July 27, 2023
Issue 475  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

A new Canadian study on airborne pollution from open-cut coal mines has revealed dust particles travelled over 30 kilometres. The study raises important questions about the potential health impacts on neighbouring communities from coal dust pollution. A study on the possible early retirement of Indonesia’s fleet of coal plants highlights that with a rapid phaseout and stricter pollution control measures, the government could avoid 182,000 air pollution deaths. Another modelling project has highlighted how it is practical for Indonesia to phase out its coal plants and ensure adequate electricity supply.

The series of recent extreme weather events over the last few weeks should have shaken the views of the most hardened blockers of climate action, but that wasn’t the case at the G20 energy ministers meeting in India. Despite the mounting health and economic case for the early retirement of coal plants, the G20 failed to reach a consensus on support for a rapid acceleration of renewables or phasing out unabated coal power plants. While Japan is a significant fossil fuel importer, it has promoted increased co-firing of coal with with ammonia as an emissions reduction strategy. As Kimiko Hirata from the Japanese NGO Climate Integrate put it, the local utilities “are really big on protecting the status quo and vested interests as long as possible.”

The latest update on Global Energy Monitor’s Global Steel Plant Tracker contains mixed news: proposed electric arc furnace capacity is increasing but not at a rate fast enough to rapidly phase out reliance on coal-based steel production.

Bob Burton


What would it take to phase out coal in Indonesia?

If Indonesia uses Just Energy Transition Partnership funds to close around half of its existing coal-fired power plants early, it would not only save money and cut carbon but could also maintain reliable electricity supplies, writes Seb Kennedy from TransitionZero in Carbon Brief.

Japan says it can make coal cleaner. Critics say its plan is ‘almost impossible.’

Japan says that by blending ammonia with coal in its boilers, it can make coal less damaging to the planet. But the technology faces many hurdles, write Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida in the New York Times.

Massive new Adani coal projects get government green light in India

The Indian government has provided an Adani company with environmental approval to extract 6.5 million tons per annum of coal from the Dhirauli block in central India and truck up to 90 per cent of it to an Adani coal-power plant 30 kilometres away, writes Ayaskant Das in Adani Watch.

A reckoning in North Birmingham as US EPA studies the ‘cumulative impacts’ of pollution and racism

Three Black neighbourhoods in industrial north Birmingham face an uncertain future despite the completion of an initial clean-up of toxic soil from Bluestone Coke’s coal-to-coke conversion plant.  Residents are pondering whether the best path forward is renewal or relocation, writes Vernon Loeb in Inside Climate News.

Top News

Study finds air pollution from Canadian coal mine travelled 30 kilometres: A peer-reviewed study published in the journal Heliyon has found dust emissions from two open-cut Teck Resources metallurgical coal mines in British Columbia travelled over 30 kilometres before dropping to the ground. The study by Wyatt Petryshen from the Canadian NGO Wildsight analysed moss tissue samples collected from 19 locations around the Elkview and Line Creek metallurgical coal mines in the Elk Valley for potentially toxic elements. There is currently no environmental monitoring of heavy metals from airborne dust emissions from the mines. The study identified selenium, uranium, vanadium, germanium, nickel, silver and zirconium as potentially toxic elements of concern. The study found selenium levels at up to six times the level occuring in moss samples from a reference site. Other heavy metals were found at up to three to four times greater than moss samples from the reference site. (Business in Vancouver, Helyion, Wildsight)

UK regulator orders Welsh mine operator to stop work: The Coal Authority, the UK government agency which licences mines, has ordered Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd to immediately cease mining after an inspection found the company was mining outside its licence area of the Ffos-y-Fran mine. The authority said mining outside its licence area breaches the Coal Industry Act. Merthyr Tydfil’s planning permit for the mine expired in September 2022, with a proposed extension until March 2024 rejected by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council earlier this year. The council issued an enforcement notice against the company that was due to take effect by the end of July, but the company appealed the decision, leaving it to continue operations. Residents and Coal Action Network called on the Welsh government and the council to issue a ‘stop order’ to block mining until the appeal is heard. The council said it is aware of the Coal Authority order and “will continue to monitor the situation”. (BBC)

