September 7, 2023
Issue 481  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

After weeks of public alarm over Jakarta's air pollution crisis, the national government has shut down four units at one of the coal plants near the city. Whether the closure will continue after the conclusion of the ASEAN Summit this week remains unclear. Since the crisis began, President Joko Widodo and advisers have sought to downplay the contribution of pollution coal plants that surround the city. Widodo faces challenges on other fronts, too. The proposed US$21.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership is facing delays as the government and potential international funders grapple with data revealing the magnitude of likely greenhouse gas emissions from a fleet of new captive coal plants tied to nickel smelters and other industrial plants.

The enduring power of Indonesia’s coal lobby is also evident in other policy debates. Indonesian financial regulators propose that new coal plants be deemed acceptable in the country’s green financial standards. It is a far cry from 2022, when Widodo first unveiled the standards that classed coal plants as “harmful to the environment”. The coal lobby’s influence is also evident in ongoing efforts to have taxpayers subsidise the development of uneconomic projects to convert coal into liquid and gas.

Bob Burton


Pursuing a coal-to-liquids boon despite the costs

Indonesia’s government and international companies have signalled intentions to invest billions of dollars toward turning coal into liquid and gas, at the continued expense of taxpayers and consumers, writes Muhammed Patel in the Jakarta Post.

Indonesia signals it could abandon science-based taxonomy for coal power plants

Indonesian financial regulators are proposing the country’s green financial standards include new coal plants as an activity that contributes to environmental protection and management, write Christina Ng and Putra Adhiguna from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Silent, invisible danger on Indonesia’s Cirebon coast

The Cirebon 1 coal plant in West Java is one of the plants slated to be closed as part of the Just Energy Transition Partnership. But the plant has polluted the farmland and fishing grounds of nearby villages with its emissions contribution to poor air quality in Jakarta, writes Divya Kariza in the Jakarta Post.

Local protectionism is slowing China’s energy transition

Provincial favouritism of local generation firms over more efficient alternatives is resulting in higher costs and carbon emissions, write Xiang Chenxi and Lin Jiang in China Dialogue.

Top News

Indonesian government suspends coal unit operations to cut smog: Indonesia’s Minister for State-Owned Enterprises, Erick Thohir, has told the House of Representatives commission overseeing industrial affairs and government-owned businesses that the government has ordered the closure of four of the seven coal units at the 3400 megawatt (MW) Suralaya power plant. Erick did not detail whether the closure of the units is temporary or permanent but said pollution levels had not changed after the plant’s closure. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, which has published several reports on coal plant pollution affecting Jakarta, noted two years ago that plants to the west of the city are significant contributors to the city’s poor air quality between December and March. Jakarta is hosting the 43rd ASEAN Summit this week. (Jakarta Post)

Indonesian transition plan talks slowed by captive plant emissions: Negotiations over Indonesia’s US$21.5 Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) have yet to resolve several key issues, including a far higher emissions peak due to the boom in captive coal plants to cater for new nickel smelters. When the JTEP was first announced, it was agreed that Indonesia’s power sector emissions would peak at 290 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The latest draft plan proposes increasing that to 395 million tonnes to allow for 13,000 MW of captive coal plants and up to 21,500 MW more that have been proposed or are under construction. Of the US$11.5 billion proposed as coming from grants and concessional loans from the G7 countries and Denmark and Norway, only US$289 million in grants has been provided primarily for preliminary studies. Most of the rest is to come from concessional loans and private sector funding from Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero members at interest rates that are yet to be finalised. (Bloomberg, Mongabay)

European coal generation plummets in the first half of 2023: According to a study by Ember, a climate policy think tank, coal generation in the 27 European Union (EU) countries plummeted by 23 per cent in the first half of 2023. In May, coal generation accounted for just 10 per cent of the EU’s electricity generation, a historic low. The dramatic shift is due to a range of factors, including the impact of high coal prices, a modest increase in solar and wind capacity, a five per cent decline in demand and recovery of hydro generation. Ember found that 14 countries recorded their lowest total coal and gas generation over the first six months of the year, with the Netherlands operating without coal generation for 17 consecutive days in June. (Guardian, Ember)

