December 8, 2022
Issue 446  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

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Climate damage from Bitcoin mining grew more than 125 times worse in just five years

Researchers recently revealed that emissions from mining a single Bitcoin multiplied by 126 times between 2016 and 2021, with the cryptocurrency causing an estimated US$12 billion in global climate damage, writes Sean Cummings in Mongabay.

High fossil fuel prices mean the UK cannot delay the transition to low-emissions steel

If the free allocation of emissions allowances granted to UK steel producers were gradually phased out, steelmaking with green hydrogen would be cheaper than all other options, write Clare Richardson-Barlow, Andrew Pimm and Pepa Ambrosio-Albala from the University of Leeds in The Conversation.

Top News

Dutch court rejects compensation bid by utilities over 2030 coal ban: A Dutch court has rejected legal action by RWE and Uniper against the Netherlands Government’s 2018 decision to ban coal power generation by 2030. RWE and Uniper were seeking €1.4 billion (US$1.48 billion) and €1 billion (US$1.06 billion), respectively, claiming that the government’s policy amounted to the expropriation of the plants without compensation. RWE has two of the country’s four coal plants and Uniper one, each opening a new plant in 2015 and 2016. The court held that the government’s policy was made considering the country’s international climate obligations and with a period in which the companies could benefit from their investments. The court also stated that it “was foreseeable to the owners that such a ban would be imposed if the plants’ emissions were not very significantly reduced before 2020.” The decision has been welcomed by Bart-Jaap Verbeek from the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, who said the companies “must now pay for their investment decisions themselves. That benefits a fair energy transition.” RWE has a separate action against the Netherlands before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, where it has argued the 2030 ban is in breach of the Energy Charter Treaty. (Reuters, Somo)

Indonesian police rocked by claims of payments from illegal coal miners: Indonesia’s Minister for Politics, Law and Security, Mohammad Mahfud Mahmodin, said the government would cooperate with the anti-corruption agency, KPK, to uncover police involvement in illegal businesses including mining. Indonesia’s police has been rocked by charges against three police officials, with one initially alleging he paid US$385,000 in 2021 to a senior officer so his illegal coal mining business in East Kalimantan could continue to operate. The senior officer has denied the claim. The Mining Advocacy Network, an Indonesian affiliate of Friends of the Earth, estimates there are as many as 160 illegal coal mining operations in East Kalimantan, up from an estimated three in 2018. (Tempo, Asian Sentinel)

Pakistani industrialist sent to prison over coal allocation scandal: A judge with Pakistan’s Accountability Court has sentenced Seth Goharullah, the President of the Fateh Group and the former President of Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry to serve seven years in prison and pay a fine of over 500 million rupees (US$2.24 million) over beaching the terms of a coal mine allocation agreement. The Fateh Group was granted a mining lease in the Jamshoro district on condition that the company establish a coal washery within two years and build a 200 megawatt (MW) coal plant within five years. However, the company proceeded to sell coal on the market for over a decade but did not build the washery or the coal plant. Five other company officials were convicted and sentenced to prison for four to five years. (Express Tribune)

Protests over coal funds in Mongolian capital: Hundreds of Mongolian protesters attempted to storm Government House in Ulaanbaatar after allegations of the misappropriation of US$12.8 billion from hundreds of thousands of tonnes of coal produced by the state-owned mining company Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi (ETT). The protests, which continued over three days and involved hundreds of people, come as analysts doubt that the forecasts of coal export volumes and prices will be sufficient to avoid the need to refinance sovereign debt payments due in 2023. At a December 5 media conference, Cabinet ministers addressed the allegations, with the Minister of Economic Development, Khurelbaatar Chimed, stating “powerful people” had been involved in the theft of coal and that 10 criminal cases are underway investigating contracts, transportation and railways. He also said that as a result of the allegations, ETT management has been subjected to additional scrutiny. (bneIntellinews, bneIntellinews, The Diplomat)

Adani executives investigated over deadly 2021 coal plant explosion: Three senior officials at Adani Power’s 4620 MW Mundra power plant in Gujarat will be the subject of a police investigation after a victim of the April 20, 2021 explosion at the plant complained to police. Police are investigating the three for causing death by negligence after Satyendra Yadav, who was injured at the plant, alleged the three were in charge of the plant but failed to prevent the accident that killed eight workers and injured 13 others. A spokesperson for Adani was not available for comment. The investigation comes as thousands of workers protest against the company at its Godda coal plant in Jharkhand after the death of two workers employed by subcontractors. In a separate development, Ravish Kumar, one of India’s most prominent TV news anchors, resigned from NDTV, one of India’s last mainstream independent television news channels, after Adani Enterprises moved to take over the parent company. (Indian Express, Adani Watch)

