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Remember that it is to the advantage of those who are invested in coal, especially those who are wanting to sell their coal investments, to try to make everyone else believe that coal is a great investment. They want to keep the share prices as high as they can so that they can sell their own shares.

The more desperate they are to get rid of their coal investments the harder they will work to convince the world that coal is a sound investment and "coal is good for humanity".

End of coal

Many reasons to believe the coal industry is in deep trouble

From about mid 2013 it became increasingly obvious that the coal industry was in serious decline.

Some of the evidence for this decline included:
 

Tuesday 17th November 2015

The day when South Australia became the first Australian state to close its last remaining coal mine. Which Australian state will be next?

Ontario, Canada, closed its last coal-fired power station on 2014/04/15, Scotland closed its last on 2016/03/24. All three places are strong on wind power.

In April 2016 Belgium closed its last coal-fired power stations. Ten other European nations are either already coal-power-free or are planning to go that way soon.

New Zealand announced plans to shut down its two remaining coal-burning generators "amid ample supplies of cheaper renewable energy generation and subdued demand".

 

Old King Coal is dying

But some people don't want to let him lie down and die with dignity, they keep on poking him to try to force a little more profit out of the poor old sod.

  1. Renewable energy was becoming much cheaper than new coal;
  2. Health authorities were demanding an end to coal;
  3. Coal-fired power stations were shutting down;
  4. Coal mines were closing, miners going bankrupt;
  5. Big oil was requesting a carbon price, which would particularly hit coal;
  6. Religious groups were calling for climate change action;
  7. Renewable energy, particularly wind power and solar PV, were taking the place of coal-fired power stations. Wind had grown to around the generation capacity of nuclear, solar PV was growing at near exponential rates and solar-thermal was also becoming a significant contributor.
  8. The coal price was at its lowest level in more than five years because of declining demand;
  9. Jobs in the coal industry were disapearing;
  10. Increasing numbers of cities, states and countries were introducing or strengthening carbon pollution reduction measures;
  11. India and China, the world's biggest coal importers, were suffering terrible air pollution due to coal and were wanting to increase energy security. They were turning away from burning imported coal and toward renewables;
  12. The US coal industry was in deep trouble;
  13. The European Union was acting on carbon emissions;
  14. Investors were viewing coal as a bad risk and divesting;
  15. Individuals, banks, funds, universities and other organisations were divestmenting in coal and other fossil fuels for ethical reasons;
  16. Progressive organisations are investing in renewables;
  17. Coal deposits were becoming stranded assets;
  18. Coal stocks had lost most of their value;
  19. Public relations firms were deserting the coal industry's climate science denial campaigns;
  20. There was overproduction; mines were running at a loss because they had to fill orders even though prices were low;
  21. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) had been seen as a way of 'cleaning-up coal' it was found to be economically unviable;
  22. The UK, where the industrial revolution started, was to stop using coal;
  23. What will happen when the subsidies dry up?
  24. Railways become stranded assets;
  25. One coal-fired power station was even given away by the NSW government;
  26. Corporations were changing to renewables;
  27. The rats were leaving the sinking ship;
  28. Indian coal miner Adani was investing in big solar;
  29. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was showing that renewable energy was economically competative with fossil fuels by committing to 100% renewable energy at the same time as keeping the lowest electricity prices in Australia;
  30. Taxpayers were having to bail out the coal industry;
  31. An alliance of Australian peak bodies was calling for climate change action;
  32. The owner of Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power station issued a 'Call to arms' against coal;
  33. Black lung returned to Australia.
Written 2014/07/31, modified 2017/05/11
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke) – ©
 
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This page gives short summaries of, and links to, a great many articles on the Internet relating to the terminal decline of the coal industry.

The page was remarkably easy to write. I started writing it on the last day of July 2014 and by 6th August had 3800 words.

I found that published material indicating that the world coal industry was in deep trouble was plentiful and increasing almost daily.

Big Coal's 2014 nightmare, by Bob Burton, 2014/12/19.

 
Google search Ramblings DC


A bad day for coal is a good day for humanity. 2015/02/06 was one such, see here and here.

