January 21, 2016
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editor's note

The transformation of the world’s electricity grid continues to gather pace. Data this week shows falls in coal production and consumption in China, a big drop in coal exports from Indonesia and   global growth in investment in solar and wind power. The oversupply of the seaborne coal market has seen the shelving of a new coal export terminal in South Africa while the US Government has announced a moratorium on most new coal leases on public lands.

Bob Burton
CoalWire Editor


China’s CO2 emissions likely fell 3% in 2015 — and that trend looks set to continue

The latest Chinese economic data confirms the decline of coal and the likelihood that China’s greenhouse gas emissions will peak far sooner than previously thought, writes Lauri Myllyvirta from Greenpeace.
Tweet: #China’s CO2 emissions likely fell 3% in 2015 — and that trend looks set to continue bit.ly/1OEtlXz @laurimyllyvirta #coal #climate


Obama Administration freezes new public land coal mine leases

In response to a public campaign, including legal action, the Obama Administration has imposed a moratorium on issuing new federal land coal leases while an Environmental Impact Statement into the coal leasing program is undertaken. Coal mines on public lands account for about 40 per cent of the 816 million tonnes produced in the US. The moratorium will apply to about 32 leases not covered by exemptions for projects which are well-advanced in the assessment process. The moratorium also excludes metallurgical coal projects or mines seeking minor lease extensions. The Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Sally Jewell, has flagged further guidelines on procedural issues including public notification of lease extension applications and handling requests for royalty relief. (US Department of the Interior, Wall Street Journal)

top news

South African export terminal shelved: A proposal to expand the coal export capacity of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal from 91 to 110 million tonnes a year has been shelved. South Africa exported 75 million tonnes in 2015, well short of current capacity. With little prospect for increased exports the coal company consortium which operates the terminal has suspended talks with Transnet, the government-owned rail operator, which had been pushing for the construction of a new terminal. (Sunday Times, Mining Weekly)

Debate heats up over German coal phase-out: A proposed phase-out of coal power in Germany by 2040 has drawn support from the environment ministry, the Greens and sections of the renewables industry. The coal mining union, key members of the governing Christian Democrat coalition and the coal-centred utility RWE oppose the plan. While opposing the proposal, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has flagged he will convene a roundtable of key parties to discuss the future of coal later this year. (Clean Energy Wire, Reuters)

Legal challenge to Dominican plants: Residents should be protected from pollution from two controversial coal plants which are being built, a coalition of environmental and community groups have told the Dominican Republic’s Superior Administrative Court. The construction of the proposed 1200 megawatt (MW) Punta Catalina plant in the Caribbean nation stalled late last year but resumed after a US$200 million loan from a coalition of banks, including the French bank Societe Generale. (Dominican Today, CoalSwarm)
Former Indian Minister for Coal to face court: A special court has agreed to summons former Minister for Coal Dilip Ray and two Ministry of Coal officials to face charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Ray, who was Minister for Coal in 1999, is accused of facilitating the misappropriation of coal blocks for the benefit of Castron Technologies, a manganese smelting company. The three former officials – along with Castron Mining, Castron Technologies and its director – have been summonsed to appear in court on February 26. (Economic Times)

More NSW coal mine dams fail: A tailings dam at Rio Tinto’s Warkworth mine in NSW’s Hunter Valley collapsed after heavy rain, spilling millions of litres of waste water. The company also reported waste water overflowed a tailings dam at its nearby Bengalla mine. In the last year five spills from coal mines in NSW have occurred. Greens Mining Spokesperson, Jeremy Buckingham, said the spills indicated a “systemic problem with the environmental standards being applied by the industry.” (Newcastle Herald, Sydney Morning Herald)

“Coal is black death … There is no mitigation … We have to make a stand before this very destructive poison they want to introduce into our backyards. We say no,”

said Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and president of the National Congress of American Indians of the proposed Cherry Point coal terminal in Washington State.


India: Government establishes panel to investigate underground coal gasification.

