June 11, 2020
Issue 326  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The Polish Government has shut down 12 coal mines for three weeks after the number of coronavirus cases kept on soaring in the workforce. In India, the Maharashtra state government has indefinitely deferred the proposed 1320 megawatt (MW) expansion of the Koradi coal plant. The restrictions due to COVID-19 have also resulted in a Deutsche Bank-led consortium suspending the takeover of a stressed coal plant in the Indian state of Orissa. Meanwhile, a legal action has forced a Coal India subsidiary to suspend mining operations in a forest reserve. Fitch Ratings has downgraded Russia’s largest thermal coal producer, SUEK, in part due to the fall in power demand during COVID-19 restrictions.

While the power sector continues to be reshaped due to COVID-19, projects in some of the last countries still pursuing new coal projects still have momentum. In Turkey, a project proposed by a Chinese-backed consortium would expose over 100,000 people to high pollution levels, according to a new study. In South Korea, a government economic advisory body has reversed its earlier concerns about a KEPCO project in Indonesia, potentially clearing the way for the project to proceed. In Vietnam, the leading NGO on energy policy issues has called for the reassessment of a proposed new coal plant.

Bob Burton


BlackRock is slowly showing its hand on coal

BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, is gradually becoming more assertive on its new climate policy with coal companies among those to feel the pressure, writes Nic O’Malley in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mounting pressure on families holding out against coal mine expansion

Landowners opposing the expansion of the Somkhele coal mine near Africa’s oldest proclaimed nature reserve are being harassed, write Fred Kockott and Matthew Hattingh in Groundup.

The Philippines considers a power sector future without new coal

The Philippines’ Congress Committee on Climate Change support for a House of Representative resolution calling for a climate emergency response, including not allowing new coal plants, provides an opportunity to refocus the country’s energy policy, writes Sara Jane Ahmed from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Top News

Poland shuts 12 mines for three weeks to control COVID-19 outbreak: Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Jacek Sasin, has announced 12 coal mines will be closed for three weeks as COVID-19 cases in the coal mining workforce now account for one-fifth of the country’s total caseload of almost 27,000 cases. Ten of the mines closed are owned by PGG and two are operated by state-owned JSW. JSW has reported 2,771 COVID-19 cases at its mines. The shutdowns come at a critical time for the Polish coal sector, with the government looking to announce the permanent closure of some mines in the next few weeks in a bid to rationalise the loss-making industry. (Reuters)

Coal India subsidiary suspends mining in forest reserves: North Eastern Coalfields, a subsidiary of the government-owned coal mining company Coal India, has suspended mining operations in the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam after public uproar at plans to destroy parts of the forest and important elephant habitat. On June 4, the Gauhati High Court heard public interest law applications requesting all coal mining operations in the reserve be suspended. The court has directed the national and state governments to submit documents to the court on the case. (The Hindu)

Indian state defers new coal plant: Maharashtra state government has indefinitely deferred the proposed 1320 MW expansion of the Koradi power plant. The decision has been welcomed by environmentalists as the expansion would have increased pollution affecting the nearby city of Nagpur which is already affected by emissions from the 2400 MW Koradi and the 840 MW Khaparkheda plants. India also currently has excess generation capacity with coal plants forced to run at low utilisation rates as they are increasingly uncompetitive with renewables. (Economic Times, Global Energy Monitor)

Study estimates pollution from proposed Turkish coal plant: A study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air estimates that the proposed 1320 MW EMBA Hunutlu coal plant in Turkey would, when combined with emissions from other plants, result in over 100,000 people being exposed to high levels of air pollution. The project is being promoted by a consortium led by the Chinese company Shanghai Electric Power, two Turkish investors and an engineering company. The study estimates the project, which was first proposed in 2012, would cause an estimated 2000 premature deaths over its operating life as well as depositing mercury across the Iskenderun Bay area affecting croplands and fisheries. (Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, Global Energy Monitor)

Vietnamese coal plant at odds with government resolution says NGO: Nguy Thi Khanh, the director of Vietnam’s leading environment organization, GreenID, argues the construction of a proposed 650 MW An Khanh Bac Giang coal plant would be at odds with the Communist Party’s Politburo resolution in February urging a reliance on clean power. GreenID has called on Bac Giang province authorities to re-evaluate the project as pollution from the project would affect surrounding agricultural production such as lychee farms. The plant, which was first proposed in 2016, has struggled to obtain financing. In February the consortium proposing the project sought government approval for a ten-year power purchase agreement based on the premise it would operate at 90 per cent of its capacity. (Giao duc thoi dai [Vietnamese], Global Energy Monitor)

High Court to hear appeal on Australian coal mine expansion: The High Court of Australia has granted farmers and residents represented by the Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) leave to appeal against a Queensland Court of Appeal ruling in favour of the New Hope Corporation. New Hope is seeking approval for the expansion of the New Acland mine. OCAA argued that the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the Queensland Land Court decision had been affected by apprehended bias meant that the whole case should be reheard. The appeal is likely to be heard late this year. (ABC News, Environment Defenders Office)

Mine for ‘green steel’ plant under investigation for pollution: A subsidiary of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance has applied for a 13-year extension of the operation of Tahmoor Colliery’s underground metallurgical coal mine. However, the mine is facing an Environment Protection Agency investigation after Ian Wright from Western Sydney University collected water samples in April revealing particulate levels two-thirds higher than permitted. An assessment by the Subsidence Advisory NSW estimates mine subsidence caused by the expansion of the mine would affect 1333 homes in addition to the 720 already affected. (Sydney Morning Herald)


Australia: Insurance Australia Group, Australia’s largest insurer, has ruled out providing public liability insurance for farms that have coal seam gas infrastructure on them.