Study estimates 182,000 avoided deaths from Indonesian coal phaseout: A study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and the Institute for Essential Services Reform estimates air pollution from Indonesia’s 45,000 megawatts (MW) of coal capacity was responsible for about 10,500 deaths in 2022. The report estimates the death toll could increase to 16,600 people a year if all planned coal plants are commissioned and, over the life of the plants from 2024, account for 303,000 air-pollution-related deaths. The study estimates that phasing out coal plants by 2040 in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees goal would avoid 182,000 air pollution deaths and health costs of US$130 billion. The authors argue that expanding coal co-firing with biomass would only marginally reduce air emissions. The co-firing of coal with ammonia would worsen air quality due to ammonia emissions. (Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air)

Polish court backtracks on earlier Turow mine decision: Poland’s Supreme Administrative Court has overturned an earlier ruling by the Provincial Administrative Court that suspended the expansion of the Turow lignite mine beyond 2026. The EKO-UNIA Ecological Association, Greenpeace and others argued that PGE’s environmental impact assessment of the mine expansion was seriously flawed. After the initial lower court ruling, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki declared that “no courts, whether from Brussels or Warsaw, will dictate to us what is meant by Poland’s energy security.” In its latest ruling, the court stated, “there is no doubt that energy security is... a constitutional value, because it is one of the guarantees of state independence and security of citizens.” Greenpeace and the Frank Bold Foundation, an environmental law group, said the decision only affects the interim enforceability of the provincial court’s decision. The Provincial Administrative Court will hear the legal challenge against the approval of the mine on August 31. (Reuters, Greenpeace Poland [Polish])

G20 baulks at agreeing to phase out coal generation: The G20 energy ministers meeting in India could not agree on phasing out the use of unabated coal generation and the need to accelerate the deployment of renewables. In 2022, the communique acknowledged the need to phase out unabated coal generation. Nor could ministers agree on the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity to 11 terawatts by 2030. Major fossil fuel producers and consumers – Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia – opposed the goal of tripling renewable energy deployment. The failure of the energy ministers to outline agreed elements in addressing global heating adds to the challenges faced by the United Arab Emirates, which is hosting the COP28 climate negotiations in November. (Guardian, Hindustan Times, Climate Home News)

Villagers block Coal India mines in campaign for better compensation: Since July 2, residents from 14 villages have disrupted the operations of four mines in Odisha run by Mahanadi Coalfields (MCL), a Coal India subsidiary. Residents affected by the mines are calling for increased compensation payments for rehabilitation and resettlement. The protests have blocked two railway sidings, which usually move 45,000 tonnes of coal daily to power stations. The protests have also affected coal production at the Basundhra West, Kulda, Garjanbahal and Sirarmal mines. An anonymous MCL source said the protests had disrupted the shipment of 600,000 tonnes of coal from the mines. (Times of India)

Turkish police tear gas coal mine protestors: Eight people, including a lawyer, have been arrested at a protest against the clearance of part of the Akbelen Forest to expand a lignite mine. Villagers from Ilkizkoylu wanted to prevent the cutting of hundreds of trees in the forest but were sprayed with tear gas and blocked by gendarmerie with riot control vehicles. YK Energy, a joint affiliate of IC Holding and Limak Holding, wants to expand the mine that supplies the nearby 420 MW Yenikoy Thermal Power Plant. The power station and associated mines have long been controversial with the neighbouring communities over air pollution and impacts on community water supplies and farming. (Duvar English, Global Energy Monitor)


Botswana: Jindal Steel and Power has won the contract to build a 600 MW coal plant by 2028, with the cabinet agreeing to increase the size of the project from 300 MW.

