December 21, 2023
Issue 495  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

As the debate of the wording over fossil fuels in the final COP28 rapidly fades, the transition away from coal generation continues to gather pace. In the US, the Energy Information Administration estimates solar and wind generation will dramatically eclipse coal power in 2024. In Europe, a review of draft plans by the European Commission notes that further emissions cuts are required to meet the legislated 55 per cent reduction target for 2030. In Australia, the latest energy regulators assessment has brought forward the expected end date for the coal fleet by five years to 2038 and flagged even earlier closure dates could occur. The Energy Community has warned Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia that their combined fleet of 20 coal plants are breaching emission limits and immediate action is required.

The International Energy Agency’s annual coal report, which always has a rosier view of the future of coal than other parts of the agency, is tipping that the peak of coal production is near. A good illustration at how the acceleration of the energy transition can throw up wild cards is the surprise announcement by the Japanese government of major tax breaks for projects consistent with reorienting the country’s economic focus towards greener technologies. Two of the identified sectors are green steel and electric vehicles. While Japan has a long way to go, the announcement is a belated acknowledgement that its status as a laggard on emission reductions and electric vehicles profoundly misread where global markets are heading.

Thank you for your reading CoalWire in 2023. I will take a short break with the next edition out on January 11.

Bob Burton


North Macedonia is burning up its past to the detriment of all

North Macedonia’s historical heritage is being destroyed to get at the lignite that’s proving so harmful to people’s health, writes Katerina Topalova in Balkan Insight.

Top News

Energy Community rules plants in three countries break emissions limits: The Ministerial Council meeting of the European Energy Community has found that coal plants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia are all in breach of air pollution limits. The Energy Community seeks to extend the energy market rules used in the European Union to nine other member countries in South East Europe and the Black Sea region. The ministerial council found that North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo had failed to achieve significant emission reductions at the 20 large power plants they collectively host. The three countries were directed to take immediate steps to comply with emissions limits and warned that if they are not in compliance by July 1, 2024 then proceedings will be initiated under the dispute settlement provisions of the Energy Community Treaty. (Energy Community)

US study detects coal dust pollution across suburb near coal terminal: A joint study between Maryland regulators, universities and local community has detected coal dust in all eight community sampling locations in three rounds of testing in Curtis Bay, near CSX Transportation’s coal export terminal. The samples were collected up to ¾ of a mile (1.2 kilometres) from the fenceline of the terminal. The collaborative study, which included community groups, two universities and the Maryland Department of Environment, detected coal dust at higher levels than at the sites used to ensure regulatory compliance. The report notes that coal dust accumulated on blank adhesive tape samples at multiple locations after just 40 seconds of exposure to the air. While the average duration of high-intensity coal dust pollution events was over six minutes, the longest event was 137 minutes. Greg Sawtell from the South Baltimore Community Land Trust said the report rebuts claims of public officials and CSX that coal dust wasn’t a significant issue in the community. Maryland regulators will release a draft decision on a new operating permit for CSX’s terminal in February. (Baltimore Banner, Community of Curtis Bay Association et al. (pdf), Maryland Department of the Environment)

US judge proposes modest damages for Oakland coal port developer: Alameda County Superior Court Judge Noel Wise has proposed that Phil Tagami, the developer of the proposed Oakland coal export terminal, has the option of either retaining the lease over the port site until June 2026 or relinquish the lease and receive US$317,683 in damages from Oakland Council. Wise had previously ruled Oakland had breached its lease with Tagami’s company, Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) and held a hearing in November on possible remedies. Tagami sought damages of US$19.1 million and reinstatement of the lease, or no lease and US$159.6 million in compensation for lost profits. In her decision, Wise stated that OBOT’s claim for lost profits “is speculative and not reasonably certain”. Tagami has until January 5 to inform the court of his company’s preferred option. No Coal In Oakland argues that Tagami would be better off accepting damages and abandoning the port plan as the company faces community opposition and may struggle to attract finance for the project. (The Oaklandside, No Coal in Oakland)

