September 14, 2023
Issue 482  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The outcome of the G20 leaders’ conference in New Delhi on coal amounted to little more than restating last year’s support for “accelerating efforts towards phasedown of unabated coal power”. More significantly, the leaders endorsed a tripling of renewable capacity by 2030. As the International Energy Agency’s Fatih Birol points out, the forthcoming World Energy Outlook will reveal that on current policy settings alone, coal, gas and oil consumption will peak this decade. While that is encouraging news, it still falls far short of the decline in consumption required to reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees over pre-industrial levels.

While coal use needs to decline rapidly, governments continue to pursue expansion. In Australia, a new report details how the Queensland government alone has 18 coal projects in the pipeline. In southern Africa, Botswana hopes the construction of a long-distance railway will allow a significant expansion of a coalfield, and the Pakistan government has approved a new railway to enable the use of the lignite from the Thar coalfields in some coastal power stations. 

In the steel industry, there are some encouraging signs. Companies pursuing different technologies to eliminate coal in steel production in Sweden and the US had successful equity-raising campaigns. Two major steel producers in the UK are contemplating converting existing steelworks to less polluting electric arc furnaces. In the latter cases, the government is reportedly offering public funding for a significant part of the costs, but this is contingent on using electric arc furnaces.

Finally, since August 2021, Global Energy Monitor has been publishing Inside Gas, a free weekly email digest on the global gas industry. You can sign up for it here.

Bob Burton


Promised rehabilitation eludes residents living near one of India’s earliest coal mines

The residents of Harishpur in Bengal have been profoundly affected by dramatic subsidence since July 2020, which they argue was caused by illegal underground mining operations by a Coal India subsidiary, writes Geetika Mishra in Mongabay.

Experts see red over Indonesia’s planned green investment label for coal plants

Indonesia’s financial regulator, the OJK, is considering encouraging investments in coal plants that power the metal-processing industry, prompting criticism from energy and finance observers, writes Hans Nicholas Jong in Mongabay.

G20 renewables target is no substitute for a clear fossil fuel phase-out

The official communique of the G20 summit endorsed a tripling of renewables capacity, but this can only help us meet our climate goals alongside a clear endgame for fossil fuels, write Bill Hare and Claire Fyson in Climate Analytics.

Top News

IEA head says coal, oil and gas to peak and decline this decade: The Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Dr Fatih Birol, said the agency’s World Energy Outlook to be released next month would reveal that coal, oil and gas consumption are all set to peak this decade. The IEA assessed current policy settings, assuming no new climate policies. In an opinion column in the Financial Times, Birol described the prospect of a peak in all three fuels this decade as a “historic turning point” occurring far earlier than many people anticipated. Birol said coal will peak “in the next few years, with big investments drying up outside China as solar and wind dominate the expansion of electricity systems”. Birol noted that a decline in coal use could soon occur in China due to a slowing economy and increasing renewables and nuclear generation. (Financial Times)

Sasol denied water permit for one of its major mines: Sasol has revealed in its annual report that in June 2022, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) refused to renew a water use licence for the Syferfontein Colliery, which produces about 10 million tonnes of coal annually for the company’s Secunda coal-to-oil plant. The licence allowed Sasol to remove water from its underground mining operations and discharge it into the environment. Sasol has appealed against the decision, but the Water Tribunal has not set a trial date. DWS said Sasol’s water use licence expired in November 2020 and was not renewed because technical reports on proposed dam structures did not meet its requirements to protect water resources. In late July 2023, DWS informed Sasol that it intended to issue a directive requiring Sasol to detail the measures necessary to bring the mining operation into compliance. (Business Day [paywall], Sasol [Pdf], Ridge Times)

Report reveals over 1500 deaths a year from one Indonesian coal plant: A health impact study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) of PLN’s Banten-Suralaya coal plant estimates the adoption of best available pollution control technologies could save up to 1527 lives annually, avoid thousands of visits to emergency health care services and avoid up to US$1.08 billion in economic costs. PLN’s 4025 megawatt (MW) Banten-Suralaya comprises eight units, with the first four commissioned between 1984 and 1989. Before the 43rd ASEAN Summit last week, Indonesia’s Minister for State-Owned Enterprises, Erick Thohir, announced the closure of four units at the plant but did not detail whether this is temporary or permanent. Two 1000 MW units are currently under construction at the site. CREA called for publicly available air quality monitoring data to assist better decision-making in addressing Jakarta’s and other cities’ air pollution crises. (South China Morning Post, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air [Pdf])

G20 makes no progress on coal phase-out, backs big renewables target: The New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration by the G20 group of countries supports a tripling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions “by or around” mid-century. But the G20 countries, which account for about 93 per cent of the world’s coal plants, baulked at setting a firm goal for phasing out coal power. The final declaration reiterated the commitment in the 2022 Bali declaration of “accelerating efforts towards phasedown of unabated coal power, in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards just transitions.” Major fossil fuel producers and exporters like Russia objected to adopting more ambitious commitments to phasing out coal power. (France24, DevilsDiscourse, New Delhi Leaders Declaration [Pdf])

