February 23, 2017
Issue 171  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

Coal activists are having an impact – even in some of the most hostile political environments. In Turkey a legal challenge by residents has resulted in a court ruling as invalid the environmental assessment of a now-operating plant. In Thailand protesters – including a member of the royal family – defied a military regime warning and gathered in front of Government House to object to the proposed Krabi plant. When the regime approved the project, the protest grew - at which point five protest leaders were arrested. As protests mounted, the military regime relented a little, releasing the protest leaders and agreeing to redo the environmental and health assessment on the plant.

Elsewhere, in coal-addicted countries, denialism about the viability of clean power alternatives is bubbling to the fore.In Australia, the ailing coal industry has prodded the government to move to subsidise the construction of new coal plants even though no power generators think they would be viable, or attract finance.

Bob Burton


Community leader warns UK utility on health impacts of Colombian coal

RWE npower should shut its Aberthaw coal plant in Wales because of its local pollution and health impacts caused by coal it uses from the Cerrejon mine in Colombia, writes Luz Angela Uriana Epiayu in the Ecologist. (Cerrejon is a joint venture of BHP Billiton, Glencore and Anglo American.)

World Bank’s immunity claim over Mundra is bid to violate policies “with impunity”

The claim by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – an arm of the World Bank which lends to companies – that it is entitled to legal immunity when challenged by fisherfolk in India over damage from the Mundra coal plant means the bank is allowed to “violate its own rules with impunity,” writes Jessica Evans from Human Rights Watch in Jurist.


Turkish court cancels approval for operating power plant

The Turkish Administrative Court has ruled in favour of residents and cancelled the environmental approval granted in 2010 for the construction of the 350 megawatt (MW) Izdemir Coal Power Plant. The residents, who have been campaigning against coal plants in the area for three decades, argued the environmental assessment was flawed. The plant has been operating since April 2014 and supplies power for the Aliaga steel mill. While it is illegal to operate without environmental approval, the Izmir governor has up to 30 days to suspend the production licence for the plant. The company is expected to appeal the court decision. (350 Turkiye, CoalSwarm)

Top News

Thai military arrests protest leaders, then backs down: Five community leaders were arrested and sent to a notorious military prison after hundreds of people protested in front of Government House against a decision by the military regime to proceed with the proposed 800 megawatt (MW) Krabi coal plant. However, on Sunday the regime released the five and agreed to a fresh environmental assessment of the project with proper public consultation, delaying the project for several years. One of those attending the protest is a member of the royal family. (Bangkok Post, The Nation, Reuters)

Australian coal lobby pushes for new coal plants: An Australian mining industry lobby group spent US$1.9 million ahead of the August 2016 federal election promoting new coal plants using funds levied on coal production to sponsor Carbon Capture and Storage at coal power plants. The funds collected from the levy allowed companies to offset the payments against coal royalties due to the New South Wales and Queensland state governments. In response to the campaign the Australian Government is considering changing the investment mandate of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to allow it to fund new coal plants. (ABC News, Guardian)

Expansion of Adani-operated mine stalled over compliance concerns: A proposal by Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd (RRVNL) to increase production at the Adani-operated Sarguja mine has been deferred after an expert committee of the Ministry of the Environment doubted the current operation complied with existing environmental conditions. RRVNL proposed a five million tonnes of coal per year expansion despite sustained community opposition to air and water pollution from the current mine. (The Hindu)

Australian financial regulator warns of climate risk: A board member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Geoff Summerhayes, has warned the financial services industry climate risks are not a future possibility but are “foreseeable, material and actionable now.” Summerhayes noted one of the prompts for APRA’s move to “stress test” climate risk management of finance companies was the circulation late last year of a legal opinion from an eminent barrister warning it was “only a matter of time” before company directors were personally sued for breaching their statutory duty of due care for climate risk assessment and disclosure. (ABC News, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority)


Cambodia: Government approves 135 MW coal plant expansion as alternative to controversial hydro plant.

China: Imports of coal from North Korea banned during 2017 after missile test and murder of President’s half-brother.

Philippines: Residents protest against rezoning to allow new coal plant in urban area.

Russia: Construction slated this year of 10 million tonnes per annum Dikson coal terminal at Chaika Cape.

South Africa: After resigning amidst Gupta ‘State of Capture’ scandal, ex-head of Eskom set to become MP.

