October 13, 2016
Issue 154  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

A new report reveals loopholes in the European Union’s coal plant pollution standards are so big they caused an estimated 20,000 premature deaths in 2013. The death toll could be slashed if the plants complied with best practice pollution controls - or eliminated if the plants were phased out.

However, coal companies are keen for old plants to keep going as long as possible. This week BHP Billiton, one of the world’s largest coal exporters, published a blog downplaying the threat to thermal coal from solar and wind power by relying on old assumptions about the cost of renewables.

It is a similar line being pushed by Cambodia’s Minister for Energy while touting for Chinese investment in more coal plants. India’s Minister for Power, Piyush Goyal, on the other hand, has sombrely reflected on the “irrationality” of massive over investment by public and private companies in coal plant capacity.

Bob Burton


Toxic loopholes? How coal plants are still exceeding EU pollution limits

Over half of European Union coal plants – which caused an estimated 13,600 premature deaths in 2013 – are still exceeding legal air pollution limits thanks to special exemptions, writes Jocelyn Timperley in Business Green.

BHP Billiton swallows Lomborg line and sells itself short on wind and solar

BHP Billiton – a major exporter of thermal coal from Australia and Colombia – downplays the escalating threat to thermal coal power demand from dramatic cost reductions in wind and solar generation, writes Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy.

China approves new coal projects as consumption continues to fall

Even though China announced a freeze on new coal plant approvals in April and coal demand is falling, three new coal projects have just been approved writes Zachary Davies Boren in EnergyDesk.

Indonesia’s true cost of coal: Devastating the environment

The true cost of coal is nearer US$152 per megawatt hour, well above even the most expensive renewble energy — offshore wind, and more than half of that is the cost of the health impacts, writes Hindun Mulaika from Greenpeace Indonesia in the Jakarta Post.

Top News

Ghanaian Minister raises doubts about Chinese-backed plant plan: Ghana’s Minister of the Environment, Mahama Ayariga, has raised doubts that a proposed 2100 megawatt (MW) coal plant proposed by a joint venture between Shenzhen Energy Group and the Volta River Authority will be allowed to proceed. Ayariga said that after agreeing to ratify the Paris Agreement “we will not come back home and be permitting coal plants … rest assured that nobody has permission to build a coal power plant.” (Ghana Business News, CoalSwarm)

Vietnam promises inspections to allay pollution concerns: In a bid to allow growing concern over pollution, Vietnam’s Minister of Industry and Trade, Tran Tuan Anh, has announced power plants will be inspected for compliance with environmental standards. Anh vowed that plants which breached standards and affected the lives of local people would be shut down. (Viet Nam News)

Queensland moves fast-track infrastructure for Adani mine: In a move to bypass potential legal challenges the Queensland Government has designated Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine, railway and associated water supply as “critical infrastructure.” While Adani has approvals for the mine and port expansion it lacks crucial water licences and has yet to raise finance for the US$4billion project. (Guardian, IEEFA)

Alarm over risks posed by Indian coal allocation: The President of Chhattisgarh Congress Party, Bhupesh Baghel, has expressed alarm over the allocation of a coal block in the Hasdev River catchment to Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation. In a letter to the Minister for Coal, Piyush Goyal, Baghel argued the mine would displace many tribal villagers, affect elephant habitat and pose a risk to important water supplies for both agriculture and existing power generation in the Korba district. (Indian Express)

Bangladesh launches crackdown on NGOs: Bangladesh’s Parliament has approved legislation authorising the registration of foreign-funded non-government organisations (NGOs) to be cancelled if they make “malicious” or “derogatory” comments about the country or constitutional bodies. The bill also targets groups deemed to support extremist or terror-related groups. After passing the legislation the State Minister for Power, Nasrul Hamid, claimed most of those opposing the proposed coal plant near the Sundarbans World Heritage site were “somehow” linked to Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic political movement which is the target of a crackdown by the current government. (Daily Star, BDnews24.com)

“A third major focus area – and perhaps the most urgent – is to slow down the growth of coal fired power plants. If all the new coal plants on the books earlier this year were constructed - especially in Asia - it would be impossible to stay below two degrees. Many countries want to move in the right direction. We can and should all help to find renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions that allow them to phase out of coal,”

said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim at a Climate Ministerial meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

World Bank President says “impossible” to stay below 2°C #climate target unless new #coal plant plans are curbed http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/speech/2016/10/08/remarks-by-world-bank-group-president-jim-yong-kim-at-the-wbg-imf-annual-meetings-2016-climate-ministerial


Australia: Senate committee to investigate transition planning for closure of old coal plants.