 
Renewable energy is displacing coal
Port Augusta

New solar power, coal-fired power station shutting down

This view at Port Augusta, South Australia, April 2016, nicely symbolizes the decline of coal. On the left is the new solar power-tower of Sundrop Farms. The big smoking chimney is on the Northern Power Station, SA's last coal-fired power station; which was soon to close. Further right are the two chimneys of the Sir Thomas Playford coal-fired power station, which had already closed-down. The chimney stopped smoking on 2016/05/09.

At the time this photo was taken, an average of around 33% of SA's power was generated by wind farms and another 5% by solar PV.

Why should the world turn away from coal?

  1. It is one of the main causes of climate change and ocean acidification;
  2. Air pollution from the burning of coal kills millions of people each year;
  3. Conscientious people will not allow new coal mines;
  4. We don't need to burn coal to generate electricity. Wind farms are a cheaper way of generating electricity than new coal-fired power stations. Solar PV is also financially very competitive. Both wind and solar power have the advantage that they do not pollute the atmosphere. Gas-fired power stations, which are less polluting than coal, can fill the gaps when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining until we can entirely use renewables for our energy needs.
  5. The dust released into the atmosphere from coal-fired power stations includes radioactive elements. Research suggests that radiation doses from coal-fired power stations are greater than from typical nuclear power stations.


Introduction

 
Coal Price
Coal price graph
Graphic credit UBS
By mid 2014 there were many signs that the world coal industry was in a period of major decline.

I started writing this page when, toward the end of July 2014, over a period of just a few days, there was a triplet of news items, all of which suggested that the international coal industry was in deep trouble.

At that time:

  1. The price of coal reached its lowest point in more than five years ;
  2. The Indian Government announced that it intended to double its coal tax;
  3. And multi-national Rio Tinto quit their Mozambique coal project following a loss of more than $3 billion dollars.
This was the last of Rio's coal mining investments outside of Australia to go and Rio's Energy Group was estimated to contribute less than 1% to the company's earnings over the 2013-2016 period.

I downloaded the graph on the right 2015/09/09; the price of coal was still falling.

Update, May 2016
The coal price fall continues

 
Coal, Australian thermal coal Monthly Price – US Dollars per Metric Ton
Coal price
Image credit Index Mundi
I downloaded the graph on the right on 2016/05/22.

The fall in the price of coal continues.

Australia is a major exporter of thermal coal.

 
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This section added 2017/05/11

Renewable energy was becoming much cheaper than new coal

Why would anyone build a new coal-fired power station, that would require an electricity price of around Aus$100/MWh to be profitable, when they could build a wind farm that could generate electricity for Aus$60/MWh; especially when you consider that a new coal-fired power station might be forced to shut down in a decade or so due to emissions reductions targets?

Most forecasters expected solar power prices to fall, but very few anticipated how fast they would fall. RenewEconomy reported in May 2017 that solar was now cheaper than domestic coal in India. India has been one of the export hopes of the Australian coal industry, but it seems likely that they will be disappointed in the future.

 
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Investors desert coal
Divestment for financial reasons

This section deals with organisations that are divesting from coal for financial reasons (coal has no future), other groups and individuals are divesting for ethical reasons.

 

Adani and the law

Envirojustice looked into whether the Adani Group could be trusted to comply with environmental laws should they open the Carmichael Mine. They unearthed a number of Adani's past breaches of environmental law in their mining operations around the world.
 

There's a rush to get out of coal investments

Bloomberg Businessweek reported in June 2014 that investor Warren Buffett had invested $15 billion in renewables. He also said "There's another $15 billion ready to go as far as I'm concerned". This famously astute investor obviously sees a brighter future in renewables than in fossil fuels.

On 2014/09/12 it was reported that HESTA, an Australian superannuation fund with a portfolio worth $29B, was to restrict investment in thermal coal.

Other financial institutions are turning away from coal too.

