups and the US over cross-border water pollution from mines in British Columbia.

Bob Burton


The world’s biggest dirty energy club is cracking up

Major European Union countries are quitting the Energy Charter Treaty, an agreement that allows investors to sue governments over policy changes affecting energy projects. After a wild Twitter rant, the boss of its secretariat says he was hacked, write Karl Mathiesen and Sarah Anne Aarup in Politico.

Living in the noise, dust and pollution of the UK’s largest open coal mine

For the residents opposed to the Ffos-y-Fran mine in Wales, last month should have been the end of a long campaign. But the news that the company wants to extend the life of the mine has left them devastated, writes Ryan O’Neill in Wales Online.

Glencore’s proposed Canadian coal mine proposal comes with risks to threatened caribou

The environmental assessment report on Glencore’s proposed Sukunka coal mine in British Columbia states it poses risks to threatened caribou herds and affects the treaty rights of eight First Nations, writes Derek Penner in the Vancouver Sun.


Indonesia court overturns environmental permit for coal plant

In response to a legal challenge filed by Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI), the Bandung State Administrative Court has cancelled the environmental permit for the proposed 1320 megawatt (MW) Tanjung Jati A coal plant in West Java. WALHI argued the permit was issued without considering the plant’s contribution to climate change in the environmental impact assessment report. The court accepted that the plant would emit 530 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over 30 years and that, based on the precautionary principle, the state was obliged to assess the project’s impact on climate change. The project was first proposed in the 1990s but stalled after partners withdrew from the project consortium. In 2011, the Bakrie Group revived the proposal but struggled to attract funding. The Indonesian Center for Environmental Law welcomed the decision as setting an important precedent and opening “a new era of climate change litigation in Indonesia.” (CNN Indonesia [Indonesian], Indonesian Center for Environmental Law)

Top News

South African company withdraws mining application for national park: The civil rights organisation AfriForum has welcomed the news that Tenbosch Mining has withdrawn its application for a mining licence in part of Kruger National Park. The mining company’s environmental consultant recently notified those interested in the project that it had dropped its application. However, civil society groups noted that Tenbosch Mining’s application was the eighth time a licence application had been sought over the area, with the company changing its name twice before submitting a new application. (AfriForum)

New South Wales Government agrees to ban open-cut Dartbrook mine: The New South Wales Government has announced a new state environmental planning policy that would ban the development of an open-cut mine at the site of the shuttered Dartbrook mine. Australian Pacific Coal had sought approval to reopen the mine, which closed in 2006, as an open-cut project, a move opposed by the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (HTBA) and farmers’ groups. The groups opposed the project due to air pollution impacts and the drawdown of water resources. In November 2020, the New South Wales Land and Environment Court refused to approve the reopening of the mine following legal action by the HTBA. Australian Pacific Coal had sought a moratorium on the government’s proposed change to the planning scheme. (ABC)

Energy Charter Treaty members heading for the exit door: France announced it would leave the Energy Charter Treaty, an agreement allowing companies and investors in the energy sector to sue governments over policy decisions that adversely affect their financial interests. Spain, the Netherlands and Poland have all indicated they will leave the treaty, while Germany and Belgium are considering the issue. Italy left in 2015. The European Commission has opposed countries withdrawing from the treaty, instead urging support for reforms, including a 10-year phase-out of protections for fossil fuel projects. The commission argues that governments are exposed to legal actions up to 20 years after they leave the treaty. (Politico, Politico)

Complaint filed with European Commission over Polish mine: A coalition of civil society groups from the Czech Republic and Germany have filed a complaint with the European Commission (EC) over the Czech–Polish agreement allowing PGE’s Turow coal mine to continue to operate. In February 2022, the Czech Government agreed to drop its legal action before the Court of Justice of the European Union against Poland over the mine in return for a €45 million (US$44.8 million) compensation payment. The complaint argues that since the agreement, the Turow mine has operated without any environmental assessment. The groups outlined that a Polish court refused to hear a case on jurisdictional grounds and the Czech Government would be in breach of its settlement agreement if it lodged a further complaint with the European Court of Justice. They argue this leaves the EC as the only option to protect the rights of the affected communities. Residents state the mine has resulted in air pollution, damage to houses and significant depletion of groundwater resources. (BrnoDaily, Beyond Coal Europe)

