February 3, 2022
Issue 403  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

It was always unlikely the transition away from coal would be smooth. The latest data from Europe reveals that increased renewables generation has predominantly displaced costly gas generation rather than polluting coal power. The power price crisis in Europe has highlighted how the hype about gas as a transition fuel has proved to be a very costly dead end. Pakistan is discovering the risks of exposure to the high costs of imported coal. An agency overseeing projects developed with Chinese backing has warned that independent power producers are at risk of defaulting on loans. In Vietnam, which is very exposed to high imported coal prices, the government is faced with relentless hostility to renewables from its pro-coal utilities.

But promoters of coal power are on increasingly shaky ground. In Australia, an analysis by the energy market operator of power prices in the eastern states notes the significantly lower wholesale power prices in the states with a higher share of renewable generation. The reason is simple: coal and gas set the marginal power price in a competitive electricity market. More wind and solar not only undercuts the volume of fossil fuel generation but results in significantly lower prices. As new renewables increasingly undercut existing coal generation, an Indian government committee has reportedly proposed no additional coal capacity be developed. While forecasts tip a massive expansion of renewables in China this year, some utilities continue to press ahead with more coal projects.

Bob Burton


Can Germany show us how to leave coal behind?

In the absence of leadership from the US, Germany seeks to show how a major manufacturing power can reduce its reliance on coal without causing too much economic damage or political backlash, writes Adam McGillis in the New Yorker.

How a US$60 million bribery scandal helped Ohio pass the ‘worst energy policy in the country’

Most Ohio Republicans favour retaining energy legislation that subsidises coal plants despite the clear evidence that it was created through bribery and fraud, writes Nathanael Johnson in Grist.

Endgame for new Indian coal power projects?

An expert committee appointed by the Indian Ministry of Power has reportedly tabled a plan to stop new coal-fired capacity additions, writes Kashish Shah in Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Vietnam targets net zero but struggles to break coal dependence

As foreign investors turn away from coal, an internal struggle is taking place over Vietnam’s energy path, writes Linh Pham in China Dialogue.

Top News

UK Government approves Welsh mine: The Coal Authority, a UK Government agency, has approved Energybuild Mining’s proposal to produce 40 million tonnes of coal over the next 20 years from the Aberpergwm Colliery near Neath Port Talbot. The Welsh Government is opposed to reopening the mine but found it could not reject or alter the proposal as Energybuild applied for the license before responsibility for determining coal permits was devolved to the Welsh Government. The mine will predominantly support the Port Talbot Steelworks owned by Tata Steel. In late 2021 the Welsh Government said coal from the mine would produce about 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and accused the UK of “hypocrisy” for calling for an end of coal at the COP26 conference but supporting the revival of the colliery. UK Greens MP, Caroline Lucas, said the decision “undermines any climate diplomacy that Alok Sharma will be conducting in future months.” (WalesOnline, BBC))

Chinese steel industry executives gaoled over falsified pollution data: The municipal government for the significant steelmaking centre of Tangshan has announced 47 steel company executives have been sentenced to gaol for tampering with air pollution monitoring devices in March 2021. Officials from the Tangshan Great Wall Steel Group Songting Iron & Steel Company, Hebei Xinda Iron & Steel Group Company, Tangshan Medium Thick Plate Company and Tangshan Jinma Steel Group have been sentenced to prison for between six and eighteen months. The announcement comes just before the February 4–20 Beijing Winter Olympics. (Bloomberg, Reuters)

Report finds Turkish coal plants responsible for almost 200,000 deaths: The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) estimates that coal power generation in Turkey between 1965 and 2020 has led to almost 200,000 premature deaths, 11 million hospital admissions and other health impacts. It calculates the cost of health impacts over the period at up to €320 billion (US$359 billion). HEAL estimates that the health impacts of coal plants in just four locations – Zonguldak, Canakkale, Mugla and Iskenderun Bay – account for about 40 per cent of the health burden. Turkey has 34 operating coal plants with a combined capacity of 34,968 megawatts (MW). While the Turkish Government has ratified the Paris Climate Agreement and adopted a 2053 net-zero carbon target, two new coal plants are currently under construction, and a further 15 have been proposed. HEAL has called for the new projects to be scrapped. (Health and Environment Alliance)