UK MP speaks out against approving Cumbria coal mine: Ahead of a decision by the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, on the proposed Whitehaven coal mine in Cumbria, backbench Conservative MP and former UK President of COP26 in Glasgow, Alok Sharma, has warned against approving the project. “A decision to open a new coal mine would send completely the wrong message and be an own goal,” he said. Gove is expected to approve the mine, with the decision due by December 8. The government delayed the decision three times due to a planning inquiry in September 2021 ahead of the Glasgow conference and ministerial changes. The proposed underground metallurgical coal mine is opposed by residents, environmental groups and the UK Government’s own climate advisory body. (Guardian, Friends of the Earth UK)

The rise of a Texas-based lobby group with close ties to Peabody Energy: The Texas Public Policy Foundation, one of the most influential lobby groups defending fossil fuels and campaigning against renewable energy, has close ties to Peabody Energy, one of the largest US coal mining companies. Peabody Energy has been a funder of the group, which unsuccessfully campaigned to keep the Navajo Generating Station operating. The foundation has also launched the pro-fossil fuels Life: Powered project, featuring Mike Nasi, a lawyer with Jackson Walker LLP, as a senior adviser. Nasi has worked for coal mining companies and power utilities and boasts in a biographical note on his profile page that he won an award in 2015 for his work in the “creation of several hundreds of millions of financial incentives for carbon capture and utilization.” (New York Times, Jackson Walker LLP)

“Energy security concerns caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have motivated countries to increasingly turn to renewables such as solar and wind to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels, whose prices have spiked dramatically,”

states the International Energy Agency.


Japan: Climate advocate Kimiko Hirata, who pioneered the campaign against coal plants in Japan, has been named in the BBC’s list of the world’s 100 most influential women.

Pakistan: A methane explosion at an underground coal mine in the Orakzai district near the border with Afghanistan killed nine miners and injured four more.

Poland: The European Commission has granted €3.85 billion (US$4 billion) for just transition programs across five coal regions.

South Korea: Korean Re rules out providing reinsurance for new coal power or mining projects from the start of 2023, but its policy lags behind its peers, says NGO.

US: The derailment of 17 coal wagons in Norfolk Southern coal train near Gilbert, West Virginia, blocked US highway 52.

US: The operator of the 2650 MW James M. Gavin Power Plant in Ohio says it will comply with US EPA coal ash standards, but Earthjustice says current violations must be resolved.

US: Department of Labor investigation into the deaths of two Savage Services Corporation workers at a Colorado coal loading plant found the company had not followed federal safety standards and had not trained the employees on safety processes.

US: BHP, Arch Resources, Peabody Energy, and Rio Tinto are among the 90 companies included in a class action filed by Puerto Rico municipalities against fossil fuel companies over losses from the 2017 hurricanes.

Companies + Markets

IEA tips renewables to pass coal power by 2025: The International Energy Agency’s Renewables 2022 report estimates renewables are estimated to grow by 2400 gigawatts (GW) over the 2022–2027 period, a growth rate 30 per cent higher than the agency forecast a year ago. The IEA estimates wind and solar will account for over 90 per cent of new renewables capacity over the next five years, underpinned by policies in China, the US and India. The agency estimates renewables will supply more electricity than coal plants by 2025. The report also outlines a scenario in which renewables grow at 25 per cent faster than its estimate, but this requires regulatory and permitting reforms and increased use of clean energy in the heating and transport sectors. (International Energy Agency)

ABB fined US$315 million over South African coal plant contracts: The global engineering company ABB has agreed to pay a US$315 million fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) over an investigation into breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act associated with contracts with Eskom for work on the 4800 MW Kusile coal plant. Two of ABB’s subsidiaries pleaded guilty to paying bribes to a “high-ranking employee” at Eskom to win contracts at inflated prices on the coal plant construction and hired subcontractors with “poor qualifications and lack of experience” associated with the official. The DOJ also stated ABB “received improper advantages in its efforts to obtain work with Eskom, including, among other benefits, confidential and internal Eskom information.” (News24, US Department of Justice, ABB)