Manchin’s new fund attracts donations from coal companies: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has established a new fundraising vehicle, the Manchin Leadership Fund, which has attracted over US$300,000 in contributions since its creation in June. The funds will be directed to his 2024 re-election campaign and his political action committee, a fund used to donate to third-party groups and other candidates’ campaigns. Many of the contributions are from companies with coal, gas and oil interests. Donors to the fund with coal interests include CONSOL Energy, Robindale Energy and Xcoal Energy & Resources. In late July, Manchin announced he had reached an agreement with Democratic Party leaders over the Inflation Reduction Act. This bill included sweeteners for the coal, oil and gas industries. Manchin also extracted a commitment from Democratic Party leaders to support a separate bill weakening permit assessment processes for fossil fuel projects and new transmission lines. (Sludge)

Canada refuses arbitration over cross-border coal mine pollution: First Nations and environmental groups criticised the Canadian and British Columbia governments for refusing to support mediation of the cross-border pollution impacts from Teck Resources coal mines. First Nations groups in the US and Canada, as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Government, have proposed mediation on selenium pollution from Teck’s Elk Valley mines by the International Joint Commission (IJC), which visited Ottawa last week. The British Columbian Government opposes the involvement of the IJC, while the Canadian Government remains non-committal. Heidi Gravelle, chief of the Tobacco Plains First Nation, said there was no interest in letting the Canadian Government continually delay action and that legal action is under consideration. (CBC)

Despite the deadly explosion, Erdogan claims the Turkish mine was safe: Turkish President Recep Erdogan had claimed that methane levels at the state-owned Amasra coal mine were just 1.5 per cent, well below the explosive range, ten minutes before an explosion killed 41 workers. The mine, owned by the state-run Turkish Hard Coal Institution (TTK), is supposed to be evacuated when methane reaches two per cent, with the explosive range between 5 and 17 per cent. The workers’ families said gas was detected in the mine for about 10 days before the explosion. Opposition party leaders pointed to a 2019 Court of Accounts report that warned of safety risks due to low staff levels and problems with the methane measurement system at the mine. (International Business Times, France24)

Australian Gov't backs global methane pledge but so far is quiet on coal: The Australian Government has announced it will join the US’s Global Methane Pledge to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. The coal sector is responsible for an estimated 28 million tonnes of methane emissions, or 23 per cent of Australia’s total, second only to agriculture. The Minister for Climate Change, Chris Bowen, announced funding for various projects to cut agricultural emissions and said the government would work closely with the coal and other sectors on “sensible plans” to reduce emissions. A coalition of civil society groups has launched a ten-point plan to cut methane emissions, including establishing national and state targets in line with the 1.5 °C target of the Paris Agreement. They also want the federal government to require accurate measurement of mine emissions and the use of feasible technologies to capture and destroy methane emissions. A recent report by the climate think tank Ember estimated the cost of reducing methane emissions from the coal sector is about one-quarter the cost of available technologies for the agricultural industry. (Guardian, Move Beyond Coal)


Australia: Queensland Government approves water licence to expand the New Hope Group’s Acland thermal coal mine.

Australia: The new federal government has scrapped the former government’s grants program to underwrite new generation capacity, including an upgrade for the Vales Point coal-fired power plant.

China: COVID-19 outbreaks dent coal transport eastwards from the key mining provinces of Shanxi and Datong.

Germany: Four German states — North Rhine-Westphalia, Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony Anhalt — have received 2.5 billion euros (US$2.46 billion) to support a just transition away from coal.

India: Villagers affected by coal dust pollution from Gupta Coal Washery in Gondegaon, Maharashtra, have rejected the offer of increased compensation for crop damage. They want the plant closed.

India: Adani lodges an appeal before India’s Supreme Court against the imposition of a US$6.7 million fine over pollution from the Udupi coal plant in Karnataka.

South Africa: Communities in KwaZulu-Natal protest surge in coal trucks on local roads.

US: Two residents have filed a class action lawsuit against rail company CSX seeking relief from pollution from the company’s Curtis Bay coal terminal. A silo at the terminal exploded on December 30, 2021.

US: West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has suspended the operating permit for Lexington Coal’s Twilight III-A Surface mine for pollution violations.