Bangladesh: China set to offer concessional loans for new 660 MW coal plant and other projects.

Mozambique: Rebels attack Vale coal train on recently commissioned Moatize to Nacala railway.

South Africa: Two consortia with international backing picked to build 863 MW of new coal capacity.

UK: Scottish Government bans underground coal gasification due to “numerous risks.”

“If the world helps me technologically, provides us with the resources, I would be the first person to emphasise on switching from coal to cleaner sources of energy. Until I am able to do that, I will think of something else,”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told American TV show host David Letterman.

Companies + Markets

Call for solar plan as coal power rises in Cambodia: The Cambodian Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem is seeking Chinese investment in more coal plants while claiming the cost of solar power is too expensive. Cambodia currently has two coal plants, with the part-completed 700 MW Sihanoukville CIIDG power station being built by the Chinese-based Erdos Hongjun Electric Power Company. The joint venture company building the Sihanoukville plant is co-owned by Senator Lao Meng Khin, a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. (Phnom Penh Post, Xinhua)

India’s Minister for Power says companies invested “irrationally”: India’s Minister for Power and Energy, Piyush Goyal, has blamed unrealistic power demand targets set by the Planning Commission as the cause of public and private companies investing “irrationally” in extra generating capacity. However, Greenpeace India has called on Goyal to freeze further coal development, noting that since the Modi Government came to power in May 2014, 45,000 MW of new coal plants have received environmental clearance or commenced the assessment process. (Economic Times, Times of India)

India’s Secretary of Coal bemoans lack of demand: Faced with “hardly any demand for power”, India’s Secretary of Coal, Anil Swarup, has called for plans to increase electricity demand. “We are planning to produce one billion tonnes of coal by 2020. What will I do with that coal?” he asked. Earlier this year Coal India – which produces 80 per cent of the country’s coal – reduced production in the hope of clearing over 88 million tonnes of coal stockpiled at mines and power stations. (Economic Times)

Australian company seeks export credit for South African mine: ResGen, a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, is seeking support from Australia’s export credit agency Efic to finance the proposed Boikarabelo coal mine and railway in South Africa. ResGen is proposing to initially mine   6 million tonnes a year of thermal coal to cater for the proposed Boikarabelo power station and some for export to India via the Richards Bay coal terminal. The proposed financial support for the project is opposed by the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank. (Australian Mining)

UK’s falling imports hit bulk shipping companies: The 64 per cent fall in the volume of UK coal imports this year – due to the retirement of old coal plants  – has the Baltic and International Maritime Council fearing the global trend away from coal will have a major impact on the dry freight shipping industry. Long haul coal shipping from Colombia and the US – two major exporters to the European coal market – has been important for shipping companies as they provide significant tonnage miles. (Maritime Logistics Professional)


Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud: How cutting coal saves lives, European Environmental Bureau and others, October 2016. (Pdf)

This 44-page report details how improving environmental performance at European coal power stations could save 20,000 lives every year. An appendix provides an estimate of the number of premature deaths caused by each plant in Europe.

Independent Review of Underground Coal Gasification – Report, Scottish Government, October 2016. (Pdf)

This 236-page report – which underpinned the Scottish Government’s ban on underground coal gasification (UCG) – provides an overview of the technology and some of the problems with projects around the world.

We can’t wait: Why we need reform of the federal coal program now, [US] Wilderness Society, October 2016. (Pdf)

This 8-page report outlines the need for reform of the US Government’s federal coal leasing program.