Australian governments approve two coal mines: The Australian government has approved the expansion of Sojitz Blue’s Gregory Crinum open-cut mine in Queensland, extending the project’s life by about 11 years. The company proposes to produce 40 million tonnes of metallurgical coal through to 2043, which the Australia Institute estimates will produce about 97 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The mine is the fifth coal project approved by the state and federal Labor governments this year. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the approval was in line with the facts of the application and national environmental law. The research director at the Australia Institute, Rod Campbell, said: “Either the law needs changing or the government needs to get more creative in interpreting and using the existing laws”. The Queensland Labor government approved the expansion of BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s Caval Ridge Horse Pit. The Caval Ridge mine currently has a production capacity of 15 million tonnes annually. The mine approval will extend the life from about 2038 to 2056, with coal production steadily declining from 15 million tonnes per annum to less than 1 Mtpa in the last year of operation. (Guardian, SBS, Lock the Gate)

Polish court suspends Turow legal action: Warsaw’s Provincial Administrative Court has suspended proceedings on a legal challenge against the environmental impact assessment of PGE’s Turow lignite mine in Poland. The mine, located near the borders of Germany and the Czech Republic, has caused groundwater depletion and subsidence in Czech villages. The mine supplies the adjoining 1950 MW power Turow station and was approved to continue operating until 2044. The administrative court determined the case should be suspended while the Polish environmental regulator, the General Directorate for Environmental Protection, is considering a PGE challenge over its environmental permit. Environmental groups expressed dismay at the administrative court’s decision but vowed to continue to press for the early closure of the mine and the development of a just transition strategy for the region. (Notes from Poland, Beyond Fossil Fuels)

Indian panel backs new mine but excludes thousands from compensation: An expert appraisal panel advising India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has proposed granting environmental approval for the Essar Group’s proposed 5 million tonnes per annum Bandha coal mine in Madhya Pradesh. While the 1850-hectare mining lease includes 785 hectares of forest, MoEFCC said only two members of Adivasi tribes with rights to just 3.5 hectares are eligible for compensation. Local communities argue that 3500 will be affected by the project, with over 1500 dependent for their livelihood on selling produce collected from the forests. In 2006, India passed the Forest Rights Act, which provides community and individual rights over forested land to scheduled tribes and traditional forest dwellers. The rapid growth in domestic coal mining projects has become a significant driver in deforestation and displacement of forest-dependent tribal groups and communities. (NewsClick)

Vedanta lobbied Modi gov't to exempt mine expansions from review: Documents obtained by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project show that Vedanta Resources lobbied the Modi government in January 2021 to allow mining projects to expand by up to 50 per cent without requiring new environmental clearances. The following year, the Ministry of Environment agreed to the changes without undertaking any public consultation. Environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta described Vedanta’s lobbying success as “a clear case of corporate capture of environmental governance”. Vedanta is a diversified resources company that operates 8250 MW of coal power plants, including the 1980 MW Talwindi coal plant in Punjab. The company recently won competitive tenders for the Jamkhani, Radhikapur (West) and Kuraloi (A) North coal blocks, which have a combined capacity of 16.6 million tonnes annually. The company also has coal supply agreements for a further 15 million tonnes annually for the captive power plants powering its Korba aluminium smelter in Chhattisgarh and the Jharsuguda smelter and Lanjigarh alumina refinery in Odisha. (Reuters, Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Vedanta Resources [Pdf])

Report highlights impacts of new South African coal plant: A report by the Fair Finance Coalition Southern Africa, a coalition of civil society groups including, Oxfam South Africa and Earthlife Africa, has found significant dissatisfaction with Eskom’s 4800 MW Medupi coal plant. Based on interviews with local community members, the Living in Medupi’s Shadow report found some residents expressed concern that jobs were allocated to those with local political connections over those with the required skills. Some residents also noted that women employed at the plant tended to be in lower-paid, less secure jobs such as cleaning and security. Some community members were reluctant to raise the impacts of the plant for fear of threats to their employment or safety. The plant, which was fully commissioned in mid-2021, was funded by the World Bank, African Development Bank and the New Development Bank. Part of the funding was to ensure the plant had flue gas desulphurisation equipment installed by 2025, but it is now not scheduled to be commissioned until 2029. (Daily Maverick, Fair Finance Coalition Southern Africa [Pdf])


Australia: Maules Creek Community Council has launched legal action against the Environment Protection Authority’s decision to renew the environmental licence for Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine. The community council argues the EPA failed to consider all pollution from the mine, including methane emissions.

