July 18, 2023
Issue 474  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

As the economic viability of existing coal plants continues to sour, utilities and governments are grappling with how to exit and minimise losses. In the US, the major private utility DTE Energy has agreed to settle a legal challenge and close the huge 3200 megawatt (MW) Monroe coal plant in Michigan by 2032. In Poland, the government is offering to buy coal plants and mines from state-owned utilities and shift them to a new state-owned company holding fossil fuel projects. The switch in ownership may open the door to private financing for the coal-free utilities, but it leaves taxpayers with the liabilities of the coal projects.

In Indonesia, the government wants the G20 to designate private financing for the retirement of coal plants deemed as sustainable funding. The risk is that banks with policies restricting coal financing could fund projects that run for up to 35 years from 2022. Indonesia’s push comes as new Global Energy Monitor data reveals that outside of China, financing of coal projects has collapsed back to 2010 levels.

In discussions about the transition from coal to clean energy is commonly assumed that the path countries take is decided purely on economic or technical merits. The case of the coal industry investments of US Senator Joe Manchin is a good illustration of the counterpoint: that good governance standards are the bedrock for good policy. Manchin insists he has complied with Senate ethics and financial disclosure rules. If one takes that at face value, the ethics rules need to change.

Bob Burton


Coal-project financing outside of China hits 12-year low

The funding of coal power outside of China has now hit its lowest point since 2010, according to the latest figures in the Global Coal Project Finance Tracker, write Alex Hurley and Ryan Driskell Tate from Global Energy Monitor in Carbon Brief.

How China’s renewables boom is fueling its coal expansion

The progress of China’s energy transition could be so much faster if its best-in-class supply chain and planning system wasn’t being held back by market structures built for a bygone era, writes David Fickling in Bloomberg.

A pastor’s fight to keep coal out of Oakland

Reverend Ken Chambers from West Side Missionary is trying to keep coal shipments from moving through Oakland, writes Joshua Sirotiak for KALW, a San Francisco radio station.

Tracing mining’s threat to US waters

Toxic metals have been flowing from Teck Resources mines in British Columbia into Indigenous waters in Montana for decades. What will be done about it? asks [paywall] Jim Robbins in the New York Times.


US utility agrees to accelerate the retirement of Michigan coal plant

DTE Energy has reached an agreement with the Sierra Club and other NGOs to retire two coal units at the 3280 MW Monroe plant in Michigan by 2028 and the remaining two units by 2032. The agreement aims to settle litigation over the utility’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan, but the  Michigan Public Service Commission has yet to approve the settlement. As recently as last year, DTE planned on operating the plant, the country’s third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, until 2040. As part of the agreement, DTE will invest in new clean energy projects and energy efficiency measures to replace the Monroe plant capacity rather than the gas plant previously proposed in the resource plan. DTE also agreed to file its next Integrated Resource Plan two years early in 2026 and evaluate retiring the last two Monroe units by 2030 instead of 2032. (DTE Energy, Sierra Club)

Top News

UK insurer to end coverage for Adani’s Australian mine: In response to protests by Money Rebellion, Probitas 1492, a Lloyd’s of London underwriter, announced it would not provide any further coverage for Adani’s Carmichael thermal coal mine or associated infrastructure once the current policies expire later this year. The announcement by Probitas 1492 was welcomed by Money Rebellion but said it revealed the insurance company was providing coverage for the mine, the railway, and the associated port in Queensland. In January 2022, Lloyds released a policy requesting insurance syndicates operating in its market not to take on new thermal coal coverage. However, Coal Action Network (CAN) said Lloyds has failed to ensure compliance with its policy. CAN said others in the Lloyds network, including Barbican, Hamilton, Markel, Renaissance Re, SA Meacock and Starr, have not yet commented on any role with Adani’s Carmichael coal project. (Insurance Business Australia, WAtoday, Coal Action Network)

