October 2, 2014

Solar, not coal, best options for energy poor - says IEA

“The International Energy Agency has challenged the claim by the global thermal coal industry that centralised coal-fired generation is the best solution to energy poverty – where more than 1 billion people in Asia and Africa still go without power … If coal was to be used, it would have to include carbon capture and storage, which apart from not being commercially available in power stations, would be very expensive. The best alternative, it says, is solar,” writes Giles Parkinson in RenewEconomy.

Suggested Tweet: #Solar, not #coal, best options for energy poor – says IEA http://bit.ly/1uD2iX0 #energypoverty @renew_economy


US court upholds block on mountaintop mine expansion

Arch Coal has failed in its bid to have a federal District Court judge overturn a decision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to veto a permit for the expansion of the Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia. In January 2011 the EPA vetoed a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers on the grounds that filling more than nine kilometres of a mountain stream with waste rock from the mountaintop removal mine would breach the Clean Water Act. Judge Amy Berman Jackson determined that the EPA’s veto was “reasonable, supported by the record, and based on considerations within EPA’s purview.” The decision has been welcomed by environmentalists as a major victory in a long-running legal dispute over the mine. (The Hill, Sierra Club)

Suggested Tweet: US victory - judge upholds block on mountaintop-removal #coal mine in West Virginia: http://sc.org/1Bz5m5m #StopMTR @BeyondCoal

top news

Myanmar MP owns company proposing coal plant: The construction company proposing to build a major coal-fired power station in southern Myanmar is headed by a member in the regional parliament from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development. At a September 14 public meeting to discuss a coal plant proposed by Tata Power, the Chairman of the A1 Group and local MP, Yan Win, spoke in favour of his project. (Eleven One,The Irrawaddy)

Doubts raised about Australian coal mining rehabilitation: Doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of long-term rehabilitation after open-cut coal mining in Australia. Dr Peter Erskine, a researcher at the University of Queensland's Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, said that the increasing scale of the mines resulted in major changes to the landscape, geology and water systems. Erskine rejected the claim by the Minerals Council of Australia that coal mining is a temporary land use: “It's really a transformative land use.” (ABC)

Alaskan coal loader shuts after legal win: A legal win by Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the local chapter of the Sierra Club has forced the temporary closure of the coal loader at the Seward Port in Resurrection Bay, Alaska. The appeals court overturned a lower court decision that the granting of a stormwater permit by the state government shielded  the port operator, Aurora Energy Services, and the port owner, Alaska Railroad Corporation, from liability under the federal Clean Water Act. (Alaska Public Media, United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit)
Challenge to proposed Thai coal port: Residents have petitioned the Central Administrative Court to reject the environmental impact assessment of the proposed Ban Klong Rua coal port. Residents argue that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has failed to organise public meetings on the proposal. Residents believe the port  would pollute the ocean and damage the tourism industry. EGAT is proposing to import coal for the proposed 800-megawatt (MW ) Krabi coal plant. (Bangkok Post, The Nation)

Protests disrupt Australian coal company sites: Four mines and a coal loader owned by Whitehaven Coal were disrupted during a day of protest by more than 150 activists. Whitehaven Coal is currently building the Maules Creek mine in northern New South Wales, which is being opposed by Aboriginal traditional owners, farmers and environmentalists. The company is a target of the fossil fuel divestment campaign. (ABC)

Indian railway project stalls: A railway expansion project in Jharkhand promoted by the Modi government may be delayed by as much as a year due to lack of approval from the private owners of 81 hectares of land. The proposed railway line is one of three promoted by the Modi government to increase domestic railway coal capacity by 100 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa). (Indian Express)

“At the utility level, solar PV has many competitors. At the distributed level, solar PV has a competitive advantage and is unbeatable,”

said Paolo Frankl, the head of the International Energy Agency’s Renewable Energy Division.


Canada: British Columbia local government association calls for impact assessment of coal transport risks.

India: National Thermal Power Corporation lands US$250 million loan from Mizuho Bank of Japan for expansion plans.

