September 28, 2023
Issue 484  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The latest International Energy Agency (IEA) update has reiterated that there is no need for new coal mines or extensions of existing projects in its rapid transition scenario. It also called for an immediate end of approvals for new coal plants. But a top-down message from the IEA will go only so far in driving change at a local and national level. The Vietnamese government has adopted a twin-track approach to dealing with international pressure to shift away from coal: negotiate hard with governments and potential funders of its US$20 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership and suppress domestic voices advocating for a transition away from coal. Last week, a Vietnamese energy transition analyst who consulted with the UN and other international agencies was arrested.

As the transition away from coal gathers pace, companies that previously backed coal projects as sure-fire winners now regret past decisions. Baowu, a major Chinese steel producer, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a take-or-pay rail and port contract for a coal mine that still hasn’t been built. In South Korea, the new CEO of KEPCO has warned that the utility faces a financial crisis due to its high debt levels. Pressure is building on the coal-based steel industry too. A steel industry analyst estimates global steel prices will decline from 2024 as electric arc furnace production increases and the switch to coal-free steel gathers momentum.

Bob Burton


China is going to use less coal, despite reports to the contrary

If hydropower pulls its weight and renewables maintain their blistering growth, it’s likely China’s coal consumption will peak in 2023, plateau in 2024, and begin its long decline after that, writes David Fishman in The China Project.

Is the Securities and Exchange Board of India incompetent, unwilling or helpless?

To an ordinary investor, India’s market regulator appears to be either incompetent or, worse still, unwilling to determine if the Adani Group has violated securities law and committed market manipulation, writes Menaka Doshi in Bloomberg.

Ex-Goldman bankers make a fortune with controversial bet on coal

Two former Goldman Sachs traders have built Javelin Global Commodities into the largest coal-exporting business in America, write Alastair Marsh, Archie Hunter, and Todd Gillespie in Bloomberg.

Top News

Vietnam arrests another clean energy advocate: Ngo Thi To Nhien, the Executive Director of the Hanoi-based Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition (VIET), was arrested by police on September 15. Police also raided the office of VIET and interrogated the organisation’s staff. Nhien, an energy policy researcher, was working on the implementation plan for Vietnam’s Just Energy Transition Partnership at the time of her arrest. Nhien is the sixth person working on environmental issues detained in the last two years. Ben Swanton from The 88 Project, an NGO that supports Vietnamese civil society advocates, said Nhien’s detention “signals that research on energy policy is now off limits”. Nhien’s arrest came five days after US President Joe Biden held talks with the Vietnamese government in Hanoi. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern about Nhien’s arrest. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) confirmed that Nhien had participated in consultations on Vietnam’s energy transition. (UCSNews, Reuters)

Bloomberg foundation tips US$500m more into Beyond Carbon campaign: The founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Michael Bloomberg, announced a further US$500 million grant to expand the Beyond Carbon campaign in the US to shut down the remaining 128 coal plants without announced closure dates by 2030. In 2011, Bloomberg contributed US$50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, with a further US$500 million allocated in 2019 to expand the campaign to exit all fossil fuels in the power sector and switch to clean energy. Since 2011, 372 coal plants representing 70 per cent of US coal capacity have either been closed or announced dates for closure. Thirty per cent of planned gas capacity has also been cancelled. The coal closures and gas cancellations since 2010 account for 80 per cent of US greenhouse gas emissions reductions and are estimated to have saved 49,900 lives. (Bloomberg Philanthropies)

Adani narrows damages case against Australian climate activist: Bravus Mining, Adani’s Australian mining subsidiary, has dropped a conspiracy claim from its lawsuit against Ben Pennings, a Queensland environmental advocate campaigning against the Carmichael coal mine and associated infrastructure. In August 2020, Adani Mining launched a legal action against Pennings, then the national spokesperson of the group Galilee Blockade, seeking A$600 million (US$387 million) in damages and alleging he had conspired to access internal company information. The company unsuccessfully attempted to gain a court order to raid Pennings’ home and seize electronic devices and documents. However, the company’s lawyers hired a private investigator who, as part of “one of our Adani jobs”, followed Pennings and photographed him walking his daughter to school. Adani Mining subsequently changed its name to Bravus Mining. The company’s legal action is now solely focussed on its claim that Pennings ‘dob in a contractor’ website amounted to unlawfully encouraging employees to breach their contract with Adani and is seeking $17 million in damages. (Guardian)