 
South Australian wind farm
Wind farm
South Australia is showing that we don't need coal. In the month of July 2014, 43% of the state's electricity was generated by wind turbines such as these.
By 2017 wind farms were averaging around 40% of the state's power supply.
In my country, Australia, there has been a lot of controversy over a proposed coal mine, the Carmichael Mine, in the Galillee Basin of Queensland. In May 2016 it was reported that the mine's proponent, Adani, had invested up to US$10b in solar power and would be unlikely to also be able to fund the coal mine.

In August 2015 both the Commonwealth Banking Corporation (CBC) and Standard Chartered bank pulled out of funding the proposed Adani Charmichael coal mine in Australia's Galilee Basin. In early September, the National Australia Bank (NAB) also announced they had no plans to be involved in the Charmichael coal mine.

The Australian Clean Energy Finance Corporation, in their submission to the Finkel Report into the Future Security of the Australian National Electricity Market stated that:

"New fossil-fuel generation in Australia would be unlikely to find private sector finance at an acceptable cost."

Environmental Law Australia have a Net page on Carmichael Coal Mine Cases in the Land Court and Supreme Court of Queensland. The page discusses many of the contentious issues relating to the proposed coal mine.

Westpac joins the other big Australian banks and many overseas banks in ruling out financing Adani's Galilee Basin Carmichael coal mine

In late April 2017 Westpac, one of Australia's 'big four' banks, has launched its updated Climate Change Action Plan. The Action Plan included these points, among others:
  1. $10 billion target for lending to climate change solutions by 2020 and $25 billion by 2030.
  2. Tighter criteria for financing any new coal mines. Financing for any new thermal coal projects limited to existing coal producing basins and where the calorific value of coal meets the energy content of at least 6,300kCal/kg Gross as Received – i.e. projects must rank in the top 15% globally.
  3. Commitment to actively reduce the emissions intensity of the power generation sector, targeting 0.30 tCO2e/MWh by 2020.
  4. Continued commitment to a broad market-based price on carbon as the most efficient way to.
The second point was of particular relevance to the Australian situation at the time. The Indian Company Adani had a very controversial proposal to open a huge coal mine (Carmichael Mine) in Queensland's Galilee Basin, which had not been previously mined. Westpac's second point ruled out financing the Carmichael Mine. Adani told the Queensland land court in 2014 that the Carmichael coal would only have 4,950kCal/kg, so the mine fails to meat Westpac's criteria on two grounds.

According to The Guardian all of Australia's big four banks have now ruled out funding, or withdrawn support from, the Carmichael Mine.

RenewEconomy reported, 2017/05/02, that 15 other banks around the world had also refused to fund the mine.

Also see The Conversation: The Future of Australian coal; an unbankable deposit; by David Holmes, 2017/05/03.

Citigroup recognises coal's poor prospects, 2014/05/15

Giles Parkinson wrote a piece in RenewEconomy on 2014/05/15 titled "Beginning of the end for coal? Citi sees structural decline". Below is a quote of a part of this:
A new series of reports from global investment bank Citigroup has highlighted the dramatic changes that are sweeping the world's largest energy markets, and which will have a significant impact on the future of the coal industry in Australia.

The reports titled "A new balance of power", "A short gas bridge to renewables" and "Global Thermal Coal: When cyclical supply met structural demand" come to several key conclusions.

The first is that emission standards and rising costs will force a mass closure of coal-fired generation (more than 60GW) in the next few years in the world's biggest market, the United States. And contrary to most expectations, it says gas will play only a minor role in this "energy transformation," because it will be usurped by the falling costs of renewables.

The second conclusion is that increasingly strict environmental measures are severely limiting the feasibility of opening new coal plants, not just in the US and Europe, but also in China which for the past few years has dominated the global coal market and has been the world's biggest consumer and importer.
Citi's analysts went on to write:
[Coal] demand is in structural decline as environmental pressures rise and costs of alternative energy sources decline.

 
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The shale gas revolution was the first blow, but rapidly declining wind and solar costs and the spread of unconventional gas production techniques are set to erode coal's long-time cost advantage over alternative electricity sources.
Citigroup's graphs showed that there is practically no new coal fired power stations being built (left) and that many older coal fired power stations are being shut down (right).