US seeks to reinstate mercury regulation on coal power plants: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed rescinding a May 2020 decision by the Trump administration that effectively ended the enforcement of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards on coal power plants. In 2012 the EPA ruled the public health benefits of limiting pollution outweighed the cost to industry and it was therefore “appropriate and necessary” to enforce the standards. The EPA estimated enforcement of the rule would prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths a year. The EPA proposal will be open for 60 days of public comment with the likelihood it will be adopted later this year. The Sierra Club welcomed the announcement but called on the EPA to strengthen the rule. (New York Times, US Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Club)

Subsidence at Australian mine breaches permit limits: Centennial Coal has acknowledged that subsidence caused by its underground Mt Airly mine has caused extensive fracturing of sandstone cliffs and formations in the Mugii Murum-Ban state conservation area. Under the terms of its planning approval, surface subsidence is not allowed to exceed 125 millimetres. Even though the mining is 300 metres below ground, the Blue Mountains Conservation Society says surface cracks in the sandstone cliffs of up to 700 millimetres wide and 3 metres deep have been found. Centennial plans to extend its mine under the adjacent Genowlan mesa, which environmentalists fear is vulnerable to similar damage. (Guardian)

US mine fined for breaches of environmental and safety laws: Signal Peak Energy, a subsidiary of Global Mining Holding, has been fined US$1 million for the “wilful” violation of health and safety standards by illegally pumping mine wastewater into boreholes at its underground coal mine near Roundup in Montana. A federal court judge ratified a plea agreement reached in October 2021 between the Department of Justice and Signal Peak Energy. US Attorney Leif M. Johnson said, “mine owners provided little in the way of meaningful oversight of mine operations.” The Department of Justice said that between 2013 and 2018, violations of health and safety standards “occurred with the full knowledge, direction and participation of the mine’s most senior management during that period, including the president and CEO, the vice president of surface operations, the vice president of underground operations and the safety manager.” (Casper Star-Tribune, US Department of Justice)

Australian regulator finds errors in Peabody Energy’s emissions data: The Australian Government’s Clean Energy Regulator, an agency tasked with compiling the national greenhouse gas emissions inventory, has found Peabody Energy had significant errors in the reports it submitted estimating emissions from the underground Wambo coal mine in New South Wales. Peabody Energy operates seven coal mines in Australia and nine in the US. Under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act, companies estimate their emissions. However, the regulator found Peabody Energy had a history of filing inaccurate reports due to poor data collection and analysis practices. (Guardian)


Indonesia: Fears that US company Air Products’ coal-to-gas plans will become a black hole for state subsidies.

Japan: Climate activists call on Japan to scrap funding support for the 1200 MW Matarbari coal plant in Bangladesh.

South Africa: In a speech at a coal industry forum, the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, described himself as a “coal fundamentalist.”

Zimbabwe: Villagers from Binga are resisting an eviction order to allow a Chinese company, Monalof, to establish a coal mine on their ancestral lands.

Companies + Markets

Pakistan power projects at risk of default due to high coal prices: The China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority, an agency established to oversee Chinese-backed power projects in Pakistan, has warned that the operators of new coal plants may default on their loans because of rising international coal prices. The agency is also alarmed that up to 250 billion rupees (US$1.42 billion) owed to independent power producers is now overdue and contributing to financial stress on operators. The financial pressure on the new coal projects is on the agenda for a trip to China in early February by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan. (Business Recorder)

China’s power industry lobby group predicts big year for renewables: The China Electricity Council, a peak power industry lobby group, estimates China may add 140–150,000 MW of wind and solar capacity in 2022. The group estimates this would increase non-fossil-fuel installed capacity to about 1300 gigawatts or over 50 per cent of total capacity. The council also estimates about 30,000 MW of new coal capacity could be commissioned this year. The China Photovoltaic Industry Association is projecting up to 75,000 MW of new solar installations in 2022, a significant increase from 2021. (China Electricity Council [Chinese], PV Magazine)