Study calls for closure of Dominican Republic coal plant: A report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has called for the closure of the 752 MW Punta Catalina power station in the Dominican Republic. The US$3.5 billion plant has been dogged by controversy over bribes paid by the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht for construction contracts. Since the plant was commissioned in 2020, FIDH reports that there have been repeated violations of air pollution standards due to faults at the plant, poor performance and coal ash disposal. A 2022 study of the plant found emissions of fine particle pollution, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides at seven, nine and two times higher than permissible levels in the European Union (EU). The Punta Catalina plant emits about 122 kilograms of mercury annually, while the EU does not permit mercury emissions. FIDH argues that pollution from the plant “creates an unsafe and adverse environment for children to survive, grow properly and develop to their full potential”. (International Federation for Human Rights [Pdf])

Coal units Indonesian plant switched back on after ASEAN meeting: Three days after the conclusion of the ASEAN talks in Jakarta, the state-owned power utility PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) resumed full operation of the 3400 MW Suralaya coal plant. Ahead of the September 3-7 ASEAN meeting, PLN shut down four coal units to reduce air pollution in Jakarta, reducing the plant’s generating capacity to 1600 MW. A recent Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) study of the plant estimated that adopting the best available pollution control technologies could save up to 1527 lives annually. (Agence France-Press)

Indonesia’s captive coal plants highlights climate policy loophole: A report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and Global Energy Monitor reveals that in the decade to 2023, operating captive coal plants in Indonesia surged from 1400 MW to 10,800 MW. A further 14,400 MW of captive coal plants are under construction or proposed. The government’s industrial development plan allows captive coal plants that support the downstream processing of natural resources such as minerals. Finalising Indonesia’s US$20 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) has been delayed to address the impact of the growth of captive coal plants on the greenhouse gas emissions target. The report calls for the JETP to ensure commitments to ambitious targets and the decarbonisation of the captive power sector. The Center of Economic and Law Studies, an Indonesian think tank, said the delay in finalising the JETP created the opportunity to consult with local governments and communities affected by the early retirement of coal plants. (Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, Mongabay)

Renewed push for Canadian mine despite earlier rejection: Northback Holdings, a company owned by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, has applied for coal exploration and associated permits over Grassy Mountain in Alberta. In June 2021, a joint state and federal panel rejected the proposed mine as “not in the public interest” and that it would have “significant adverse effects” on three First Nations groups’ physical and cultural heritage. The 680-page assessment report rejected as “overly optimistic” the company’s claims it would be able to capture 98 per cent of selenium emissions from its waste rock dumps. Appeals by Benga Mining, as the company was known at the time, were rejected by the Alberta Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. In August 2021, the Canadian Minister for Environment rejected the project because of likely damage to First Nations heritage and water pollution impacts on fish, especially from selenium emissions. Northback’s latest application has alarmed several members of a panel appointed by the provincial government to review the decision to open the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains to mining. The panel recommended a moratorium on mining applications until land use planning for the area is complete or the Alberta Energy Regulator is directed by the provincial energy or environment ministers to authorise an application. Neither of these conditions has been meet. (CBC, The Tyee, Regina Leader-Post)


Australia: Union raises concerns about the safety of aging 1480 MW Yallourn coal plant after a 2.5-tonne steel unit landed on a walkway in July. The plant is scheduled to close in 2028.

Australia: Solar and wind set a new record in the eastern states grid, briefly reaching 70.6 per cent of electricity generation.