India: National Green Tribunal revokes permit for illegal mangrove clearing at Adani’s Hazira port.
South Africa: Eskom seeks extra 8.7 per cent power price hike due in part to low demand.

US: New York Governor announces aim to shut remaining coal plants by 2020.

companies + markets

Indonesian coal production and exports drop: Indonesia’s 2015 coal production was 392 million tonnes, a fall of 14 per cent compared to 2014. Coal exports were 295 million tonnes, a fall of 23 per cent due to declining Chinese imports and lower prices. While small and illegal producers cut exports, some larger producers increased production in a bid to offset price declines. Domestic coal consumption grew by 9 million tonnes, a 14 per cent increase compared to 2014. (Jakarta Post, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources)

China’s power demand growth met by renewables: Chinese electricity consumption grew by just half a per cent in 2015. Coal power generation fell by 4 per cent and coal consumption by 5 five per cent compared to 2014. Wind, solar, nuclear and hydro generation all increased in 2015 pushing coal plant utilisation rates down by nine per cent to 49.4 per cent, the lowest rate on record. (Reuters, IEEFA)

Vietnam signs new plant deal, boosts mining: The Ministry of Industry and Trade has entered into a build-own-transfer agreement for the 1200 MW Nam Dinh 1 power station. The consortium promoting the project includes the South Korean company Taekwang Power and a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian company ACWA Power. The project is intended to be based on domestic coal. Vinacomin, the government-owned coal company, has set a target of selling 38 million tonnes of coal in 2016 and importing 8-10 million tonnes a year to 2020. (Viet Nam News, Platts)
Indian power producers lobby for tax breaks: The Independent Power Producers Association of India – which represents companies including Adani, Essar and Tata Power – is lobbying for the clean energy tax on coal to be abolished for newer, less polluting plants. The tax is used to fund the deployment of renewable energy projects. The lobby group also wants the ten-year tax holiday for new power plants commissioned before the end of March 2017 to be extended by a further three years. (Business Standard)

Despite expansion, Cerrejon exports fall: Despite completing an 8 million tonnes-a-year expansion in late 2014, exports from the Cerrejon thermal coal mine in Colombia fell marginally in 2015. In 2015 the company exported 33.4 million tonnes, 2 per cent less than in 2014. Cerrejon is jointly owned by BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore. (Reuters, RenewEconomy)

Poland considers forgoing dividends to save coal: Poland’s Treasurer, Dawid Jackiewicz, has suggested the government consider forgoing dividends from the publicly-owned electricity utilities to “let them invest for example in mining.” The government is seeking ways to prop up the nearly bankrupt publicly-owned coal company Kompania Weglowa without breaching European Union rules banning subsidies for continuing coal mines. (Reuters)


Ditch Coal: the global impacts of the UK’s addiction to coal, Coal Action Network, January 2016. (Pdf)

This 104-page report investigates the impacts of coal from Colombia, Russia, the US and domestically on the UK’s fleet of coal power plants. (There are also half a dozen infographics here.)

Tweet: New report from Coal Action: Ditch #Coal: the global impacts of the #UK’s addiction to #coal http://coalaction.org.uk/ditchcoal/ #Russia #Colombia #US

Observed decrease in atmospheric mercury explained by global decline in anthropogenic emissions, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, January 4, 2016.

This study argues the magnitude of global mercury emissions reductions from coal power plants in the US and Europe has been underestimated. The paper argues tighter sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides pollution standards have also cut mercury pollution levels more than previously acknowledged.

“Clean energy defies fossil fuel price crash to attract record $329bn global investment in 2015”, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), January 14, 2016.

This media release summarises the latest data on the growth in the global renewable energy industry. A sample: for the first time wind and solar have made up almost half of all new electricity generation capacity additions. A detailed review of 2016 trends by the Chairman of BNEF’s Advisory Board, Michael Liebreich, is available here.)

CoalWire is a weekly bulletin of coal-related news published by CoalSwarm. Please send material which you think should be included or suggestions for features to editor@coalwire.org CoalWire is archived at www.coalwire.org

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