March 31, 2016
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editor's note

This year’s edition of the Boom or Bust report by CoalSwarm, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club provides high-resolution detail on the state of play of the global coal plant building frenzy. In Asia – China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam in particular – the coal plant pipeline is bulging but increasingly vulnerable to fast-changing public opinion and the economics of alternatives. Elsewhere, coal plant retirements are accelerating – especially in Europe and the US –while globally coal consumption is falling and plant utilisation rates are declining. Even without any more coal plants, greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants would be 150 per cent higher than necessary to limit warming to 2°C.

Bob Burton
CoalWire Editor


The money wasted on stranded coal assets could end world energy poverty

The $981 billion needed to build all the proposed coal plants in the world would be more than one-and-a-half times the cost to end energy poverty, writes Nicole Ghio in the Sierra Club’s Compass.

Tweet: Report: Nearly $1 trillion wasted on #coal projects = 1.5x amt needed to end energy #poverty @nicoleghio

Up to 250 coal plants hit by new Chinese Government orders

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has ordered 13 provinces to stop issuing approvals for new coal-fired power plants until the end of 2017. The NEA has also ordered 15 provinces to freeze the construction of already-approved projects, writes Zachary Davies Boren in Greenpeace’s EnergyDesk.

Tweet: Up to 250 #coal plants in #China hit by new government orders @zdboren @Energydesk

Little room for dissent over proposed Chinese coal plant in Pakistan

Many of the residents objecting to pollution from a coal plant proposed by a Chinese company in Pakistan found themselves shut out of a public hearing, writes Shazia Hasan in Dawn.

Tweet: Little room for dissent over pollution from proposed Chinese #coal plant in #Pakistan

top news

Indian tribunal demands enforcement of coal rules: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has demanded the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) indicate why action should not be taken against it for failure to enforce coal quality rules aimed at reducing pollution. In January 2014 MoEF introduced a rule requiring coal and power companies to use coal with ash content below 34 per cent. On October 15, 2015 the NGT directed MoEF to enforce the rule, but despite this it has failed to take action. (DNA)

Indian company directors found guilty over coal allocation: A special court investigating ‘Coalgate’ cases has found the directors of the steel company Jharkhand Ispat guilty of criminal conspiracy and cheating over the allocation of the North Dhadu coal block in Jharkhand state. The two have been taken into custody pending sentencing on March 31. There are a further 51 cases before the courts or under investigation as a result of the August 2012 report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General which found widespread irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks. (Livemint, The Hindu)

Coal-owning Kentucky lawmaker imprisoned over bribes: A former Kentucky legislator, W. Keith Hall, has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for paying US$46,000 in bribes to a mining inspector to overlook violations at his coal companies’ operations. The former inspector, Kelly Shortridge, who testified against Hall, has been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. (Reuters)
IFC immunity ruling headed for appeal: A US federal court judge has ruled that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) is immune from prosecution over breaches of conditions on its US$450 million loan for Tata Power’s 4000 megawatt (MW) Tata Mundra project. Local fisherpeople, farmers and a local village sued the IFC over damage caused by the project, citing the IFC’s own Compliance Advisor Ombudsman which found the bank failed to meet its specified standards. The groups plan to appeal the decision. (Courthouse News Service, Corporate Crime Reporter)

High costs of air pollution-induced premature births: A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives calculates that premature births caused by fine particle air pollution – principally from cars and coal power plants – costs as much as US$5.09 billion a year. The study authors estimated that of the premature births in the continental US in 2010, 3.3 per cent were attributable to air pollution. Reducing exposure to PM2.5 particle pollution during pregnancy would reduce long-term health and social costs, the authors argue. (Medical Daily, Environmental Health Perspectives)

The pace of adjustments to the global energy structure in the short run will speed up and the trend of lowering the consuming proportion of fossil fuel energy will be obvious and the demand of fossil fuel energy including coal will steadily decrease,”
said Zhang Yuzhous, the chairman of Shenhua, China’s largest coal producer.


Australia: Whitehaven Coal pondered 2010 donation to NSW Liberals via Free Enterprise Foundation.

Myanmar: Villagers protest against water depletion and pollution from Tikyit coal plant.

Philippines: Groups warn of high health costs of proposed plant backed by Marubeni and TEPCO.
Sri Lanka: Residents from proposed Sampur plant area unimpressed by country’s existing coal plant.

UK: With closure of Longannet power station, Scotland goes coal-free.

companies + markets

Shenhua winds back coal plans: China Shenhua, the world’s second largest coal producer, cut coal production by 5 per cent in 2015 and is estimating a further 8.2 per cent fall in 2016. The company has flagged it will reassess the completion schedule of 10,000 MW of coal plants under construction and a further 12,000 MW of approved projects. The company has halved its 2016 capital spending on new coal ventures in China, Mongolia and Australia, to just US$100 million. The company’s declining profitability reduces the likelihood the proposed 10 million tonnes per annum Watermark project on the NSW Liverpool Plains will proceed. (South China Morning Post, Sydney Morning Herald)

Chinese province pitches for coal exports: Shanxi province, which produced 944 million tonnes of coal in 2015, has proposed to the central government that instead of cutting mine production it maintain production and increase exports. Increased Chinese exports would further undermine the seaborne coal market for Indonesian and Australian producers. China’s domestic coal market is also being undercut by reductions in the price of gas aimed at encouraging fuel-switching. (Bloomberg, Bloomberg)

Zimbabwe’s ailing coal industry seeks lifeline: The mining industry lobby group, the Chamber of Mines in Zimbabwe, has estimated the coal industry needs US$400 million to be viable. In its 2015 survey the lobby group estimated coal production fell by 39 per cent to 3.9 million tonnes, costs are rising rapidly and the government-owned Hwange Colliery Company (HCCL) – which supplies the 920 MW Hwange Power Station – is losing money. (Chronicle)
Vattenfall delays sale of German plants: Vattenfall has reportedly delayed until mid-April finalising the sale of its German coal and hydro plants. It is reported the company’s German manager backs a proposal by Czech company EPH while unions prefer a bid by the German utility Steag. With Vattenfall under pressure to add a substantial cash sweetener to complete the deal, the public could end up being left with between US$3.9 and US$11 billion in unfunded rehabilitation liabilities. (Handelsblatt, Wall Street Journal)

India lobbies Australian Gov’t for Adani subsidy: Indian news reports suggest India’s Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, will lobby the Australian Finance Minister, Mathias Corman, to support Adani’s proposed US$16 billion Carmichael coal mine. On April 1 Jaitley is scheduled to meet Peter Costello, the Chairman of Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, and is expected to press the case for funding for Adani’s project even though it has failed to attract mainstream financial support. (DNA, The Tree)

US royalty rate hike under discussion: As part of the review of the federal coal-leasing program the US Department of the Interior has flagged the option of increasing the royalty rate on open-cut coal from 12.5 to 18.75 per cent to make it equal to the level imposed on offshore oil and gas production. Recent estimates are taxpayer losses on federal coal leases in the Powder River basin amount to over US$40 billion due to Bureau of Land Management underestimates of the asset value, and royalty loopholes. (SNL, IEEFA)


Boom & Bust 2016: Tracking the global coal plant pipeline, CoalSwarm, Greenpeace and Sierra Club, March 2016.
This 78-page report (pdf here) provides the most detailed country-by-country and regional breakdown on coal plant retirements, proposals and construction publicly available.


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 CoalWire is archived at

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