Australia: Coal exports from Newcastle from January to August fell from 63.8 million tonnes in 2022 to 60.5 million tonnes this year. Exports for the 2022 calendar year fell to a decade-low.

China: Sixteen miners died in a fire at the Guizhou Panjiang Clean Coal Company’s Shanjiaoshu underground coal mine in Guizhou province. An initial investigation suggested a coal conveyor belt caught fire.

China: Sixteen miners died in a fire at the Guizhou Panjiang Clean Coal Company’s Shanjiaoshu underground coal mine in Guizhou province. An initial investigation suggested a coal conveyor belt caught fire.

France: Grid regulator RTE says two coal plants may be needed as standby capacity this winter.

US: Thermal coal exports from the US between January and August were 22.5 million tonnes, up from 18.3 million over the same period in 2022.

Companies + Markets

International Energy Agency restates need to end coal plant approvals: The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2023 update to its Net Zero Emissions by 2050 report identifies the early retirement or repurposing of coal plants as critical to cutting fossil fuel demand and creating room for the expansion of clean energy. The report also identifies the need to cut methane emissions, improve energy efficiency and deploy available electrification technologies to displace fossil fuels by 2030. The IEA stated the tripling of renewables and doubling of the rate of energy efficiency gains would enable “an immediate end to new approvals of unabated coal plants.” In the IEA’s 2050 Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario, coal demand falls from around 5800 million tonnes of coal equivalent (Mtce) in 2022 to 3250 Mtce by 2030. The IEA says no “new coal mines, mine extensions or new unabated coal plants” are required. The IEA acknowledges that carbon capture and storage’s history “has largely been one of underperformance” but renews its call for further support for the technology in decarbonising heavy industry. (Financial Times, International Energy Agency)

New CEO says Korean utility faces “unprecedented financial crisis”: In a speech at his inauguration, Kim Dong-cheol, the new CEO of Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), said the utility is facing an “unprecedented financial crisis” due to reaching its debt ceiling. KEPCO, which generates 70 per cent of South Korea’s electricity, relies heavily on imported coal and gas. With a debt of 201 trillion won ($151 billion), KEPCO and regulators face growing pressure to raise electricity prices. Kim flagged that KEPCO needed to diversify into renewables, including offshore wind generation. (Financial Post)

Report finds South Korea’s new energy plan falls short of climate goals: An analysis by the University of Maryland and Solutions for Our Climate estimates South Korea would require an 80 per cent decrease in coal generation by 2030 to align with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The report estimates that coal would account for only one per cent of generation by 2035 in a rapid transition scenario. South Korea currently has 30 coal plants with a combined capacity of 40,200 MW and two more units with a combined capacity of 2100 MW under construction. The government’s recent energy plan projects that coal generation could account for 19.7 per cent of electricity in 2030 and decline marginally to 14.4 per cent in 2036. The government’s plan aims for renewables to generate just 21.6 per cent of electricity by 2030, down from the 30.2 per cent target of the previous government. The report estimates a Paris Agreement-aligned target would be for more than 100,000 MW of renewables capacity by 2030, which would require the installation of 10-12,000 MW a year. (Solutions for Our Climate [Pdf], University of Maryland [Pdf])

US utility blames proposed power price hike on coal mine closures: The CEO of Rocky Mountain Power (RMP), Gary Hoovegeen, has told a Wyoming parliamentary committee that the primary driver of its request for a 30 per cent increase in electricity prices is rising coal costs. Hoovegeen blamed the increasing cost of coal on the US Environmental Protection Agency regulation of coal mines. Hoovegeen said the cost of coal generation has increased by almost 40 per cent, with the cost of coal “up almost 1000 per cent”. “Coal prices ... I don’t think they’re coming back down.” At a Wyoming Public Service Commission hearing on the rate rise, Republicans blamed increased investment in wind generation for the proposed rate rise. Hoovegeen defended new wind and solar as the cheapest generation at about half the cost of gas-based electricity. Rocky Mountain Power is a PacifiCorp subsidiary. (Wyoming Tribune Eagle)