Companies + Markets

Consumer group sues Deutsche Bank over greenwashing coal claims: A consumer group representing consumers in the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has filed a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank’s asset management unit DWS, alleging it misrepresented the coal exposure of investments in a climate fund. The group argues that the DWS Invest ESG Climate Tech fund claimed in promotional material that it had no investment in the coal sector. However, it also claimed that investments could include companies that earned up to 15 per cent of their revenue from the coal industry. DWS rejects the claim. The case is set to be heard in a Frankfurt court on March 10, 2023. (Reuters)

Fire may delay new Eskom unit by up to a year: Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer, Jan Oberholzer, has told a parliamentary committee that a recent fire in an air heater on the 800 MW unit 5 of the Kusile power station could delay the commissioning of the unit by up to a year. Commissioning of the unit may now be pushed back from December 2023 to December 2024. Eskom had been planning on the unit reducing load shedding. The head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), a South African anti-corruption agency, told the committee that it had found “organised crime” operating in Eskom. SIU’s Andy Mothibi said some Eskom staff violated conflict of interest policies and some suppliers paid kickbacks to staff. He said two particular areas of concern are coal procurement and transportation to power stations. Eskom has previously expressed concern about the supply of low-quality coal contributing to reliability problems at some of its power stations. (News24, Business Day)

Study estimates Indonesian coal power buyout would cost US$37 billion: TransitionZero, a climate think tank, estimates it would cost US$37 billion to buy out all 118 coal units and the associated power purchase agreements in Indonesia and retire them before 2040. The group assumed buying out a maximum of 10 years of existing power purchase agreements on current prices and capacity factors but excluding fuel and carbon costs. It expected an average figure of US$1.2 million per MW would cover the capital and operational costs of the plant and a profit margin for the owners. The study notes that replacing coal plants with renewables will likely increase the number of power sector jobs. However, the most significant impact will be on the estimated 250,000 people in the coal mining sector in often remote areas with fewer economic diversification options. (Mongabay, Transition Zero)

South African Cabinet endorses just transition investment plan: The South African Government confirmed that Cabinet had approved the proposed US$8.5 billion just transition investment plan negotiated with a coalition of countries. Leaked details reveal that just US$230 million, or 2.7 per cent of the package will be in the form of grants. Concessional loans at rates lower than South Africa could obtain on the market account for US$4.6 billion or 54 per cent of the funding. The balance of the financing is in the form of commercial loans and investment guarantees from the European Union, the US and the UK to make projects attractive to private investors. The power sector funding is to assist Eskom close three coal power plants and to replace them with renewables. Saliem Fakir from the African Climate Foundation said the terms of the finance needed to be fair and reduce South Africa’s debt load. The agreement’s details are likely to be released at the global climate conference in Egypt at the end of November. The deal has been proposed as a possible template that could be adapted to support transitions away from coal power in Vietnam and Indonesia. (Climate Home News, Climate Home News)

Renewables can replace the bulk of Poland’s largest lignite plant: A Bloomberg New Energy Finance report estimates that 80 per cent of the capacity of the 5420 MW Belchatow lignite plant in Poland could be replaced by 11,000 MW of wind, solar and storage capacity. The plant supplies about 20 per cent of Poland’s electricity but is reliant on a lignite deposit which will be depleted by 2036 at the latest. Currently, only 600 MW of solar and 100 MW of wind are planned in the surrounding Lodz region. Alternative scenarios include a gas, biomass or waste-to-energy plant or a combination of renewables, storage and 600 MW of small modular nuclear capacity by 2036. (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

European sanctions increase shipping distances for Russian coal: BIMCO, a major association representing shipowners, estimates Russian seaborne coal exports are down seven per cent since the European Union import ban took effect on August 10. The association estimates that the average distance coal cargoes have shipped increased by half since sanctions were announced in April. Indian buyers sought heavily discounted cargoes of Russian coal to cater for increased power demand over summer and offset shortages of domestic coal, but demand is expected to decline. China remains the largest buyer of Russian coal though this may be tempered by a surge in domestic production and commissioning of new renewables capacity. (Seatrade Maritime News)

Report finds one-third of Chinese-backed power projects run on coal: Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center reports that Chinese companies and government-run investment banks have invested in about 171,600 MW of power plants across 92 countries since 2000. The report estimates coal accounts for about 34 per cent of the capacity. The report estimates the median age of fossil fuel plants is just six years old, with a typical lifetime of a new plant assumed to be 40 years. The data indicates that of the projects in Asia financed by China, over 50 per cent of the capacity used coal. The report notes that China’s state-owned banks have a more carbon-intensive portfolio than companies. (Al Jazeera, Boston University [Pdf])


Coal Power and Livelihood Disruptions in Thar, Policy Research Institute for Equitable Development, October 2022. (Pdf)

This 24-page report documents the impacts of coal mining and thermal power plants on the thousands of families displaced by the energy projects in the Thar district in Sindh province, Pakistan.

Energy in Belchatow After Lignite, BNEF, October 2022. (Pdf) The Executive Summary is here, and the report in Polish is here.

This 59-page report details three possible scenarios – mostly reliant on renewables – to replace the Belchatow lignite plant in Poland.