October 15, 2015
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editor's note

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) coal-heavy electricity scenarios are often treated reverentially by media outlets and energy pundits as though their crystal ball-gazing will inevitably become reality. This week, the IEA is coming in for some long-overdue scrutiny.


Fact-checking the IEA: the world’s three largest coal importers are importing less coal

The IEA last week released a report hyping the prospects for coal demand for new power plants in Southeast Asia. Tim Buckley and Tom Sanzillo from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis point to 2015 data from China, India and Japan – the three largest Asian coal importers – all showing falling demand.

Tweet: Fact-checking the @IEA: the world’s 3 largest #coal importers are importing less http://bit.ly/1X0FonG @ieefa_institute #climate

The International Energy Agency consistently underestimates wind and solar power. Why?

Coal industry lobby groups love citing IEA projections in a bid to bolster claims that coal will remain king for a long time to come. David Roberts examines why the IEA so consistently underestimates the growth of renewables.

Tweet: The @iea consistently underestimates #wind and #solar power. Why? http://bit.ly/1VOzKbc @drvox #coal #climate


Pakistan court freezes power plant, pending further hearing

In response to legal action by two dozen residents and farmers, the Lahore High Court has imposed a stay on the development of a proposed 1320 megawatt (MW) Sahiwal plant. The legal action argued the proposed project would adversely affect some of Pakistan’s best agricultural land as well as the health of people and nearby industry. They also argued that the environmental assessment report on the project had been done hastily, contained errors and that the plant would breach air pollution standards. The court has directed a further hearing on the project on October 29 with the project proponent and key government regulators required to attend. (Business Recorder)

Tweet: #Pakistan court freezes #coal power plant, pending further hearing http://bit.ly/1k3QJoT

top news

China considers further coal curbs: China is considering further measures to curb coal – including a cap on coal consumption and a ban on new coal plants – in the next five-year plan to be released early next year. While electricity demand remains flat, about 1000 MW of new coal plants are added to the grid each week, assets which have been described as creating a ‘bubble’. Coal plant utilisation rates have fallen to almost 50 per cent, making them increasingly uneconomic. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Indian coal plant shut since July due to water shortage: Five units at the Parli power station in Maharashtra state – with a combined capacity of 1130 MW – have been closed since July due to a lack of water. Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (MahaGenco) has also deferred the commissioning of a new 250 MW unit at the plant until the next monsoon season in mid-2016. The plant was also shut down in February 2013 due to a lack of water. (DNA, CoalSwarm)

Myanmar villagers challenge coal plant tour report: Villagers have accused Toyo-Thai Corporation of using reports submitted by four participants on a tour of coal plants in Thailand and Japan to create the impression of public support for its proposed Andin coal plant. A documentary by the Mon Multimedia Institute revealed that four of those on the tour did not explicitly support the proposed project while seven other community members declined the invitation to go on the trip. (The Irrawaddy, Mon News)
Doubts grow over Bangladesh coal plans: The Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary, Abul Kalam Azad, has flagged doubts that the planned 20,000 MW of new coal plant capacity by 2030 will be implemented. The high costs, long lead times and necessity for significant technical expertise for coal plants are prompting a policy rethink. “We are thinking of setting up large solar power plants to meet the power demand,” Azad said. Government-backed plans for coal-fired plants have been met with strong community opposition. (Dhaka Tribune)

French President pressed to drop Turkish coal plan: A coalition of European environmental groups has urged French President Francois Hollande to ensure the government-owned utility Engie ends its involvement with the proposed Ada Yumurtalık 1320 MW coal plant in southern Turkey. This year Engie has withdrawn from proposed plants in Poland and South Africa.  Turkey – which has plans for 80 new coal plants – is under growing domestic and international pressure to move away from coal. (Hurriyet Daily News, ClimateWire)

“[Fossil fuel and nuclear power plants] are a trap for companies to die … Big is bad. Our strategy is much more flexible and modular then it was before, and more adaptable to the world we live in,”

said Francesco Starace, the CEO of Italian-headquartered utility Enel which is closing about half its coal plants in Italy and has scrapped proposed plants in Chile and Italy.


Australia: Company charged with underground coal gasification pollution was major political donor.

Czech Republic: Prime Minister may be called to give evidence in coal company privatisation case.

Thailand: Acquittal of three men accused of masterminding murder of anti-coal activist in 2004.
Scotland: Government extends moratorium on fracking to include underground coal gasification.

Taiwan: Two city governments seek curb on coal burning despite central government resistance.

companies + markets

Polish coal company struggling to survive: Kompania Weglowa, the publicly-owned coal company, needs US$188 million before the end of March in order to survive, according to the company’s CEO Krzysztof Sedzikowski. The company has cut capital expenditure, is requiring pre-payment for deliveries and is selling its coal stockpiles at cut-rate prices. However, it will still need to win the support of financial institutions to remain viable. (Reuters)

Coal burns UK pension funds: A review of investments by UK public sector pension funds found that 61 of them lost US$971 million in the last eighteen months on holdings in four large coal companies; BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Glencore and Rio Tinto. The research by the UK group Platform estimates that the losses could be far greater as 40 pension funds did not provide sufficient data to estimate their potential losses. (Financial Times, Platform London)

Indian agency identifies plants for coal upgrades: The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has identified 57 coal units over 25 years old  – with a capacity of 32,000 MW – which it proposes could be retired or upgraded from lower-efficiency sub-critical plants to super or ultra-supercritical plants. The CEA’s review follows a central government directive in April requiring all sub-critical plants over 25 years old be assessed for upgrading. 4000 MW of the units identified are already slated to be retired. (Hindustan Business Times)
World Coal Association pitches coal plan to UN agency: The World Coal Association, a lobby group representing mostly Australian and US coal companies, has proposed that the United Nations Green Climate Fund finance new coal plants. The fund, established with contributions from industrialised countries to support climate mitigation and adaptation projects, declined to comment on the coal industry’s proposal. In a speech Peter Freyberg, the head of coal for Glencore – the world’s largest thermal coal exporter – complained that there was a “funding gap” for new coal plants. (Bloomberg, Reuters)

Samsung suspends Kazak coal plant construction: Samsung Engineering has suspended construction work on the 1320 MW Balkhash coal plant in Kazakhstan due to financial difficulties. The CEO of Samsung Engineering, Park Jung-heum, said construction had been suspended due to “an issue” over the power purchase contract from the plant which made it hard to raise finance. The $2.1 billion project, which has a long and troubled history, was most recently scheduled to be completed in March 2020. (Korea Times, CoalSwarm)


“Steel as a Model for a Sustainable Metal Industry in 2050”, Boston Consulting Group, October 2015.

This article briefly outlines a scenario in which an increase in steel scrap recycling stabilises demand for metallurgical coal at current levels.

World Energy Outlook Special Report on Southeast Asia 2015, International Energy Agency, October 2015. (Pdf)

This free report provides a useful overview of developments in Southeast Asia but it is typically bullish when it comes to coal.

Too Close for Comfort, Australia Institute, October 2015. (Pdf)

This report documents the close ties between coal and gas industry lobbyists and Queensland politicians and the revolving door between them.

take action

Morgan Stanley: Drop Coal!

The Rainforest Action Network has a launched a petition to James Gorman, the Chair and CEO of Morgan Stanley, urging the company to end its corporate financing of coal mining and power plants. The petition is here.

Suggested Tweet: Tell @MorganStanley it's time to drop #coal! http://www.ran.org/morganstanley @dirtyenergy #climate

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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