Rockefellers divest from fossil fuels

Both the Rockerfeller Family Fund (March 2016) and Rockerfeller Brothers Fund (2014) decided to divest from fossil fuels. The Rockerfeller family made much of their enormous fortune from fossil fuels.

Coal's decline

Little financial support for coal mining

Similarly, HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, and Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest, have stated that they were not interested in financing any coal mines that would export from ports near Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The International Monitory Fund (IMF) and World Bank have been calling on finance ministers to remove fossil fuel subsidies and use policies such as carbon taxes to reallocate resources and combat climate change.

More banks swearing off coal and Great Barrier Reef ports

2015/04/08; French banks rule out funding Galilee Basin coal

Amanda Saunders wrote in the Sydney Morning Herals:
"Three of France's biggest banks have taken the unusual step of writing letters committing not to fund coal projects in Australia's Galilee Basin, in a potential blow for the three big projects slated for the region. Credit Agricole, Societe Generale and BNP Paribas made their pledges in response to petitioning from anti-coal activists."

Previously, in late November 2014, other banks that announced they wanted nothing to do with coal ports on the Great Barrier Reef were: J P Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Credit Agricole.

Norwegian Pension Fund Global dumps coal investments

May 2015 – The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis published a report detailing divestment in coal by the Norges Bank in relation to the Norwegian Pension Fund Global (the biggest in the world).
"Over the past two years, Norges Bank, following upon its investment mandates from the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) and the Minister of Finance, divested the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG)'s of its holdings in at least 49 companies with substantial operations related to mining and burning of coal. The decision was based on the conclusion that the business models of these companies were unsustainable for environmental reasons and because of the financial risk in its exposure to coal."

Insurance company Axa divests from coal

The Guardian, 2015/05/23, reported that it will divest Aus$720 million from coal. Quoting from The Guardian...
"The insurance company Axa has said it will remove around 500m euros [Aus$720m] of coal investments from its portfolio, in a move that reflects long-term concerns in the insurance industry over climate change.

The company has also pledged to triple its investments in green technologies and services to more than 3 billion euros [Aus$4.3b] by 2020 and provide investors with more information on the risk to its investments from climate change."
The insurance industry, particularly the reinsurance section, has long recognised that climate change will increase insurance risks.
 
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Divestment campaign
Divestment for ethical reasons

Arabella Advisors released a report titled "Measuring the Growth of the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment and Clean Energy Investment Movement" in September 2015. The Executive Summary included "To date, 436 institutions and 2,040 individuals across 43 countries and representing $2.6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies." This represented a fifty-fold (5000%) increase in the total combined assets of those committed to divest from fossil fuels in just one year.

 
Divestment is hurting Peabody Coal
Divestment hurts
Graphic from 350.org
While many businesses are divesting for purely financial reasons some investors are divesting for ethical reasons.

As was reported by Karl Mathiesen in The Guardian, 2014/07/30, "dozens of cities, institutions and investors are taking their money out of fossil fuel companies after the launch of the divestment campaign in the US around 18 months ago."

World's biggest sovereign wealth fund dumps dozens of coal companies

Reported in The Guardian by Damian Carrington; I quote:
"The world's richest sovereign wealth fund removed 40 coal mining companies from its portfolio in 2014, citing the risk they face from regulatory action on climate change.

Norway's Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), worth $850bn and founded on the nation's oil and gas wealth, revealed a total of 114 companies had been dumped on environmental and climate grounds in its first report on responsible investing, released on Thursday. The companies divested also include tar sands producers, cement makers and gold miners.

As part of a fast-growing campaign, over $50bn in fossil fuel company stocks have been divested by 180 organisations on the basis that their business models are incompatible with the pledge by the world's governments to tackle global warming. But the GPFG is the highest profile institution to divest to date."
More can be read on The Guardian site.

ANU divestment

In October 2014 the Australian National University divested itself from a number of resource company investments. The reaction showed that this move hit a raw nerve in the carbon industry.

Newcastle council divests

 
Sydney Morning Herald poll
Poll
Newcastle (in NSW, Australia) has the world's biggest coal port. On 2015/08/25 the Newcastle City Council voted to divest from Australia's big four banks so long as the banks invest in coal. This shows that coal is unpopular even in a city that economically relies heavily on the mining and exporting of coal.