South African regulator rejects Sasol bid for ongoing pollution exemption: South Africa’s national air quality officer has rejected an application by Sasol, the South African government-owned coal-to-oil producer, for an exemption from sulphur dioxide emission limits at its Secunda plant. In her July 11 decision, Patience Gwaze outlined the application was refused because Sasol hadn’t demonstrated its commitment to cutting sulphur dioxide emissions, already benefitted from a 10-year delay on the introduction of standards adopted in 2015 and was breaching limits for nitrogen oxides and fine particle emissions. Sasol, which operates 17 coal boilers at the Secunda plant, has until April 1, 2025, to comply with sulphur dioxide emission limits. (Moneyweb)

Australian coal mine fined for taking water from Sydney water catchment: Illawarra Coal Holdings, a subsidiary of South32, has agreed to pay A$2.9 million (US$2 million) for taking five million litres of water a day between 2018 and 2023 without a water permit at its Dendrobium metallurgical coal mine. The mine was approved 20 years ago and has repeatedly breached licence conditions with the underground mine resulting in water being drained from important environmental areas in Sydney’s water catchment. The previous government agreed to allow mining companies to apply for a licence to cover water losses, a practice Georgina Woods from Lock the Gate said would “make legal what had been the illegal take of water by Dendrobium mine”. Greens MP Cate Faehrmann called on the government to reject Illawarra Coal’s application for a surface water licence. (ABC News, Cate Faehrmann, Natural Resources Access Regulator)

Former Indian MP and Secretary of Coal convicted over coal allocation: Vijay Darda, a former MP from the Congress party in India’s upper house and former Secretary of Coal HC Gupta are among seven people convicted over the irregularities in the allocation of the Fatehpur (East) coal block in Chhattisgarh to JLD Yavatmal Energy Private. The Central Bureau of Investigation alleged the company had concealed that its subsidiaries had been allocated four coal blocks between 1999 and 2005. The others convicted of criminal conspiracy and cheating are the son of the former MP, two senior civil servants, JLD Yavatmal Energy and its director, Manoj Kumar Jayaswal. The sentencing hearing will be held on July 18. (Scroll)

US Senator raked in US$476,000 in 2022 from coal company stake: West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who is the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, earned US$476,000 in 2022 from Enersystems, a coal company he founded and is run by his son. Manchin’s personal financial disclosure for 2022 indicated he owns a stake in Enersystems valued at between US$1 million and US$5 million. The company buys low-grade waste coal for resale to coal power plants. A spokesperson said Manchin complied with Senate ethics and financial disclosure rules. However, Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette from Project on Government Oversight described Manchin’s financial interest as a “very clear and unambiguous conflict of interest” that he should resolve by selling his stake in the company. Manchin has been a key Senator blocking the Democrats from taking a strong position on global heating. (Ohio Capitol Journal)

Oakland coal terminal dispute heads to court: Alameda County Superior Court has begun hearing a legal challenge brought by port developer Phil Tagami and his company Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal against Oakland City Council over plans for a new port. In April 2015, it was revealed that Tagami’s business partner, Insight Terminal Solutions, had agreed with Bowie Resource Partners (now Wolverine Fuels) to export up to 10 million tonnes a year of Utah coal to the Asian market. Residents and environmental groups pushed the council to adopt a ban on fossil fuel exports through Oakland, a move the developer successfully challenged in court. In November 2018, the council terminated the company’s lease over its failure to meet construction milestones on the proposed port. Tagami’s case centres on claims that the council sought to derail the project for political reasons. (The Mercury News, No Coal in Oakland)

South African court approves mine expansion: The Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) and other NGOs have expressed disappointment at the decision of a KwaZulu-Natal High Court judge dismissing a challenge against the expansion of  Tendele Mining’s Somkhele coal mine in rural KwaZulu-Natal. The NGOs had argued that the mining activity could not proceed until it rectified shortcomings in the Environmental Impact Assessment process identified in a Gauteng high court ruling last year. Judge Piet Koen found that the earlier court decision did not set aside the company’s mining right and dismissed the NGOs application. Kirsten Youens, a lawyer representing the groups, said her clients were considering appealing against the decision. The expansion of the mine has been the source of significant community opposition. In October 2020, MCEJO member Fikile Ntshangase was assassinated in her home. No one has been charged with her murder. (News24)


Australia: Czech-owned Sev.en Global Investments has pushed the retirement date of the 1320 MW Vales Point plant back from 2029 to 2033.