Indian minister flags new coal plants: The Minister of Power and New and Renewable Energy,  R K Singh, has flagged that India could add a further 25-30,000 MW of coal capacity beyond 50,000 MW already under construction and proposed if the development of renewables-based hydrogen production is unsuccessful. Singh told a Confederation of Indian Industry conference that he will soon announce a pilot project for a 100 MW green hydrogen project, which he refers to as ‘round the clock’ power using green hydrogen as storage. The Global Coal Plant Tracker estimates India currently has 31,600 MW under construction, and a further 36,000 MW that have been announced are in the pre-permit phase or have been approved. A copy of Singh’s speech is unavailable on the ministry’s or government’s websites. (Financial Express, Economic Times)

Turkiye imports coal from mines in Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine: Coal export data reveals that 95 per cent of coal produced from mines in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk that Russia has annexed is exported to Turkiye. Data viewed by Reuters indicates that 10 or more mining companies have produced about 160,400 tonnes of coal between February and July 2023, worth more than US$14.3 million. Unlike the US and the European Union, Turkiye has not imposed sanctions after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The buyers of coal from Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine are registered in countries including Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, but the data showed no Turkish companies were listed. Turkiye and Russia did not respond to requests for comment by Reuters. The US State Department declined to comment on the specifics of the coal trade but said, “We abhor any attempts by Russia to profit from the theft of Ukraine’s natural resources”. (Reuters)

Dispute over future of Western Australia’s coal mine intensifies: Bluewaters Power, owned by Sumitomo and Kansai, has launched action in the Federal Court of Australia against Deloitte, the receiver of the stricken Griffin Coal, alleging three partners in the firm pressed the liquidators to terminate the long-term coal supply contract for the 440 MW Bluewaters Power station. The coal plant supplies about 15 per cent of Western Australia’s electricity. Fearing the unplanned closure of the plant, the state government has paid over A$30 million (US$19.2 million) between May and August to keep the mine operating. Griffin Coal is estimated to lose A$50 million (US$31.2 million) annually on the mine and wants the contract renegotiated. The legal action against Deloitte is the latest twist in the saga that has unfolded after Griffin Coal went into receivership in 2022, owing about A$1.5 billion (US$959 million) to creditors, with the Indian bank ICICI owed about A$1.1 billion (US$703 million) and another A$300 million (US$192 million) to Sindhu Trade Links. The state government is also subsidising the operation of Yancoal’s Premier mine, which supplies state-owned Synergy’s Muja and Collie power stations. (ABC News, ABC News)

Chinese steel maker pays A$300 million to exit coal rail and port contract: Baowu, China’s largest steel producer, has reportedly spent about A$300 million (US$193 million) to annul a take or pay contract for rail and port services with the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) in Queensland. In 2014, Baowu headed an A$1.42 billion (US$912 million) takeover of Aquila Resources, which holds a 50 per cent stake in the proposed  Eagle Down metallurgical coal mine. Aquila entered a take-or-pay contract in 2011, assuming it would develop the Eagle Downs mine, but the project stalled. Since 2015, Aquila has paid A$257.5 million (US$1611 million) for unused capacity and faced a further A$375.9 million (US$242 million) liability on the remainder of the contract. South 32, which holds the other half of the Eagle Downs project, is also looking to sell its stake. The Queensland government has approved the mine, with the project estimated to produce 182 million tonnes of metallurgical coal over a 47-year life span. (Australian Financial Review [Paywall])

Green Steel Transition

Analyst tips steel price to dip as electric arc furnace production grows: BMI, a division of the financial services firm Fitch Solutions, estimates that beyond 2024, global steel prices are likely to decline “and highlight the start of a paradigm shift in the steel market where ‘green’ steel produced at electric arc furnaces takes centre stage at the expense of traditional steel produced at the blast furnace.” The increasing availability of scrap metal in China, the world’s largest steel producer, will likely see the share of electric arc furnace production there grow significantly from the current level of about 10 per cent. (Australian Financial Review [paywall], BMI)