Of course the Minerals Council have been scathing in their criticism of the move, and no doubt PM Tony Abbott will do likewise, but the poll run by the Sydney Morning Herald (image on the right) suggests that most Australians strongly approve.

(Read the article by Amanda Saunders in the Sydney Morning Herald, 2015/08/26.)

The Newcastle City Council has targets of cutting emissions by 30% and sourcing 30% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. To this end they have announced plans to build a 5MW solar farm (2016/10/19).

City of Fremantle joins in

In mid November 2014 the City of Fremantle Council modified its investment policy to prohibit council funds being put into banks or financial institutions that support fossil fuel industries. Speaking about the decision, Fremantle Mayor Dr Brad Pettitt said:
"It's the responsibility of our banks, superannuation funds and governments that have custody of our money to use this money to protect, and not damage, our environment."
From 350.org

Three more on 2015/10/28

350.org announced today that three more major Australian institutions had committed to divesting from fossil fuels ("joining over 450 institutions worldwide").
  • Australian Acadamy of Science;
  • National Tertiary Education Union;
  • City of Melbourne.

More on the divestment campaign

Market Forces is collecting and listing divestment stories on a Net page.
 
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Renewable energy was replacing coal and other fossil fuels

 
Sundrop Farms, Port Augusta, South Australia
Solar power tower
Not only were renewable energy options replacing fossil fuels in electricity generation, but also in powering industry; see Sundrop Farms.

Fastest growth yet for renewables

Matt McGrath reported for the BBC on 2016/06/01 that:
New solar, wind and hydropower sources were added in 2015 at the fastest rate the world has yet seen, a study says.

Investments in renewables during the year were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants, the Renewables Global Status Report found.

For the first time, emerging economies spent more than the rich on renewable power and fuels.

Over 8 million people are now working in renewable energy worldwide.

For a number of years, the global spend on renewables has been increasing and 2015 saw that arrive at a new peak according to the report.

About 147 gigawatts (GW) of capacity was added in 2015, roughly equivalent to Africa's generating capacity from all sources.

China, the US, Japan, UK and India were the countries adding on the largest share of green power, despite the fact that fossil fuel prices have fallen significantly. The costs of renewables have also fallen, say the authors.

"The fact that we had 147GW of capacity, mainly of wind and solar is a clear indication that these technologies are cost competitive (with fossil fuels)," said Christine Lins, who is executive secretary of REN21, an international body made up of energy experts, government representatives and NGOs, who produced the report.

The Renewables 2016 Global Status Report can be downloaded from www.ren21.net.

 
Doublings
Graph source: BNEF

Wind and Solar are Crushing Fossil Fuels

Another revealing report is Wind and Solar are Crushing Fossil Fuels by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, April 2016.

The graph at the right is just one of half a dozen from that report showing how renewables were surging ahead at the cost of fossil fuels.

Solar 64% of new electricity in USA in the first quarter of 2016

Mike Munsell wrote in Renew Economy that:
"In the first quarter of 2016, 1,665 megawatts of solar PV were installed in the United States with the solar industry adding more new capacity during this period than coal, natural gas and nuclear combined."
 
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Countries acting on carbon

The Abbott Government, which has been corrupted by coal money, claims that other countries are not taking serious action on reducing emissions, but Australia's own government climate change Net site has a page discussing the countries of the world that are already acting to reduce carbon dioxide pollution.

According to that site:

"A broad range of countries have introduced, or are planning, market based emissions trading schemes and carbon taxes. Australia's top five trading partners China, Japan, the United States (US), the Republic of Korea and Singapore and another eight of our top twenty trading partners (New Zealand, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada) have implemented or are piloting carbon trading or taxation schemes at national, state or the city level."
These countries, states and cities will all be trying to reduce their coal consumption. The Government is itself corrupt, but it has not yet managed to corrupt the whole of the public service.

Germany looks to fast-track exit from coal

On 2014/11/05 Renew Economy reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing to implement "the strictest controls on coal fired generation yet to be seen in Europe and to redesign its energy system around renewables".
 