NSW regulator sues power plant owner over fish kill: The New South Wales Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has launched legal action against Delta Electricity, the owner of the 1320 MW Vales Point coal plant, over a September 2022 pollution event that caused a significant fish kill in Lake Macquarie. The EPA alleges Delta Electricity’s failure to properly maintain its chlorine dosing plant resulted in the discharge of concentrated sodium hypochlorite into Wyee Bay. The Hunter Community Environment Centre said hundreds of fish had been killed in the bay. In a separate development, Peabody Energy’s subsidiary Metropolitan Collieries is also being prosecuted for coal sludge polluting Camp Gully Creek on two separate occasions in September and October 2022. The creek is a tributary of the Hacking River that flows into Royal National Park. The company faces five charges, each carrying a maximum penalty of A$1 million (US$640,000). (ABC, NSW Environment Protection Agency, Hunter Community Environment Centre, ABC News)

UNESCO pushes Bangladesh for more detail on Sundarbans: UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) has requested the Bangladesh government submit more detailed information on its management of the Sundarbans World Heritage Area, including the adjoining coal plants. In 2021, the committee expressed concern about the likely impact on the Sundarbans from four coal plants and increased coal transport through the waterways. The committee requested Bangladesh undertake a detailed environmental assessment on the cumulative effect of the coal projects and other developments near the Sundarbans. The Convener of the National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans, Sultana Kamal, said the integrity of the site is under threat from the coal plants, which “do not have state of the air pollution control technologies or waste disposal systems.” (Daily Observer)

Potential Queensland mine emissions could undermine clean energy gains: A report by the Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) and Lock the Gate estimates 18 proposed new coal projects that, if built, would make fugitive greenhouse gas emissions coal mining the equal largest source of emissions in the Queensland economy by 2030. The bulk of the projects are for metallurgical coal. The report estimates the fugitive methane emissions from coal projects by 2030 could be 23.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, up by over 11 million tonnes from current estimates. The report says these estimates, based on official data from the Queensland and Australian governments, are likely to underestimate methane emissions from the proposed projects substantially. The International Energy Agency recently estimated Queensland’s fugitive methane emissions are likely 60 per cent higher than official figures. (Guardian, Lock the Gate)


US: Human Rights Watch expressed dismay at the failure of US President Joe Biden to raise the issue of the imprisonment of clean energy and climate advocates in Vietnam during meetings in Hanoi.

UK: Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning committee has recommended refusing Bryn Bach Coal’s application to extract 110,000 tonnes of coal from an extension of the Glan Lash Mine in Wales.

US: Omnis Fuel Technologies proposes converting the 1200 MW Pleasants power station in West Virginia to produce graphite and hydrogen from coal.

Companies + Markets

Colombian President flags need for Cerrejon transition: During a recent visit by Switzerland’s president, Colombia’s left-wing President Gustavo Petro said he was seeking a “coordinated exit” by Swiss commodities company Glencore from the Cerrejon coal mine in La Guajira province. Cerrejon, Colombia’s largest export coal project, has long been controversial due to the displacement of local villagers and the depletion of water supplies the Indigenous Wayuu people rely on. In July, Petro declared an “economic, social and ecological emergency” in La Guajira province and pointed to the high poverty levels and mortality rate from malnutrition. Glencore bought each of BHP and Anglo American’s one-third shares in January 2022 and has a valid mining licence until 2034. (RFI)

Coal policy a focus is close Polish election campaign: As the October 15 general election nears, the major political parties are sharpening their focus on climate policies. The leading opposition party, Civic Platform, said it wants wind and solar generation to replace coal as the main source of electricity by 2030. The ruling Law and Justice Party government, which has previously said a coal phase-out will not occur until 2049, announced that it will establish a Ministry of Energy Transition if re-elected. Since PiS formed government in 2015, it has opposed European Union measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions. More recently, it shifted loss-making coal utilities into a new state-owned company to facilitate international funding for renewables projects. The power utility PGE recently announced its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 rather than 2050. Following opposition from coal miners, PGE backtracked a week later, with State Assets Minister Jacek Sasin insisting the government’s transition plan does not involve accelerating the transition from coal. (Reuters, Power Technology, Reuters)

