August 10, 2023
Issue 477  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

After five years of effort, local and national groups have welcomed the demise of a proposed US$2.5 billion coal-to-diesel plan in the US state of Indiana. In Ohio, recently released records shed further light on the relationships between some key players in the US$61 million scandal over bailouts for two coal and two nuclear plants. The revelations come as FirstEnergy, the utility at the centre of the scandal, revealed it recently received a subpoena from the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission for records on its role in the controversy. In response to the Ohio and other utility scandals, a member of Congress introduced a bill requiring a federal regulator to ban utilities from recovering political and other expenses from consumers.

The latest climate disruption to hit the coal industry is the low water level in Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal, forcing the regulator to restrict the number and draught of vessels allowed through. The lake not only forms a significant part of the route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans but also supplies water for the operation of the locks. Despite the record-shattering weather of recent months, India is pressing ahead with a raft of new coal plants. A new report by Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air details how all the coal plants in India in the pre-construction phase, and many currently being built, are not needed even if the Central Electricity Authority’s recent power demand projections come true.

Bob Burton


Kazakhstan’s new coal projects bring economic and climate risks

Kazakhstan is one of the only countries in the world still proposing new coal-fired power plants, a path that will hamper its development and damage its sustainability credentials internationally, writes Jelena Babajeva of Global Energy Monitor in The Third Pole

‘We became activists by necessity’: The fight to close the UK’s largest opencast mine

A few weeks after Chris and Alyson Austin moved into their home on the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil in 2003, they heard about the proposal to restart the Ffos-y-Fran mine in Wales. “Suddenly, we had to become activists. Not by choice; it was a necessity,” they told Michael Segalov from The Observer.

‘Temporary’ reprieve for villages, forests and tiger habitat as Adani suspends two coal projects

The Adani Group says it will relinquish the Jhigador and Khargaon coal blocks in Chhattisgarh, near one of India’s most critical areas for tiger conservation. But residents and civil society groups fear Adani is pressuring the Chhattisgarh government to approve these projects more quickly, writes Ayaskant Das in Adani Watch.

Money paid, favours done. Messages detail the relationship between an Ohio regulator and energy executives

Documents recently filed in a US federal court have shed new light on the relationship between FirstEnergy and Governor Mike DeWine’s nominee to head the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, writes Marty Schladen in Ohio Capital Journal.


US groups celebrate expiry of a key permit for coal to diesel plant in Indiana

Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life (SWICQL), Valley Watch and the environmental law group Earthjustice have welcomed Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM) confirmation that the permit for Riverview Energy’s proposed coal-to-diesel plant in Dale has expired. Riverview Energy proposed the US$2.5 billion plant would process 1.6 million tons (1.45 million tonnes) of coal annually into diesel and naphtha. IDEM wrote to Riverview Energy on August 1, stating that the permit “is no longer valid” as the company had not met a deadline requiring the commencement of construction. Riverview Energy has 18 days to appeal IDEM’s decision. Mary Hess, the President of SWICQL and a resident of Dale, welcomed the decision and said she looked forward to “economic development that is safe and clean for all the communities nearby.” (Earthjustice)

Top News

Indian government seeks to revive new coal plant boom: A report by Global Energy Monitor (GEM) and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air has revealed three non-captive coal power projects with a combined capacity of 3900 megawatts (MW) have received permits in the first five months of 2023 compared to none in the year before. Seven coal plant proposals with a combined capacity of 7600 MW advanced in the permitting process, and two other plants are under consideration. With the new projects, India has 30,400 MW of new coal capacity under construction and 34,900 MW in pre-construction phases. The Central Electricity Authority’s (CEA) National Electricity Plan (NEP), released in May, endorsed a significant expansion of coal capacity. However, the GEM report estimates 8000 MW of plants are under construction beyond the CEA’s projections, with all the projects in the pre-construction phase not required. The approval of new coal plants comes as the Modi government is promoting a rapid expansion of the coal mining sector, especially by private companies. (Times of India, Global Energy Monitor [Pdf])

Turkish President drawn into controversy over mine expansion: In response to national and international media coverage of clearing part of the Akbelen forest for a lignite mine expansion, President Recep Erdogan sought to dismiss the protest in a televised address. Erdogan defended the economic contribution of the 420 MW Yenikoy Thermal Power Plant operated by YK Energy, a joint affiliate of IC Holding and Limak Holding, and dismissed the villagers as “marginals”. Residents and environmental NGOs protested the mine expansion in front of parliament in Ankara, along with labour unions. In parliament, the leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıcdaroglu, said, “If a political power has surrendered itself to the ‘gang of five’ in a country, then it has become marginalized”. Limak Holding is one of the five major pro-government business groups that have won many tenders since Erdogan was elected in 2014. (Turkish Minute, France24)