South Africa: High Court to hear climate change legal challenge to proposed 630 MW Thabametsi plant.

“No government can claim to be forward-looking at this time while simultaneously adopting long-range plans for coal-fired power. The heated debate over the Krabi coal-fired plant provides an excellent opportunity to move the entire discussion of energy into the place it should be - the 21st century,”

states an editorial in the Bangkok Post.

Bangkok Post “No gov’t can claim to be forward-looking … while… adopting long-range plans for #coal-fired power” http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1202689/coal-no-longer-an-option

Companies + Markets

European utilities call for floor price for carbon permits: The major European utilities EON and Vattenfall have called for the establishment of a floor price for carbon dioxide emission permits in the European Union’s (EU) emission trading system (ETS). The 12 year-old EU ETS system has been largely undermined by a glut of free permits given to utilities with old, high-emission coal plants which has resulted in prices too low to encourage significant fuel switching. The current price is about US$5.3 per tonne while it has been estimated a US$32 per tonne floor price would drive the energy generation shift at minimal cost. (Bloomberg)

Big price-tag with Texas CCS plant: While the coal industry has been promoting Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects as cheaper than renewables, NRG Energy’s recently commissioned Petra Nova plant in Texas - retrofitted to capture 40 per cent of the flue gas from a 610 MW plant - cost a staggering US$1.04 billion to complete.Ramanan Krishnamoorti from the University of Houston doubts the Petra Nova project has much applicability for other coal plants, especially given the falling cost of wind and solar. (Australian Financial Review [paywall], Forbes)

Anglo American retreats from coal divestment plan: Anglo American has retreated from its plan to divest its entire coal portfolio, telling shareholders it will retain its Moranbah and Grosvenor metallurgical coal mines in Queensland. Announcing its 2016 results the company stated it is still reviewing “all the potential options” for its South African export thermal coal mines. While the company’s one-third stake in the Cerrejon thermal coal mine in Colombia was not explicitly mentioned, insiders told Bloomberg it was no longer up for sale. (Bloomberg, Anglo American)

Indian coal imports plummet: India’s January total coal imports plummeted by 21.7 per cent compared to the year before as the Modi Government pushes state governments and electricity distribution companies to end thermal coal imports by the end of March. The bulk of the decline was for thermal coal. The Minister for Coal, Piyush Goyal, has also flagged the government is aiming to end the use of metallurgical coal in power stations and instead have it washed and diverted to the steel sector to reduce the need for imports. (Deccan Chronicle, Hindu Business Line)

China’s coal industry lobbies for new policy: The China Coal Association – representing major coal producers including Shenhua and China Coal Energy – is pushing the government to reinstate limits on thermal coal production. With increasing domestic production and demand due to decline with the end of the winter heating season, major coal producers fear a fall in domestic prices. Pressure from the coal industry for restrictions also coincided with the State Administration of Work Safety announcing a program of inspecting coal mines during 2017 and vowing to shut mines “that have produced more coal than the government has allowed”. (Reuters, Reuters)

Pakistan rejigs Chinese-backed projects: China and Pakistan have agreed to revise the ‘priority list’ of 10,040 MW of mostly coal power projects approved when the two countries signed the Energy Framework Agreement in November 2014. Officials have proposed the 1320 MW Rahim Yar Khan Power project be downgraded to the ‘actively promoted list’ as it is not financially viable and lacks access to transmission lines - but have proposed two other coal projects be upgraded to the ‘priority list’. To accelerate completion of projects this year the Pakistan Government agreed the power purchase agreements for the Chinese-backed projects could provide generators with up to 34.5 per cent return on equity. (Express Tribune)


Last week CoalWire had an item on the report Transitions in Indian Electricity Sector by The Energy and Resources Institute. At the time of publication the link wasn’t available. The report is available here.

Are you at risk? Find out how pollution levels increase your chance of death”, Guardian, February 2017.

This webpage plots the increased health risk from air pollution in 3000 cities around the world using Greenpeace calculations based on World Health Organisation data. Individual cities can be entered and the risk is displayed.

Dark Side of the Boom, Australia Institute, February 2017. (Pdf)

This 14-page report reveals how little the New South Wales government regulators know and reveal about mine rehabilitation in New South Wales where it is proposed at least 45 massive open cut coal mine voids will remain after mining is finished.