Kentucky utility blamed gas for 2022 blackouts but concealed coal’s role: In January, the CEO of Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities, Lonnie Bellar, blamed blackouts on December 23, 2022, that affected 35,000 customers in December on a frozen gas pipeline. The utility shed 317 MW in load to stabilise the system. Bellar’s comments were favourably cited by Republican legislators the following month before they adopted Senate Bill 4, which makes it harder for utilities to retire coal and other fossil fuel power plants. However, at a recent Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing LG&E and KU revealed that 800 MW of coal capacity was offline during the outage. The 370 MW Trimble County Unit 1 was taken offline on December 22 due to a gearbox failure, 269 MW Unit 2 was offline for six hours on December 23 due to a frozen transmitter tripping that affected the coal crushing mill and cold-affected components in a coal unit at the Mill Creek plant resulted in the loss of 121 MW of capacity.  (Kentucky Lantern)

US assessment of coal CCS project criticised by former agency official: A recent US Department of Energy (DOE) environmental assessment of the proposed carbon capture and storage plant for the 455 MW lignite-fired unit 2 at the Milton R. Young Station in North Dakota included “numerous egregious errors”, according to a former department official. Emily Grubert, the former deputy assistant secretary of carbon management at DOE and currently the associate professor of sustainable energy policy at the University of Notre Dame, estimates the plant could cost up to US$5-6 billion in subsidies and increase greenhouse gas emissions by six to eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to the option of closing the plant at the end of its life. Unit 2 at the plant was commissioned in 1977 and is now 46 years old. Grubert says the DOE’s draft analysis suggests the plant would emit more than three tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for each tonne of carbon dioxide stored. (Utility Dive)

Pakistan government approves railway loan to connect Thar coal to plant: The interim Pakistan government has approved the allocation of 56 billion Pakistani rupees (US$188 million) to construct a 105-kilometre-long railway connecting the Thar coal fields to Port Qasim. The railway line would enable the coal power plants at Port Qasim to burn Thar lignite rather than rely on expensive imported coal. Following the recent global price spike for thermal coal, several Pakistani coal plants were mothballed or operated intermittently due to the high costs if imported coal and the lack of foreign exchange reserves due to the country’s financial crisis. The Sindh provincial government, which has promoted the use of the Thar lignite fields, approved the railway in August 2023. (Express Tribune)

Namibian and Botswana test for private interest in Trans-Kalahari railway: Namibia and Botswana have called for expressions of interest in the construction of the 1500-kilometre Trans-Kalahari Railway from Botswana’s Mmamabula coal fields to the Port of Walvis Bay in Namibia. Expressions of interest will close on November 8, with qualified bidders invited to submit proposals after March 2024. The railway was first proposed around 2010 as a government-funded project but abandoned in September 2019 when it was estimated to cost US$9.5 billion. The latest proposal is for a privately funded project with the winning tenderer responsible for undertaking a feasibility study, financing and constructing the railway and operating it for 30 years. The governments of Namibia and Botswana envisage the railway would have an initial capacity of 14 million tonnes a year but increase to 56 million tonnes by the end of the 30-year concession agreement. (Railways Africa, Trans Kalahari Railway - Project Management Office [Pdf])

Green Steel Transition

Swedish company raises €1.5 billion in equity for green steel plant: H2 Green Steel has successfully raised about €1.5 billion (US$1.6 billion) in additional private equity to support the construction of the company’s coal-free steel plant in Boden, Sweden. The company raised €346 (US$371 million) in equity in two previous financing rounds in 2021 and 2022 and €3.5 billion (US$3.75 billion) in loans. The company aims to commission its first large-scale green steel plant in 2025, using fossil-free hydrogen to produce direct reduced iron that feeds an electric arc furnace. H2 Green Steel estimates it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from steel production using its process by 95 per cent and is aiming to produce 5 million tonnes of steel by 2030. H2 Green Steel has signed an agreement with Vale, a major iron ore exporter, for feasibility studies on green hydrogen and hot briquetted iron in Brazil and North America. In a separate development, Boston Metals raised US$262 million to expand the company’s operations in developing its Molten Oxide Electrolysis technology to produce steel from low and medium-grade iron ores. (Financial Times, Vale, Boston Metal)

British Steel pitches for government funding for steelworks upgrades: British Steel is considering the establishment of two electric arc furnaces at its Scunthorpe and Teeside steelworks. Chinese steel producer Jingye bought the bankrupt British Steel in 2020, reportedly paying about £50 million (US$62.5 million) and said at that time it would invest about £1.2 billion (US$1.5 billion) over the next 10 years in upgrading the plants. The UK Department for Business & Trade has reportedly offered £300 million (US$375 million) on condition that British Steel switch to electric arc furnace production and invest £1 billion (US$1.25 billion) in the plants. Tata Steel is reportedly negotiating with the government for £500 million (US$625 million) to convert its Port Talbot steel plant to electric arc furnace technology. (The Times, Business Green)


The Role of Coal in a Sustainable Energy Mix for India: A Wide-Angle View, Talor & Francis, September 2023. (Pdf)

This 386-page book discusses the challenges of India’s transition from coal to renewable energy generation. The book is free to download.