US utility under investigation by Ohio organised crime unit: FirstEnergy has disclosed to shareholders that it received a subpoena from the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission over its role in the US$61 million coal and nuclear plant bailout corruption scandal. The utility stated that it has made no financial provision for the latest investigation as it does not consider a loss probable “nor is a loss or range of loss reasonably estimable”. FirstEnergy stated that the subpoena sought information about activities disclosed in its deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice. In that agreement, FirstEnergy was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, agreed to pay a US$230 million fine and cooperate with ongoing inquiries. FirstEnergy is also under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and is the target of several lawsuits, including by shareholders and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. (Cleveland, FirstEnergy [Pdf])

US bill to ban consumers paying for utility lobbying expenses: Democratic members of US Congress have backed a bill that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ban utilities from recovering political expenses from ratepayers. FERC regulates the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity. The bill would prevent expenditure on activities such as directly or indirectly influencing elections, federal, state or local regulations or a range of PR and advertising activities. The bill would also block utilities from passing the cost of fees paid to trade associations or industry associations onto consumers. Scandals involving power utilities in Ohio, Florida and Illinois have prompted the bill. The bill, backed by a coalition of US non-profit groups, has been referred to the Republican-dominated House Committee on Energy and Commerce for consideration. (US Rep. Kathy Castor, Energy and Policy Institute)

Australian mine subsidence diverted over a billion litres of water: Tahmoor Coal has agreed to pay more than A$200,000 (US$131,000) over unlicensed water losses caused by underground longwall mining fracturing two creeks. The New South Wales government’s Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) estimated more than one billion litres of water was lost from Redbank Creek but could not estimate how much was lost from Myrtle Creek. Tahmoor Colliery is a metallurgical coal mine owned by SIMEC Mining, a subsidiary of UK billionaire Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, a major steel producer. NRAR announced financial penalties for two other NSW coal companies in early July over illegal water diversions. Illawarra Coal Holdings, a subsidiary of South32, agreed to pay A$2.9 million (US$2 million) for taking five million litres of water a day between 2018 and 2023 without a water permit at its Dendrobium metallurgical coal mine and Idemitsu paid A$54,000 (US$36,100) as a “compensation” payment over the illegal collection and use of hundreds of millions of litres of clean water at its Boggabri Coal Mine in New South Wales. (ABC News, Natural Resources Access Regulator)

K-Pop fans campaign against a new South Korean coal plant: Over the last three years, fans of K-pop, Korean popular music, have campaigned against the construction of the 2100 MW Samcheok Blue Power coal plant. A nearby beach at Maengbang was made famous when the K-pop band BTS  featured in a photo used on the sleeve of its 2021 hit song “Butter”. The plant and equipment for constructing the coal port and stabilising the coast are visible from the BTS photo site, which has become a magnet for K-pop fans and boosted the local tourism industry. In 2021, Korea Beyond Coal and Kpop4planet launched a campaign to “Save the Butter Beach”. The government’s plan to press ahead with the Samcheok and other new coal plants while downgrading the role of new renewables has become a focal point for dissent with the conservative government of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. (Japan Times, Bloomberg Television)


Australia: The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority reported a 600 cubic metre landslip from Peabody Energy’s Metropolitan Collieries coal mine has resulted in “a significant amount of sediment” flowing into Camp Gully Creek. The creek flows into the Royal National Park.

India: The Madras High Court has ordered the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) to compensate 88 farmers 40,000 rupees per acre (US$481) for destroying harvest-ready crops.

South Africa: Billionaire Patrice Motsepe, whose family is the largest shareholder in African Rainbow Minerals, which has interests in two coal mines, is one of the three largest donors to South Africa’s political parties.

South Africa: The implementation plan for Eskom’s US$8.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership, due in August, has been delayed by two to three months.

US: A Mine Safety and Health Administration inspection found 42 safety violations at the WV-3 Surface Mine in West Virginia operated by Kentucky Fuel Corporation, a company owned by the family of Governor Jim Justice.

US: The Environmental Protection Agency has indicated it intends to reject Alabama’s proposed coal ash plan.

Companies + Markets

Low water levels hits coal shipping through the Panama Canal: Low water levels in Gatun Lake, which is a crucial part of the Panama Canal and supplies water for the operation of the locks, have resulted in restrictions on shipping affecting coal exports. At the end of July, the Panama Canal Authority cut the number of ships allowed through the older locks for the smaller Panamax ships from 28-32 per day to 22 and set a limit of 10 ships through the newer Neopanamax locks commissioned in 2016. Panamax ships can carry about 52,600 tonnes of coal, while Neopanamax ships can carry up to 180,000 tonnes. The restrictions affect Colombian coal exports to the Asian and South American markets, with one trader stating shipments to Chile have been diverted around Cape Horn rather than risk delays going through the canal. (S & P Global)

