December 8, 2016
Issue 162  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

A long-running campaign in Poland has led to a court upholding the decision by the Pomeranian governor to revoke construction permits for the proposed 1600 megawatt (MW) Polnoc plant, the largest proposed in Europe. In Germany a long-running protest has entered a new phase as RWE crews move in to clear more of the Hambach forest for a lignite mine expansion. In the Philippines a major donor to the Presidential campaign of Rodrigo Duterte has been revealed as the chair of a major power utility with coal expansion plans. Meanwhile, a major US coal company is hoping that President Donald Trump will support legislating “incentives” for coal-burning utilities.

Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s bid to revive the stalled Carmichael coal project – one of the world’s largest potential ‘carbon bombs’ – took on a farcical tone this week. Adani flew to Australia in his private jet to plead with Australian political leaders for a US$750 million cut-price loan to help his private company fund a 390 kilometre-long railway while simultaneously insisting the project was viable and didn’t really need the funding. The Chief Economist for BIS Shrapnel, Dr Frank Gelber, described Adani’s plan as ‘pie in the sky’.

Bob Burton


Can coal power hang on in Europe?

With dramatic reductions in the valuations of recently built coal plants in Europe and national coal phase-outs under discussion in several countries, the development of new, more costly pollution limits might be the final straw that sees utilities turn their backs on coal, writes Gerard Wynn from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Why sky-high coking coal prices could actually be terrible news for the coal industry

The dramatic climb in metallurgical coal prices in 2016 owes much to a debt-funded construction boom in China which can’t continue for much longer, writes Lauri Myllyvirta in Greenpeace EnergyDesk.

Indonesian Human Rights Commission finds coal mining pit deaths were human rights abuses

The finding of Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission that 27 deaths in abandoned coal mine pits, since 2011 constituted human rights abuses raises many questions about the failure of police and other government agencies, writes the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM).


Court overturns permit for new Polish coal plant

A Polish court has upheld the decision by the Pomeranian governor to revoke construction permits for the proposed 1600 megawatt (MW) Połnoc plant, the largest proposed in Europe. The governor had revoked the permits on the grounds the regional authority’s approval of the plant was unlawful due to poor public participation in the process. The approval had relied on evidence from the proponent but discounted evidence about health impacts from the local community and NGO’s. The decision is the second time permits for the plant have been revoked.

Top News

Protesters seek to block forest clearing for German mine: Protesters are seeking to block RWE from felling part of the remaining Hambach Forest near Cologne to allow for the expansion of the nearby lignite mine. In November over 1000 people formed a 2 kilometre-long human chain to delineate the ‘red line’ which the company should not cross. After initially agreeing to talks, RWE has subsequently moved crews in to clear the forest under police protection. (Deutsche Welle)

Power company revealed as Duterte donor: Political donations disclosure returns reveal the Chairman of the Alsons Power Group (APG), Tomas Alcantara, donated US$241,000 to the successful May 2016 presidential campaign of Rodrigo Duterte. In April 2016 Alsons Power Group commissioned the first 105 MW unit at its Kamanga coal plant in Sarangani province. In July the company signed a contract for the construction of a second 105 MW unit at the plant.  (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, CoalSwarm)

Adani angles for US$750 million low-cost loan for railway: Gautam Adani, a principal owner of Adani Group, has applied for a US$750 million low-cost loan from the Australian Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to help finance the construction of a 389 kilometre coal railway. A spokesperson for Adani stated the funding was “not critical” for the project. However, NAIF funding criteria states a project is only eligible if “unlikely to proceed, or will only proceed at a much later date, or with a limited scope, without financial assistance”. The proposed mine is also facing a further legal challenge by some of the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners of the area. (Guardian, Guardian)

Death toll in India & China hits 1.6 million in 2016 with coal big contributor: A report by Greenpeace India and Clean Air action estimates 1.6 million more people in China and India are killed by air pollution a year than other large middle-income countries. Air pollution death rates in India have not improved since 2010 and are only likely to get significantly worse with 132 coal units under construction and a further 238 proposed. (Greenpeace, Global Coal Plant Tracker)

Head of Trump energy team outlines coal agenda: Just days before President-elect Donald Trump appointed Thomas Pyle – the President of fossil-fuel lobby groups the American Energy Alliance and the Institute for Energy Research – as head of his Department of Energy transition team, the lobbyist sent a memo to supporters outlining a raft of expected policy changes. The memo flags “ending the use of social cost of carbon in federal rulemakings” and “taking a closer look at the environmental impacts of wind energy.” The two groups have received funding from companies including Peabody Energy and Alpha Natural Resources. (Center for Media and Democracy, Los Angeles Times)

“I don't know anybody in the country who would build another coal plant,”
said Gerry Anderson, the CEO of DTE Energy, a major utility in Michigan in the United States.