Australia: Protest against a push by Japanese-backed companies to commercialise the development of a brown coal-to-hydrogen project.

China: Since a deadly mine explosion in late August, safety regulators in Shaanxi province have temporarily closed 14 coal mines. Future prices of Chinese coking coal contracts have increased since the closures.

Iran: Six workers died in an explosion at the underground Tazareh mine.

South Africa: Eskom has increased load shedding to Stage 6, equal to 6000 MW, after breakdowns of coal units at the Lethabo and Matla plants. Eskom said 16,210 MW of generating capacity has broken down, and a further 5894 MW is offline for planned maintenance.

UK: Protestors have occupied the site of West Cumbria Mining’s proposed Whitehaven metallurgical coal mine.

“We expect the availability of insurance capacity for thermal coal assets to continue to shrink over time, and the capacity will likely be extremely limited by circa 2030,”

said Doug Gain, the Chief Financial Officer of Seriti Resources, a prominent South African coal company.

Companies + Markets

South Korean utilities preparing to sue Australian lab over coal tests: Five subsidiaries of state-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) are preparing to launch legal action against the Australian laboratory services company ALS Coal. In April 2020, ALS confirmed that between 45 per cent and 50 per cent of all coal export certificates issued over 13 years were “manually amended without justification”. An anonymous source told the Korea Herald that it was suspected that KEPCO subsidiaries, Komipo, Kospo and Kosep, had imported coal from Terracom. The coal certificates scandal only came to light due to concerns raised by a former Terracom executive. The KEPCO subsidiaries are investigating whether coal imported from Noble Resources International, an Australian coal retailer and Terracom shareholder, was below the certified standard. (Korea Herald)

Questions raised over Adani claims on arms-length share trading: Documents obtained by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed Nasser Ali Shaban Ahli and Chang Chung-Ling, who have close ties to the Adani family, traded hundreds of millions of dollars of Adani Group stock. Ahli and Change had roles as directors and shareholders in affiliated companies associated with Vinod Adani. It is a requirement of public Indian companies that at least 25 per cent of stock be held as a “free float” available for trading independent of company promoters. The central question is whether the documents demonstrate to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) that Chang and Ahli were Adani Group promoters. SEBI investigators recently indicated transactions by entities based in tax havens had stymied their investigations into the Hindenburg Research allegations of “brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud”. The documents also indicate that SEBI had been informed in early 2014 of suspicious trading by the Adani Group, but after Modi’s election in May of that year, the regulator’s investigation appears to have stalled. (Financial Times, Guardian, Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project)

Coal companies forced to self-insure: Executives from five coal companies told Reuters that the coal mining sector is increasingly moving to self-insure and self-finance as access to insurance coverage and finance becomes increasingly hard to access and more expensive due to policies restricting support for the coal sector. Insurance for thermal coal companies increased by more than 20 per cent in 2022 compared to a 7.3 per cent increase in the Marsh Global Insurance Market Index benchmark. An industry insider told Reuters that insurance costs for Whitehaven Coal, Australia’s largest pure-play coal company, reportedly doubled over the last two years. Whitehaven Coal did not comment. Companies self-insure by setting aside sufficient capital to cover risks, which can be supplemented by insurance, if available, for higher cost but lower probability risks. While 45 insurance companies have policy restrictions on support for coal companies, Peter Bosshard from the NGO Insure Our Future said most of the reinsurance market remains open to coal companies’ current operations but not for new projects. (Reuters)

India extends coal import requirement: India’s Ministry of Power has directed all power utilities to import four per cent of their coal requirements until March 2024 to offset reduced hydro generation, low winds and high power demand during hot conditions. In January, the ministry directed power utilities to import six per cent of coal requirements until September. In correspondence with the ministry, Grid India projects increased power demand through to the end of March. Increased demand and low wind and hydro generation have increased the nighttime coal generation requirement after solar generation tapers off. Indian utilities primarily rely for thermal coal on cargoes imported from South Africa, Indonesia and Russia. (Reuters, Argus)