Greece: PPC offers lignite mine and power plant workers over 55 years old a €35,000 (US$39,670) early retirement bonus as it seeks to phase out coal.

Japan: TEPCO, Japan’s largest power utility, plans to spend US$18 billion in the next decade to increase its renewables capacity to 7000 MW through offshore wind and hydro generation.

Laos: Residents alarmed by Singapore company’s proposed 1000 MW Sekong lignite plant.

Montenegro: A consortium headed by China's Dongfang Electric Corporation has been appointed to upgrade the Pljevlja coal plant.

New Zealand: Hundreds of submissions opposing Bathurst Resources’ proposed expansion of its Canterbury Coal Mine have been lodged with Environment Canterbury.

UK: The power grid of Great Britain has run for two months without any coal generation.

US: Federal court judge rejects bid by companies owned by the West Virginia Governor to dismiss a lawsuit by NGOs alleging selenium emissions breach the Clean Water Act.

Companies + Markets

Fitch Ratings downgrades Russia’s largest thermal coal company: Fitch Ratings has downgraded SUEK, the largest thermal coal producer in Russia, due to its high debt levels at a time of declining power demand and low prices in the global seaborne market. SUEK produced 106 million tonnes of thermal coal in 2019 with half exported to the Asian and Atlantic markets. In 2019 SUEK bought the energy and power generation companies Siberian Generation Company and Enel’s 3800 MW Reftinskaya GRES coal plant. It now has 16,000 MW in power generation capacity. Fitch Ratings estimates the price for thermal coal in the Asian seaborne market will increase from the US$50–55 per tonne range in May to US$70–72 per tonne between 2021 and 2023. (Fitch Ratings)

US state board votes to divest from thermal coal mining companies: The Minnesota State Board of Investment (SBI), which manages a US$65.2 billion fund for public employees, has voted to divest by the end of 2020 from all publicly traded companies that earn over 25 per cent of their revenue from thermal coal. SBI’s Chief Investment Officer, Mansco Perry III, said the divestment was “consistent with our fiduciary duty.” (Pensions and Investments)

Deutsche Bank hits pause on debt deal for Indian power project: A Deutsche Bank-led consortium has suspended a transaction in which it offered to buy the 76 billion rupees (US$1 billion) debt of the Jindal India Thermal Power’s 1200 MW power plant in Orissa for 24 billion rupees (US$318 million). The Deutsche Bank consortium was the only bidder for the debt on the project which lacks a dedicated coal supply and has been hit by the dramatic downturn in power demand due to COVID-19 restrictions. In May, JSW Energy suspended its acquisition of GMR Kamalanga Energy’s 1050 MW coal plant in Odisha due to the downturn in power demand. (Livemint)

Call for vote against South African directors with fossil fuel ties: A coalition of 14 NGOs has called on shareholders in Standard Bank, the largest bank in Africa, to vote against the reappointment of five of the 18 directors arguing they are conflicted due to their ties to the fossil fuel industry. The five are directors of companies including coal-to-liquids company Sasol, and thermal coal mining companies Ichor Coal, Umcebo Mining, Izimbiwa Coal and South32. JustShare argues that as directors are required under the Companies Act to recuse themselves from discussion of matters on which they may be conflicted, this would create a “governance void” on strategic issues such as the bank’s approach to climate issues. (Daily Maverick, JustShare)

NGOs resist Indonesian coal companies’ push for royalty exemption: Civil society groups are opposing a proposal by the Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI) for coal royalties to be cut and/or levied on the basis of the sale price rather than the monthly benchmark coal price. APBI has also called for payments to the government to be deferred by up to six months. Publish What You Pay Indonesia has warned the industry’s proposed change would risk increasing transfer pricing and make it harder for the government to estimate government income. A senior official with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry also criticised the proposal as imposing a further financial burden on the government at a time that it was increasing spending to boost the economy and fund COVID-19 relief programs. (Jakarta Post, S & P Global)

KEPCO inches forward with plan for Indonesian coal plant: The Korea Development Institute (KDI) has approved Korea Electric Power’s involvement in the proposed 2000 MW expansion of the Suralaya coal plant in Indonesia. (The expansion plan is also often referred to as Jawa-9 and Jawa-10 plant, each of which has 1000 MW capacity.) Under Korean law, public agencies seeking to invest over 50 billion won (US$41.7 million) must assess the viability of the project. Last year KDI found the project did not warrant investment but has now reversed its position. KEPCO is a sponsor of the project while Doosan Heavy Industries, which was recently bailed out by the South Korean Government, has been appointed as the engineering and construction contractor. KEPCO’s board is due to make a final decision on the project at its June 26 meeting. (FNN [Korean])

German company plans to scale up electrolysers for ‘green steel’: A technical report produced for the Ministry of Energy argues the capacity to produce ‘green hydrogen’ in Germany will be limited to 2030 by the lack of domestic renewables capacity. The study by Prognos argues the greatest use of hydrogen will be in transport sector with hydrogen-based steel production not emerging until after 2030. However, ThyssenKrupp, an industrial equipment manufacturer and steel producer headquartered in Germany, is talking up its plans to dramatically increase production capacity of electrolysers to “gigawatt-scale”. Electrolysers are used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. If the electrolysers are powered by renewables the hydrogen is classed as green. However, Christoph Noeres from ThyssenKrupp’s Energy Storage and Hydrogen division argues changes to the tax system are required and there is a need for “crediting the CO2-reducing effect of green hydrogen in the target markets.” (ThyssenKrupp, S & P Global)


“Major banks announce new policies to help push utilities away from coal”, Energy and Policy, May 25, 2020.

This article reviews the recent coal exclusion policies of major financial institutions, the loopholes they contain and how they apply to the major US power utilities.