European coal decline slows as renewables displace costly gas power: A review of the European power sector by the Ember, a UK-based climate policy think tank, found electricity from coal generation in European Union (EU) countries declined by just three per cent in 2021 compared to pre-COVID levels in 2019. Electricity demand in 2021 rebounded to recover almost all the decline experienced during the COVID19 outbreak, with coal generation accounting for 15 per cent of EU demand. However, a 585 per cent increase in the gas price has driven power prices higher. The report found just over half of the new renewable generation since 2019 replaced expensive gas power, with only a sixth replacing coal generation. The most significant declines in coal generation were in Spain and Greece, where coal plant closures took effect, but an increase in Poland mostly offset these. (Financial Times, Ember)

Report notes Australian states with higher coal share have higher prices: A report published by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has noted wholesale electricity prices in Queensland and New South Wales, which have a high share of coal-based electricity, are double those of the southern states which have a significantly higher percentage of renewable generation. The report noted the price gap between the northern and southern states was A$45 per megawatt-hour (MWh) (US$32/MWh). “Black coal and gas offers set prices at higher average levels in Q4 [...], and their significant role in price-setting frequency in the northern NEM [National Electricity Market] regions goes towards explaining the regional price differentials observed in the quarter,” AEMO stated. (RenewEconomy, Quarterly Energy Dynamics [Pdf])

Swedish steelmaker accelerates transition to coal-free production: In response to the growing demand for fossil-free steel, Swedish steel maker SSAB unveiled plans to convert its Lulea steel plant in Sweden and its Raahe plant in Finland to electric arc furnaces and rolling mills by 2030. It also plans to convert its Borlange steel mill in Sweden and the Hameenlinna plant in Finland to operate with the HYBRIT technology based on renewables-based hydrogen production as an alternative to coal and coke. However, SSAB’s CEO, Martin Lindqvist, said the plan to transition to coal-free steel 15 years earlier than previously announced is contingent on resolving “the question of power supply and environmental permits” for the plants but provided no details on the outstanding issues. (Platts, SSAB)

Report finds South Korean finance sector lagging on coal exit: A Solutions for our Climate survey of 100 public and private financial institutions based in South Korea found 97 fell well short of having coal exit policies in line with global standards. The review found 67 of the 70 of the firms that had a coal exit policy only excluded new coal plant projects. The report said a notable example of the companies falling short is Kyobo-AXA Investment Managers, a joint venture with France’s AXA Investment Managers. Instead of adopting AXA’s climate policy, which commits to exit from all companies that earn over 30 per cent of revenue from coal-based activities, Kyobo-AXA has only ruled out supporting new coal power plants. The group also noted that while Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance has ruled out support for coal plant construction, it has not publicly released details of its coal divestments. (Solutions for our Climate)

US utility proposes retiring coal fleet by 2035: The latest integrated resource plan of Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, has proposed closing 3500 MW of coal plant capacity by the end of 2028. The closures would affect 12 coal units at five coal plants. However, the company proposes operating two coal units with a combined capacity of 1904 MW at the Bowen plant in Georgia until 2035. By 2035 the units would have been operating for 60 years. The proposed plan, which suggests adding 2356 MW of new gas capacity and 2300 MW of renewables, will be subject to public hearings and is likely to be finalised in mid-2022. (Power Engineering, Georgia Power)


Global Coal Mine Tracker, Global Energy Monitor, January 2022.

The latest edition of the Global Coal Mine Tracker (GCMT) has been updated. It now includes 3000 mines producing over a million tonnes of coal per year and accounting for about 90 per cent of global coal production. The GCMT also includes proposed coal mines and mine expansions with a designed capacity of 1 million tonnes per year or more.

“Interaction between electrified steel production and the north European electricity system”, Applied Energy, March 2022.

This paper investigates the implications of the potential switch of European steel production from coal-based to fully electrified using electric arc furnaces and hydrogen-fuelled mills.