European Commission says plans fall short of required emission cuts: The European Commission’s assessment of 21 draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) estimates that the European Union (EU) will achieve a 51 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, four per cent lower than the legally binding target of 55 per cent. Bulgaria, Latvia and Poland were among the six countries that didn’t submit their draft plans for review by the December 14 deadline. Hungary has made its 2025 coal exit deadline conditional on the commissioning of new gas power capacity, in the absence of which they will close by 2029. Bulgaria is considering withdrawing its 2038 coal exit deadline while Poland, which has just sworn in a new pro-renewables government, has yet to revise the 2049 coal end date nominated by the previous government. The Bankwatch Network notes that none of the EU countries have submitted plans to accelerate their announced coal exit dates. The commission’s assessment found that the EU could fall four per cent short of the 2030 renewable energy target of 42.5 per cent and is on track to achieve about half of the 11.7 per cent energy efficiency improvement. The final plans for each country must be submitted by 30 June 2024. In a joint statement, seven European countries – Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland – agreed to decarbonise their power generation by 2035. (Euractiv, Bankwatch Network [Pdf], European Commission, Reuters)

Australian energy regulator estimates coal fleet closes five years earlier: The Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) draft 2024 Integrated System Plan estimates that in its most likely scenario, about 90 per cent of Australia’s 21,000 MW of coal capacity could be retired by 2034-35, and all would be closed by 2038. AEMO notes that the retirement of coal plants may occur even faster, with owners required to provide three and a half years prior notice of intended closure. The closure of all remaining 18 coal plants by 2038 is five years earlier than forecast in the 2022 plan. AEMO states that Australia’s coal plants “are less reliable, more difficult to maintain, and less competitive against firmed renewable supply”. Ten coal plants in the national electricity market of Australia’s eastern states have closed since 2012. (Guardian, Australian Energy Market Operator, The Conversation)

“In the European Union, 10 of our Member States are already coal-free. Ten more will phase out coal by 2030. Most of the remaining seven European member states will follow close behind. Coal has been part of Europe’s history. It created jobs for many regions. At the same time, we have understood that this coal-based economy has to come to an end. That is why we prepare for a transition that is irreversible,”

said the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.


Philippines: The two units at the 652 MW GNPower Mariveles Energy Center have been temporarily shut down after the spontaneous combustion of coal in a storage area at the plant.

South Africa: Thungela Resources estimates coal production could decline by 12 per cent or one million tonnes in 2024 due to problems with Transnet’s rail network.

Sweden: The Swedish Energy Agency has approved a 3.1 billion krone (US$300 million) grant for the construction of a demonstration fossil-free sponge iron plant as part of the development of the Hybrit steel project.

UK: The UK will impose a carbon border adjustment tax on iron, steel, hydrogen aluminium, ceramics, and cement imports starting in 2027, but the details of the scheme have not been determined.

US: Granite Shore Power’s Merrimack Generating Station in New Hampshire has repeatedly failed to meet pollution limits despite multiple attempts to redo testing. Environmental groups want the plants closed.

US: Questions raised about whether AboutBit’s proposed cryptocurrency project will extend the life of part of the 1080 MW Merom Generating Station in Indiana. The plant was originally due to close in 2023.

Companies + Markets

US solar and wind set to overtake coal power in 2024: In a historic shift, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates electricity from wind and solar generation will surpass coal generation for the first time in 2024. The EIA estimates that in 2024 wind and solar could generate 90 billion kilowatt-hours more than coal plants. Underpinning the expected eclipsing of coal generation is the commissioning of 23,000 MW of solar capacity in 2023 with another 37,000 MW of new solar capacity slated to come online in 2024. (Politico Pro, US Energy Information Administration)

NGO challenges approval of CCS monitoring plans approved by US EPA: A report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), a US NGO, argues that monitoring, reporting, and verification plans (MRV) approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for 21 Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) do not require specific monitoring strategies or technologies to ensure carbon dioxide pumped underground stays there. Companies proposing CCS projects must submit MRV plans to be eligible for expanded tax credits of between US$60 and US$85 per tonne included in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. EIP says plans approved by the EPA do not require third-party verification of data submitted by companies. A separate report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) states that of the 15 CCS plants currently operating in the US, 13 sell the captured carbon dioxide for use in Enhanced Oil Recovery projects to boost declining oilfields. Only the Petra Nova project in Texas is on a coal plant, with the CBO suggesting most new CCS plants are likely to be with natural gas processing, ethanol production, and ammonia projects. The report estimates CCS increases the capital cost of coal plants by between 40 and 100 per cent, with the additional equipment consuming between 16 and 33 per cent of generation. (Reuters, Environmental Integrity Project, Congressional Budget Office [Pdf])