Sri Lanka faces doubling of power tariffs to fund coal imports: Sri Lanka’s Minister for Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekara, said the Ceylon Electricity Board has estimated that in 2023 the proposed cost of electricity will need to be 56.90 rupees per kilowatt-hour (kWh) (US$0.15 per kWh), a 95 per cent increase on the average tariff of 29.14 rupees per kWh (US$0.08 per kWh). Trade unions oppose the proposed increase. The tariff was increased by 75 per cent in August to cover the costs of imported coal for the 900 MW Norochcholai coal plant and diesel for power generation. (Devdiscourse)

Germany considers subsidies to cut steel sector emissions: Germany’s Minister for the Economy, Robert Habeck, is proposing a government program to enter into 15-year subsidy agreements with energy-intensive companies such as the steel sector on the proviso they reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed scheme, subject to discussions with other government agencies, would be a reverse auction with ‘carbon contracts for difference’ offered to those bidding for the largest emissions reduction at the least cost. The proposal aims to accelerate the adoption of new technologies, such as the use of hydrogen in steel production. The European Union is scheduled to release details on its standards for the classification of green hydrogen on December 15. Johan van Jaarsveld from BHP, the world’s largest metallurgical coal exporter, has downplayed the prospects for hydrogen-based steel production in the Asia-Pacific region as “something that is going to happen in material quantities in this part of the world for another few decades. The reason is just costs.” He argues the carbon price would need to be US$100 per tonne and hydrogen at US$1 per kilogram. (Reuters, South China Morning Post)

Joint venture partner writes off investment in scrapped Kenyan coal plant: Centum Investments, one of the joint venture partners in the proposed US$1.2 billion 1050 MW Lamu coal plant in Kenya, has finally written off its US$16.39 million in the project. The project was initially proposed in 2013 but encountered strong opposition due to the social and environmental impact on local farmers, residents and the World Heritage-listed Old Lamu Town. At various times the African Development Bank, General Electric, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China had all signalled support for the project. After a June 2019 court ruling overturning the environmental permit for the plant, they progressively withdrew from the project. While the proposed project has effectively collapsed, over 600 farmers were displaced from the project’s proposed site and have still not been compensated for losing the land. The Kwasasi Farmers Association has called for the land to be returned to local ownership. (The East African, Global Energy Monitor)

Indonesian levy on coal exports to start in early 2023: The Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources intends to introduce a levy on coal production in the first quarter of 2023 to compensate companies for the difference between the export price and coal supplied to the domestic market. Based on the calorific content of coal, the levy will be paid into a special fund. Since 2010 Indonesia has had a domestic market obligation (DMO) requiring exporters to supply 25 per cent of production to the state-owned power utility PLN with the maximum domestic sale price set at US$70 per tonne. With export thermal coal currently trading at US$390 per tonne, many exporters have been reluctant to comply with the DMO. In January, a crackdown on non-compliant exporters stunned the market. Subsequently, the government agreed to impose a levy on all coal produced and compensate producers’ for the gap between the export price and the DMO cap. (Reuters)

Report says less risk for Balkans countries with renewables transition: A report by CEE Bankwatch Network notes that high power prices, drought-affected hydro capacity, coal plant breakdowns and rising biomass prices have hit the energy sector of Western Balkans countries this year. Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina have benefitted from increased power exports from the illegal operation of coal plants in breach of the Energy Community Treaty’s pollution standards. However, continued exports to European Union countries are at risk if a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) or alternative is implemented in 2026. CEE Bankwatch Network argues Western Balkans nations would stand to raise €2.8 billion (US$2.94 billion) if they adopted a carbon price of €50 (US$52) per tonne. They note the proceeds of an internal carbon price will be available to fund a just transition to renewables, whereas CBAM payments would go to the European Union’s budget. (CEE Bankwatch Network)


Decarbonisation in the global steel sector: tracking the progress”, New Climate Institute, December 2022. (Pdf) (Executive Summary here.)

This 71-page report tracks the progress of decarbonisation in the steel sector and finds the current trajectory may result in greenhouse gas emission reduction of between just 7–10 per cent by 2030 and 30–39 per cent by 2050. This is well short of the goal of decarbonising the sector by 2050.

Liability for Public Deception: Linking Fossil Fuel Disinformation to Climate Damages”, Columbia Law School Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, December 2, 2022. (Pdf) (Abstract here.)

With increasing US lawsuits filed against fossil fuel companies, this article examines how plaintiffs can establish a causal nexus between public deception and damages. The paper draws on US litigation against manufacturers for misleading the public about the risks of tobacco, lead paint, and opioids.