India: The Ministry of Coal has announced [Pdf] a target of 100 million tonnes of coal and lignite for gasification by 2030 for products like methanol, ethanol, di-methyl ether, syngas and ammonia.

India: Meghalaya High Court has ordered a fresh investigation into the 2015 death of a police officer the day after he blocked the release of up to 32 trucks seized for violating the National Green Tribunal ban on the transportation of coal.

UK: Four arrested for blocking access to the Ffos-y-Fran mine in Wales that continues operating despite lacking planning permission.

Zimbabwe: London-based Contango Holdings has entered into an offtake agreement for 20,000 tonnes of washed metallurgical coal per month from the Lubu Coal project from export via the port of Maputo in Mozambique.

Companies + Markets

Chinese coal companies seek a curb on coal imports: Reuters reports that at a late June meeting of coal producers, 30 major mining companies called for a reduction in coal imports as record levels of domestic coal prices have slumped. Producers complained that spot coal prices in some areas have dropped below long-term contract prices, with utilities defaulting on purchases. The price for benchmark 5500 kilocalories per kilogram of thermal coal at northern Chinese ports has fallen by 30 per cent this year to about US$117 per tonne. However, the central government remains wary of cutting imports due to heatwaves driving increased electricity demand and the criticism of the central government after widespread blackouts in 2021. An analyst from the China Coal Transportation and Distribution Association estimates China could import about 400 million tonnes of coal this year, up 22 per cent from the previous peak in 2013. (Reuters)

Poland offers state-owned utilities options to offload coal plants: Poland’s Treasury has made financial offers to PGE, Enea, Tauron, and Energa to transfer their coal mines and coal power plants into a new state-owned company, NABE. PGE has been offered 849 million zloty (US$214.23 million) for its mining and power division and Energa 153 million zloty (US$38.6 million) for the 647 MW Ostroleka plant. The Treasury has offered Enea 2.48 billion zloty (US$625 million) for Enea’s Wytwarzanie subsidiary, which operates the 2905 MW Kozienice plant, and 632 million zloty (US$159 million) for its 1575 MW Polaniec plant. The government wants to assume responsibility for the coal plants to allow the existing utilities to attract private finance for renewable projects. (Reuters, Bloomberg)

Indonesian pitch for coal finance to be classed as ‘sustainable’: Indonesia’s Minister for Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, wants the G20 finance ministers meeting to agree that financing for the early retirement of coal plants counts as sustainable finance. Indonesia plans to finalise its Just Energy Transition Partnership plan by August. In late March, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Taxonomy Board (ATB) classed coal plants under the Asian Development Bank’s Energy Transition Mechanism and the Just Energy Transition Partnership in its “green” category for sustainability-linked financing. The “green” category now includes coal plants built before December 2022 that will not operate for over 35 years from commissioning. However, banks with policies ruling out coal financing are not persuaded that financing early retirement would be consistent with their policy. The Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis has previously flagged concerns that the proposed taxonomy contained significant loopholes, that the scientific-based rationale for early retirement was lacking, and that any coal investments would be unacceptable to ESG-focused investors. (Reuters)