International Energy Agency coal report notes major shifts in coal use: The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Coal 2023 report estimates global coal demand increased by 4 per cent in 2022 to 8.42 billion tonnes, underpinned by a 200 million tonne increase in China and 97 million tonne boost in India. The Indonesian government’s emphasis on requiring the downstream processing of nickel ores has underpinned a 32 per cent or 49 million tonnes increase in coal demand. The IEA estimates coal demand is on track to increase by 1.4 per cent in 2023 and notes that Indian coal production is likely to exceed one billion tonnes in 2024. Indonesia will probably produce about 700 million tonnes of coal in 2023 with almost 500 million tonnes exported. Declines in coal demand in Europe, the US and other key markets will likely see global coal production decline in 2026. The IEA reports that Russia now sells about 60 per cent of its coal exports to China and India, a dramatic shift after European Union sanctions came into effect. After the November 2022 opening of the Tongjiang- Nizhneleninskoye rail bridge over the Amur River, Russia is investing in new rail links with China to facilitate increased coal exports. (Al Jazeera, International Energy Agency)

Report flags costs of major expansion in Indian Railways coal capacity: A report by the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA) questions the feasibility of proposals by the Indian government to prioritise the development of new rail links to cater for up to 63 per cent more coal to be transported by 2030. The central government has allocated US$31.5 billion in the financial year to the end of March 2024 for upgrades by Indian Railways, with coal links a key focus. Coal India has floated proposals to transport 400 million tonnes more coal by rail in just four years. IEEFA argues that increased emphasis on renewable generation avoids the need for much of the investment and would reduce the need to prioritise coal trains over passenger and freight. The report notes Coal India has produced an additional 91 million tonnes of coal in the last two years, which has all been transported by truck, not rail. (PV Magazine, Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis)

India presses ahead with 29 more coal block auctions: India’s Ministry of Coal commenced the auction process for a further 26 coal blocks on December 20, with 12 areas in Madhya Pradesh, eight in Chattisgarh, five in Jharkhand and one in Telangana. In response to limited bidding interest in the eight previous auctions, the ministry has abolished all eligibility requirements for bidders and has no limitations on the use of coal from the latest blocks for sale. The ministry has also removed requirements for bidders to meet technical and financial criteria. The government hopes that dropping most requirements will result in an increased number of bidders. (Livemint, Ministry of Coal [Pdf])

Indonesian renewables undercut coal power: The secretary-general of the Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Dadan Kusdiana, said new wind and solar capacity is now cheaper the cost of generation from coal power. Dadan said the contract price for a new wind farm in South Kalimantan was less than 6 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and a recently commissioned solar farm in West Java is 5.8 cents per kWh compared to the generation cost from existing coal plants of between 6 and 8 cents per kWh. He said that, based on the latest coal reference price of between U$125 and $130 per tonne of coal, coal power could cost between 8.75 and 10.4 cents per kWh. Dada said renewables “can go head-to-head with fossil fuels … there is no reason anymore not to use renewables”. (Jakarta Post [paywall])

Green Steel Transition

Complaint filed against South Korean steel producer: Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC), a South Korean NGO, has launched legal action with the Fair Trade Commission and the Ministry of Environment against POSCO’s claim that its Greenate brand is “carbon-neutral”. In August, POSCO launched its Greenate range of products, stating that its steel would include recycled scrap and renewable electricity to reduce coal use. POSCO has flagged the potential to introduce hydrogen-based production after 2030. LG Electronics recently contracted to buy Greenate steel for manufacturing laundry dryers. SFOC said POSCO is investing more than US$400 million to extend the life of two blast furnaces at its Pohang and Gwangyang steel plants. The two furnaces emit over 17 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. SFOC says that POSCO is misleading customers with the  sustainability claims of its steel products. (The Korea Times, POSCO, Solutions for Our Climate)

Japan announces incentives for switch to electric arc furnaces: The Japanese government has announced a suite of new tax incentives to run over 10 years to boost green steel production and initiatives in other sectors such as electric vehicles and green chemicals. The incentives framework, which is due to be finalised in the near future, proposes that companies producing green steel can claim a tax deduction of 20,000 yen (US$139.50) per tonne of production and sales but capped at a maximum of 40 per cent of the company’s corporate tax liability. The incentives are likely to drive an expansion of new electric arc furnace basd steel production. Japan produced about 89 million tonnes of steel and imported about 40 million tonnes of metallurgical coal in 2022. (Nikkei Asia, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility)


“Bosnia: Is coal mining making people sick?” Deutsche Welle, December 15, 2023.

This 12-minute video looks at the health impacts of Bosnia’s continued reliance on coal generation and the prospects for a transition to cleaner energy.

Statement on the Electricity Crisis and the Just Transition, Academy of Science of South Africa, December 14, 2023. (Pdf)

This 6-page statement concisely summarises South Africa’s current electricity crisis from a ‘just transition’ perspective.