Australia: Land and Environment Court rejects Wollongong Coal’s appeal over adverse water finding.

India: Anti-corruption agency starts new case against Prakash Industries over Chotia coal allocation.

Puerto Rico: Coal ash dumping protests continue as arrest tally climbs to over 60.

Thailand: EGAT signs 20-year supply deal for coal from Adaro Energy’s Indonesian mines.

US: Federal lands coal block in Utah up for auction again after legal appeal rejected.

US: Coal ash treatment at Virginia coal plant shut down after selenium levels exceed trigger levels.

The numbers [for Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal project] don’t work or even get close to working at current coal prices … Coal prices would have to be sustainable at around about double current already higher coal prices for the project to proceed. It’s pie in the sky,”

said Dr Frank Gelber, the Chief Economist for BIS Shrapnel on ABC Radio.

“It’s pie in the sky” says Dr Frank Gelber Chief Economist BIS Shrapnel on supposed viability of #Adani’s proposed Carmichael #coal project

Companies + Markets

Cloud Peak Energy wants new law to shore up US coal demand: Cloud Peak Energy's vice president for government and public affairs, Richard Reavey, believes President-elect Donald Trump should amend the Clean Air Act to “target long-term meaningful CO2 reduction based on an 'innovate-then-regulate' approach.” He also proposed the incoming administration should pass new legislation to provide “incentives” for utilities to “achieve efficiency improvements”, retrofit Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at existing plants and “build high-efficiency, low-emissions coal plants” with CCS “where feasible.” (SNL)

Coal lobby frets over Asian bank’s draft low-carbon policy: The Australian Government and the Minerals Council of Australia – which represents companies such as Adani and BHP Billiton – have objected to  restrictions in support for coal in an initial discussion note on its energy strategy of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The draft strategy, which was released for public comment in October, states support for coal plants would only be considered “if cleaner technologies are not available for well-founded energy security or affordability reasons.” The AIIB is a new Asia-Pacific multilateral development bank instigated by the Chinese Government and part-funded by the Australian Government. (Guardian, AIIB)

For first time in 15 years, NSW coal exports fall: Coal exports from Newcastle, the largest coal port in the Asia-Pacific region, fell by 1.9 per cent year on year to 169.6 million tonnes in 2015-16. Thermal coal, which accounts for almost 85 per cent of exports, fell by 3.3 per cent to 144 million tonnes while metallurgical coal exports rose by 6.2 per cent. Since July, exports have increased marginally due to a price spike triggered by Chinese production restrictions, though with their relaxation prices are falling once more. (Platts, Newcastle Herald)

South African energy strategy looks to boost renewables: South Africa’s Department of Energy has proposed revising the national energy plan to include a dramatic increase in solar and wind capacity and the gradual decommissioning of existing coal plants by 2050. However, the base case in the draft plan, which is subject to public hearings this month, assumes the completion of the 4800 MW Kusile and Medupi plants and the commissioning of a new 900 MW coal plant in 2021. The plan also assumes a notional 15,000 MW of other coal plants commissioned between 2028 and 2042 as part of its base case. (Department of Energy, The Conversation)

Canadian CCS more expensive than efficiency and renewables: After the Canadian government unveiled its plan to phase out coal power by 2030, coal industry supporters have sought to promote Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as a solution. However, the Pembina Institute estimates the cost of CCS – based on the Boundary Dam plant – is over six times greater than energy efficiency and over double the cost of wind and solar power. (Pembina Institute)

Botswana seeks to recast Trans-Kalahari railway: The governments of Botswana and Namibia have agreed to broaden the scope of the feasibility study on the proposed 1500 kilometre-long Trans-Kalahari Railway Line project as a multi-cargo project rather than just for coal. The project was originally conceived at the height of the recent coal boom to allow for the export of coal from land-locked Botswanan coalfields to the European market. (Namibia Economist)


The Dutch Coal Mistake: How Three Brand-New Power Plants in the Netherlands Are at Risk Already of Becoming Stranded Assets, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, November 2016. (Pdf)

This 23-page report examines how three new coal plants in the Netherlands which cost US$6.4 billion to build and were commissioned in 2015 are now valued at just US$2.5 billion and falling.

Coal and dirty development in China and India leads to 1.6 million extra air pollution deaths a year, Greenpeace India & Clean Air Action, December 2016. (Pdf)

This 18-page report reviews the number of premature deaths attributable to air pollution in low-income countries and concludes more people in China and India are killed by air pollution each year than would be typical, based on other large middle-income countries.