Kenya: Legal dispute between Lamu coal plant bidders likely to delay project.
Tanzania: Government wants work on Mchuchuma coal mine and power plant to start next year.

US: CEO of coal-to-gas company sentenced to 25 years in prison for US$57 million fraud.

UK: Prime Minister pledges to phase out unabated coal power, but omits promise from UN speech.

“It’s coal that really needs, in a wise way, to be phased out,”

said Hege Norheim, the head of corporate sustainability for the Norwegian oil company Statoil. Norheim was arguing that gas-fired power stations were superior to coal plants.

companies + markets

China cuts coal production: In a bid to lift prices for domestic coal producers the Chinese government has announced that the 14 largest coal mining companies will be required to cut production by 190 million tonnes. This represents approximately five per cent of 2014 production. Most domestic Chinese coal producers have been losing money due to falling demand and prices. (Bloomberg)

Lukewarm interest in Philippines coal auction: Only nine valid applications for coal allocations across five provinces have been received by the Philippines Department of Energy (DOE), compared to 69 in the 2012 coal allocation. The low level of interest is attributed by the DOE to the prevailing low domestic price of coal. (The Philippine Star)

BHP Billiton signs deal to boost South African rail capacity: BHP Billiton has entered into a 10-year take-or-pay coal transport contract with the government-owned railway company Transnet. BHP Billiton produces 30 Mtpa of coal from four thermal coal mines in South Africa, some of which is burnt in local power stations. Transnet wants decade-long contracts with all coal exporters to enable it to raise funds for the proposed 10 Mtpa expansion of exports through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal. (Transnet)
Coal consultancy warns oversupply could last “for years”: Andy Roberts, the principal analyst at coal industry consultancy Wood Mackenzie, has warned that the global coal oversupply is so large that “it might take years to absorb the overcapacity.” A research note by Nomura, citing Wood Mackenzie data, states that coal export capacity exceeds demand by approximately 96 million tonnes. (SNL)

Indonesia cracks down on illegal coal exports: One hundred and seventy one coal mining permits – including many for operating mines – have been cancelled this year in a government move to eliminate overlapping licences and ensure taxes and royalties are being paid. Of the estimated 1450 coal producers in Indonesia, over 400 more have yet to be certified as “clean and clear”, a prerequisite to gain an export permitwhich was introduced on October 1. (Reuters)

Sumitomo launches inquiry into Australian coal losses: Japanese trading company Sumitomo has launched an internal investigation into its recent losses including a US$273 million write-down on its Australian coal assets. Sumitomo and its joint venture partner Vale have also announced the closure of the Isaac Plains mine in Queensland due to low prices. (Bloomberg, Reuters)

“I think for India to add 10,000 MW a year [of solar] and six, or seven or eight [gigawatts] of wind every year is not very difficult to envisage,”

said Piyush Goyal, the Indian Minister for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy.


Technology Roadmap: Solar Photovoltaic Energy, International Energy Agency (IEA), September 29, 2014 (pdf) and Technology Roadmap: Solar Thermal Electricity, International Energy Agency, September 29, 2014. (Pdf)

These two major reports represent a major shift in the assessment of the potential of solar electricity by the normally conservative International Energy Agency. The IEA now estimates that solar photovoltaics and concentrating solar power could account for 27 per cent of electricity supply by 2050.

Resources and Energy Quarterly – September Quarter 2014, Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE), Commonwealth of Australia, September 25, 2014. (Pdf)

In separate chapters on both thermal and metallurgical coal, BREE provides a brief overview of its assessment of the global coal market and key importers to 2019. Statistical data from the report is available in an Excel spreadsheet here.
Freight Transportation: Developing National Strategy Would Benefit from Added Focus on Community Congestion Impacts, Government Accountability Office, GAO-14-740, September 2014. (Pdf)

This report assesses the impacts of growing congestion on US railway networks caused in part by increasing coal and oil volumes. The report finds that taxpayers and local governments have largely been left to fund investments in infrastructure upgrades.

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