EPH becomes latest German utility to offload coal plant: The European power utility EPH has announced that by 2025 it will transfer its 50 per cent stake in LEAG, which operates the 960 MW Schkopau lignite plant and the 37 MW Wahlitz combined heat and power plant, into a new sister company, EP Energy Transition. EPH’s wholly-owned subsidiary, JTSD, which owns the MIBRAG lignite mining company, will also be transferred into the new entity. While EPH claimed it will “completely abandon coal as a power generation source by 2030”, EP Energy Transition will have the same shareholder structure as EPH. The new company will also hold new gas plants, battery projects and renewables. EPH is owned by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. Two other German utilities, RWE and STEAG, have moved to separate coal plants from renewables focussed companies. Christoph Dollhausen from STEAG’s renewables entity Iqony said the new company gets “more visibility, bank financing and makes it much easier to place our services with customers.”  (Bloomberg, EPH)

Glencore under pressure to drop coal with or without Teck’s mines: Some Glencore shareholders want the company to spin off its coal projects whether or not it is successful in its bid to take over the coal division of Canadian mining company Teck Resources. The combination of Glencore’s existing thermal coal mines in Colombia, South Africa and Australia with Teck Resources’ four metallurgical coal mines in British Columbia would create a company producing 131 million tonnes of coal annually, making it the second-largest coal producer outside China. Glencore’s CEO Gary Nagle defended continued thermal coal production as necessary for “baseload energy” and claimed alternatives to metallurgical coal are not yet available. Bluebell Capital, a Glencore and Teck Resources shareholder, recently wrote to the board calling for Nagle to be replaced and opposing the plan to increase coal assets. “Glencore has demonstrated no intention to accelerate the transformation into a world-class pure player in green economy transition metals, but rather the intention is to become the undisputable leader in coal (thermal and steel),” Bluebell wrote. (Financial Times)

Adani mulls buying Ambani coal plants: Gautam Adani’s Adani Enterprises is reportedly considering bidding for a 600 MW coal plant in the Butibori Industrial Area in Nagpur, Maharashtra, that is currently owned by Vidarbha Industries Power, a subsidiary of Reliance Power. The resolution of the debts on the plant is currently before India’s bankruptcy court. According to a report in February by the Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency, the plant hasn’t operated since January 15, 2019, due to a lack of fuel and regulatory orders. Reliance Power offered to settle debts with lenders in late May and is reportedly interested in regaining control of the plant. Anil D Ambani, the bankrupt younger brother of billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani, owns Reliance Power. India’s recently released power plan supports commissioning many currently distressed coal plants before the bankruptcy court. (Reuters, Business Today)

Adani commissions controversial Godda plant: Adani Power has commissioned the second unit of the 1600 MW Godda coal plant in Jharkhand with Gautam Adani meeting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to hand over control of the plant formally. The project, which is reliant on imported Indonesian and Australian coal, was promoted by the Indian government to support the electricity needs of Bangladesh. The plant’s construction significantly impacted the local community and has been criticised by energy economists as far more expensive than renewables-based power projects.  (The Hindu)

Australian banks reject Whitehaven Coal’s billion-dollar refinance pitch: In its latest quarterly report to shareholders, Whitehaven Coal revealed that it has failed to refinance a A$1 billion (US$680 million) bank loan. Whitehaven Coal’s CEO, Paul Flynn, told a conference call for analysts that “thermal coal has been less appealing from the bank’s perspective in terms of how they want to decarbonise their lending portfolios.” The withdrawal of the banks will force the company to keep more cash in reserves. Market Forces, an NGO campaigning against banks supporting fossil fuel projects, welcomed the decision. “None of Australia’s big four banks are funding the country’s biggest pure-play coal miner. Even Japan’s megabanks, some of the largest financiers of fossil fuels globally, have now ditched Whitehaven,” said Will van de Pol, Market Forces acting CEO. (Sydney Morning Herald, Whitehaven Coal [Pdf])


“Gautam Adani: the billionaire vs the short seller”, Financial Times, July 10, 2023. (The transcript is here.)

This 22-minute video provides a concise overview of the core issues raised by Hindenburg Research’s report on Adani Enterprises, including the company’s close ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and questions about the effectiveness and independence of the financial regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India.