Vietnamese coal imports are set to surge as coal plants come online: Vietnam’s national energy plan estimates coal imports could increase from 32 million tonnes in 2022 to peak at about 85 million tonnes in 2035, with coal power plants accounting for 64 million tonnes. The plan, which was approved in late July, envisages coal imports will gradually decline to about 50 million tonnes in 2045 and zero by 2050, in line with the country’s aim of phasing out coal power. The plan aims to increase coal generation capacity to 30,000 MW by 2030, but it remains unclear whether several proposed plants will attract funding. Domestic coal production was almost 50 million tonnes in 2022 but is expected to decline to 41-47 million tonnes annually by 2030. However, the government is supporting coal exploration of the Red River coal basin with the aim of increasing domestic production. (Argus)

A year after South Africa’s crisis plan, Eskom’s coal fleet performs worse: A year after President Cyril Ramaphosa launched his Energy Action Plan to address South Africa’s electricity supply crisis, none of Eskom’s coal plants are meeting the energy availability target of 80 per cent. Only three coal plants – the 4000 MW Medupi, the 1600 MW Camden and the 3600 MW Duvha plants – had increased energy availability factors compared to the year before. Eskom’s twelve other coal plants had reduced availability. Despite the commissioning of 3000 MW of new coal capacity at the Medupi and Kusile coal plants, offsetting the October 2022 closure of the 1000 MW Komati plant, coal generation declined by 48 terawatt hours over the last year. (Amabhungane)

Botswana and South Africa take next step with coal railway: Botswana Railways and South Africa’s government-owned Transnet Freight Rail are seeking expressions of interest from companies interested in funding and developing a four billion rand (US$230 million) rail link between Mmamabula-Lephalale. The 113-kilometre railway is proposed to carry up to 24 million tonnes of coal from mines in Botswana to South Africa’s Richards Bay coal export terminal and Maputo port in Mozambique. The tender document states that achieving the rail line’s proposed capacity will require Botswana Railways to upgrade the existing 140-kilometre railway from the Morupule Coal Mine to Mmamabula. The project will also need Transnet to improve rail capacity in the Waterburg area and upgrade the Richards Bay coal terminal. A pre-feasibility study on the project is due to be completed in September. (News24, Transnet [Pdf])

Report into US winter storm outages highlights coal plant problems: An investigation report into the challenges of avoiding blackouts when Winter Storm Elliott hit the eastern US states over December 22-25, 2022, has identified significant problems with coal plants. The report for PJM Interconnection, a major eastern US regional transmission operator spanning thirteen states and the District of Columbia, identified 7165 MW of coal plant outages during the storm, accounting for 16 per cent of all capacity forced offline by breakdowns and other problems. Gas plants accounted for 70 per cent of the outages. The report identified boiler problems and tube leaks as the primary cause of coal plant outages, with other plant equipment failures and freezing as minor factors. Wind and solar plants played a minor role in the generation shortfall during the storm. PJM Interconnection notes that its load forecasts were about eight per cent lower than the actual peak demand, significantly contributing to the challenges of managing the grid. (PJM Interconnection [Pdf])

Russian coal exports tipped to decline in the rest of 2023: Analysts estimate Russian coal exports are likely to slow over the remainder of the year and end below the 192 million tonnes exported in 2022. In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, coal prices spiked, and European and Japanese buyers switched to alternative sources. However, demand for discounted Russian coal found willing buyers in China, India, South Korea, Turkey and Taiwan, driving up exports by 11.9 per cent over the year. In the first half of 2023, Russian coal exports increased by 7.4 per cent compared to the year before but have slumped in the last three months. Russian coal exports have also lost a price advantage as Australian exports have increased and prices have declined. (S & P Global)

Polish coal mining union flexes muscle ahead of elections: With opinion polls suggesting the Polish general election in October or early November could see the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) lose government, Solidarity, the miners’ union, has expressed concern about the impact of coal imports on local jobs in the state-owned mines. The head of Solidarity, Boguslaw Hutek, said coal produced by state-owned companies has been stockpiled. In the last year, coal stockpiles have increased by 83 per cent to 10.8 million tonnes. The most recent data indicates Polish coal generation has dropped to seven per cent lower than 2020 levels at the height of the COVID pandemic. The Polish coal industry has been in sustained long-term decline in large part due to high costs. The Polish government banned imports of Russian coal after the invasion of Ukraine but sought increased supplies from Colombia, Kazakhstan and South Africa. Polling suggests the four main opposition parties could win enough seats to form a coalition government. PiS has made defiance of European Union policies central to its political identity, including to the point of losing funding over its insistence on operating the Turow lignite mine in defiance of a ruling by the European Court of Justice. (Mining Weekly, Financial Times)


Methane Emissions Reduction: International policy and technology insights for the Australian fossil fuel sector, Rennie, August 2023. (Pdf) (The Executive Summary is here (pdf), and the media release on the report is here.)

This 80-page report compares methane regulation in Australia with China, the UK, two provinces in Canada and three US states and outlines policy actions required to cut emissions of the potent greenhouse gas.

“King Coal”, YouTube, August 2023.

This 2-minute video promotes a documentary on the role and impacts of the coal industry on Appalachia’s culture, economy and environment. (A review of the film in the Guardian is here.)