India: JSW Steel is reportedly interested in buying up to a 20 per cent stake in Teck Resources’ metallurgical coal business at a cost of up to US$2 billion.

India: A leading Indian think tank, the Centre for Policy Research, has been stripped by the Modi government of its ability to accept international funds. No reason has been given, but staff suspect it may be associated with work with local activists opposed to coal projects.

Russia: Rosprirodnadzor, Russia’s environmental regulator, has approved the proposed 30 million tonnes a year Port Elga coal terminal. The terminal is scheduled to be commissioned in 2025.

South Africa: A boiler room fire has put the 190 MW Unit 2 at Eskom’s Grootvlei coal plant out of action pending repairs.

US: West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection says 4500 tons (4082 tonnes) of coal was washed into the Buckhannon River from a Carter Roag Coal Company site by a storm.

US: Globe Metallurgical has been fined US$2.6 million to settle air quality violations and ordered to use low-sulphur coal in the five electric arc furnaces at its ferroalloy plant in Beverly, Ohio.

US: Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities want approval from the utilities regulator to close four coal units with a combined capacity of 1732 MW.

US: As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin amended an energy bill to direct the Department of Energy to consider financing emissions control retrofits for coal plants.

Vietnam: The Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade has signed a MOU with the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines to import 5 million tonnes of coal annually for the next five years.

Companies + Markets

South African solar surge as Eskom load-shedding continues: Energy analyst Anton Eberhard said Eskom data revealed that rooftop solar installations have surged with 3428 MW installed since March 2022. The data indicates 1043 MW has been installed in the last two months. The rapid deployment of solar will cut daytime demand from the grid, reduce Eskom’s reliance on expensive diesel generation and allow more flexible use of pumped hydro capacity. Eskom load shedding restrictions continue due to recurrent coal plant breakdowns and a long delay in the return to service of a 920MW unit at the Koeberg nuclear plant. (Tech Central, Anton Eberhard [Twitter])

Barclays treads warily with Adani while investigation continues: Barclays Bank, a leading lender and bond arranger for Adani Enterprises, is reportedly reassessing its relationship with the company in the wake of the Hindenburg Research report released in January. Several anonymous sources told Bloomberg that the bank has renegotiated payment on some of its loans and is wary of supporting new deals until the Securities and Exchange Board of India has completed its investigation by August 14. Bloomberg reports that Barclays executives in India are keen to expand the relationship with the Adani group companies, while bank executives in London are wary. The UK charity Christian Aid announced it has decided to end using Barclays as its bank over “their record on fossil fuel finance, and their weak commitment to future improvements in this area”. (Bloomberg, Christian Aid)

India’s coal block privatisation spree struggles to attract finance: A Ministry of Coal official has confirmed that of the 87 coal blocks auctioned off in the last three years as part of its “Unleashing Coal” program, just four are operating. The rest are waiting to finalise finance, with many banks wary of backing new mines as renewables capacity increases and global finance houses retreat from support for coal projects. While the Ministry of Coal is encouraging the banks to back new coal mines, India’s central bank recently cautioned financial institutions against exposure to fossil fuels. Only one Indian bank, the Federal Bank from Kerala, has ruled out support for new coal projects. The annual reports of the State Bank of India indicate its coal funding has dropped from 78 billion rupees (US$950 million) to 50 billion rupees (US$609 million) in the last two years. (Reuters)

Vanguard sued by Australian regulator for greenwashing: The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has launched legal action against Vanguard Investments Australia, alleging misleading conduct over claims promoting one of its ethical funds. ASIC found that the Vanguard Ethically Conscious Global Aggregate Bond Index Fund, which was promoted as excluding investments in companies with significant business activities in fossil fuels, included investments in companies involved in oil and gas exploration and processing. “The screening and research undertaken on behalf of Vanguard was far more limited than that being promised to investors, and we consider this constitutes another example of greenwashing,” said ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court. While the fund had not invested in coal companies, the case has broader implications, with ASIC stepping up investigations into allegations of greenwashing. Vanguard is one of the world’s biggest investment managers, with US$7.7 trillion in assets under management. (Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Securities and Investment Commission)