Fitch says Mongolian coal producer set to grow but faces challenges: Fitch Ratings has cautioned that Mongolian Mining Corporation, the largest Mongolian exporter of high-quality coking coal, could face financial challenges if it doesn’t succeed in its bid to raise new finance. MMC has a debt of about US$350 million due to be paid in April 2024. Fitch estimates that the company should be able to cover and build a cash reserve for ongoing operations from sales in the year’s second half. In 2022, MMC produced about 3 million tonnes of washed coking coal and 1.2 million tonnes of thermal coal from its Ukhaa Khudag and Baruun Naran open cut mines in South Gobi province. Fitch estimates MMC is likely to produce about 5.5 million tonnes of washed coking coal in 2023, but reliance on truck transport, which costs about US$13 per tonne, limits its market primarily to northern China. (Fitch Ratings)

Malaysia’s energy plan backs end for coal by 2050 but pursues CCS: Malaysia’s National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) rules out the development of further coal plants and backs phasing out of current coal generation by 2050. According to Global Energy Monitor’s Global Coal Plant Tracker, Malaysia has eight coal plants with a combined capacity of 13,280 MW. The roadmap indicates Malaysia expects renewables to account for 70 per cent of generating capacity by 2050, with the bulk of that from solar capacity. In its 2022 annual report, State-owned utility Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) said a feasibility study into co-firing with hydrogen and ammonia was underway for three coal plants: the 2200 MW Kapar Energy Ventures, 4080 MW Janamanjung and 2000 MW Jimah East projects. In late June, TNB announced a partnership with Japanese company Toshiba to investigate carbon capture and storage, with the first project to be at the 2000 MW Jimah East Power coal plant near Kuala Lumpur. Toshiba has been a significant steam turbine supplier to TNB and other fossil-fuel power plants in Malaysia. (Argus Media)

BNEF says Japanese utilities lack credible plans to cut emissions: BloombergNEF (BNEF) argues that none of the utilities have credible plans to cut emissions by 2030 or achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Fossil fuel generation accounts for 70 per cent of Japan’s electricity, with the power sector the largest source of national emissions. BNEF argues that Japan needs to set phase-out targets for unabated coal generation and dramatically accelerate the deployment of renewables and battery storage. BNEF suggests renewables could account for 79 per cent of electricity by 2050, with wind accounting for 54 per cent and solar 24 per cent shares, respectively. BNEF states it did not include ammonia co-firing in either of the two scenarios it developed “because of its lack of economic feasibility”. More controversially, BNEF proposes using carbon capture and storage for those thermal power plants remaining in operation and restarting existing nuclear plants that were mothballed after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. According to the Global Coal Plant Tracker, Japan has 54,629 MW of operating coal plants, 650 MW under construction and a further 500 MW proposed. (Bloomberg New Energy Finance [Pdf])

Green Steel Transition

US environmental regulator proposes tightening coke battery emissions: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed amendments to tighten allowable air pollution standards for coke oven batteries and increased monitoring. Coke ovens process metallurgical coal to create coke for use in steel plants and other industrial processes. The EPA is proposing tighter limits for leaks from the coke ovens and a new requirement to monitor cancer-causing benzene emissions at the boundary line of the plants. The EPA proposes that if benzene emissions exceed allowable levels, operators must identify the source and submit plans to bring the plant back into compliance. The EPA’s proposal is in response to a 2019 legal action by three environmental groups that led to a federal court order requiring the agency to complete its review of coke oven regulations by May 2024. The proposed standards are open for public comment until October 2. (ProPublica, US Environmental Protection Agency, Earthjustice)

Tata Steel backs hydrogen co-firing but few details on small-scale trial: Tata Steel’s Managing Director and CEO, T V Narendran, said the company’s trial injection of hydrogen into a blast furnace at its Jamshedpur steel plant in Jharkhand was successful. In April, Tata Steel announced it would conduct a four to five-day trial of injecting hydrogen through 40 per cent of injection systems at the plant. The company estimated this could reduce metallurgical coal use by about 10 per cent and cut greenhouse gas emissions by between seven and 10 per cent. In the wake of the trial, Narendran said the company would aim to scale the project up and would eventually require a source of green hydrogen in eastern India. However, he provided no specifics on the envisaged scale of the project or the trial results. Tata Steel is the world’s tenth-largest steel producer, with primary steel plants in India, the UK and the Netherlands. In a separate development, the prominent Indian chemicals company ACME Group proposes establishing a US$3.27 billion green hydrogen and ammonia project at Tata Steel’s Gopalpur Industrial Park in Odisha. (Economic Times, Reuters)