European buyers struggle to offload surplus thermal coal: European coal traders are struggling to resell the 6.6 million tonnes of coal stockpiled at the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam due to increased Indian domestic production and Chinese importers buying from Russia and Australia. European traders bought higher-than-normal amounts of coal ahead of winter, expecting higher coal generation after the spike in gas costs and reduced supply after Russia invaded Ukraine. However, lower electricity demand, high gas storage levels and increased renewables generation have led European coal traders to attempt to sell stockpiled coal into the Asian market. “The supply coming out of Asia is fresh stock. Even though European coal is largely matching the Asian price, the quality of coal seems to have deteriorated after lying at ports for so long,” said an India-based trader. (S & P Global)

Australian company boosted Russian coal sales despite sanctions risk: Despite being warned in April by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that it could be in breach of Australian sanctions on Russian entities, Tigers Realm Coal increased coal production in the last quarter by 25 per cent to 410,000 tonnes. In its report to investors for the quarter to June 30, the company said it loaded 265,000 tonnes of coal at Beringovsky port, an 80 per cent increase compared to the same quarter in 2022. The company aims to produce 1.1 million tonnes of coal in 2023. However, the company notes that as it primarily focuses on sales to China, there is considerable uncertainty due to significant stockpiles of thermal coal and uncertainty caused by sanctions against Russian companies. Tigers Realm Coal has filed a legal challenge in the Federal Court of Australia against the Australian government’s assessment that the company needed to apply for an exemption from regulations enacting sanctions against businesses operating in Russia. (Mining Weekly, Tigers Realm Coal [Pdf])

Turkey emerges as Europe’s largest coal generator: Turkish coal generation was greater than Poland’s in the first half of 2023 and is now just behind Germany’s. Turkey’s coal capacity has increased by nine per cent since 2018 to 20,490 MW at the end of 2022, while coal capacity in Germany and Poland has declined. While Turkish wind and solar capacity have expanded by about 80 per cent in recent years, increased renewables generation has offset declining use of gas. Coal accounted for 36 per cent of power generation in the first half of 2023. In 2022, 1375 MW of new coal capacity was commissioned, with 145 MW currently under construction. (Reuters)

Green Steel Transition

Shift to electric arc furnaces gains pace, but coal-based steel still dominates: The latest update of Global Energy Monitor’s Global Steel Plant Tracker reveals that the share of proposed electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking using gas or electricity has increased from 33 per cent to 43 per cent in the last year. While the share of proposed coal-based blast furnace-basic oxygen furnace capacity has fallen by 10 per cent to 57 per cent, the shift lags well behind the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Net Zero by 2050 scenario, which envisages 53 per cent of steelmaking capacity using electric arc furnaces and 42 per cent of primary steelmaking using hydrogen-based direct reduced iron or iron ore electrolysis from EAF plants. The update found that 55 per cent of the new steel capacity under development is in China and India, with a further 20 per cent elsewhere in Asia. Proposed coal-based blast furnace projects are almost entirely in Asia, with China and India accounting for 79 per cent of the proposed capacity. The report estimates a potential stranded asset risk of US$554 billion as blast furnaces continue to be built despite countries committing to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. (Global Energy Monitor [Pdf])


Swapping expensive coal contracts for renewable energy can save Goa ₹264 CR annually, Climate Risk Horizons, July 2023. (Pdf)

This 8-page report outlines how the Indian state of Goa could save US$32 million a year by replacing its most expensive coal power contracts with renewable energy.

Capital markets: The hidden pipeline for fossil fuel financing, Sierra Club, July 2023. (Pdf)

This 14-page report outlines the significant role that US banks play in financing the expansion of the fossil fuel industry by underwriting bonds and equities.