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India and China adopting renewables

 
Solar in India
The Guardian
Indian workers walk past solar panels at the 200 megawatts Gujarat Solar Park at Charanka in Patan district, India, Saturday, April 14, 2012. Photograph: Ajit Solanki/AP
India and China have been the great hopes of the Australian coal exporters. Unfortunately for the exporters, both nations have terrible air pollution from their coal-fired power stations and both are trying to reduce their use of coal and replace it with renewables.

Both nations also realise that building their own renewable energy facilities will provide them with energy independence and security. No nation wants to depend on others for its essential services.

The Guardian (2014/07/30) has reported that China has ordered coal power plants to close down in response to increasing air pollution problems.

It has been reported that Indian cities have the worst air pollution in the world, elsewhere it has been claimed that China holds the records. Whichever is true, both countries have huge problems.
 
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India

India cancels four big coal-fired power stations

On 2016/06/10 Tim Buckley wrote a piece in Renew Economy reporting that the:
"Indian Energy Ministry has this week announced plans to cancel four proposed coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 16 gigawatts (GW).

The plans previously called for four ultra mega power plants (UMPP) across Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha, but these are now to be cancelled due to lack of interest from the host states.

This is yet another major policy shift underscoring how seriously India is working to transform, modernize and diversify its electricity sector away from coal."
To put this in perspective, the Loy Yang power station in Victoria has the biggest capacity of any in Australia, at 3.25GW. Plainly this will be a huge blow to the international coal industry and to the Australian coal industry in particular.

India doubles its coal tax, again, March 2016

India introduced a coal tax in 2010. Since then it has been doubled three times. It is now about 30% of the wholesale price of coal. Read more on Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Coal India Limited, the world's biggest coal company, to build 1GW of solar power

Published in Solar Love, 2015/10/09, in a piece written by Jake Richardson.

Richardson wrote that Coal India Limited (CIL) "plans to finish a 250 MW installation in the Madhya Pradesh area within twelve months." CIL hope to build a further 750MW of solar when they find suitable sites.

It seems that CIL can see that coal has no future and that if they want to stay in business they need to change to renewables.

India to end coal imports in 2-3 years

In an article titled "Australia's coal and gas exports are being left stranded", 2014/11/21, Stephen Bygrave wrote in The Conversation that "India has signalled its aim to end coal imports within 2-3 years".

This shows the stupidity of the Liberal Queensland Government's plan of bailing out the coal industry in that state – with the aim of exporting coal to India.

India aims at 100GW of solar by 2020
(Total installed solar PV in Australia in June 2016 was 5.4GW)

Energy Matter, 2016/07/04, reported:
The World Bank Group says it hopes to provide more than $1 billion this year to support India's goal of 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2022.

"India's plans to virtually triple the share of renewable energy by 2030 will both transform the country's energy supply and have far-reaching global implications in the fight against climate change," said WBG President Jim Yong Kim.

"Prime Minister Modi's personal commitment toward renewable energy, particularly solar, is the driving force behind these investments. The World Bank Group will do all it can to help India meet its ambitious targets, especially around scaling up solar energy."

The figure represents the Bank's biggest funding package for solar power in any country. Support for the initiative will also be sourced from Clean Technology Fund and from public and private investors.
Plainly this will greatly impact on the future use of coal in India.

India to increase solar PV ten-fold

On 2014/08/04 Natalie Obiko Pearson of Bloomberg wrote:
India will provide low-cost loans and grants to set up solar power parks across the country to host as much as 20 gigawatts of capacity, about 10 times what it has built to date. [For comparison, at the end of June 2014, Australia had a total of 3.5GW of small-scale solar PV installed.]

"We're preparing a scheme for solar parks and it will be out after cabinet approval in about one month," said Tarun Kapoor, joint-secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

India is planning some of the world's largest photovoltaic plants as it seeks to scale down costs and boost generation. It targets producing power from at least four so-called ultra-mega projects at a maximum of 5,500 rupees a megawatt-hour, about 32 percent below the global average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The parks will host large plants ranging between 500 megawatts to 1,000 megawatts that will be connected to the grid. Government subsidies will keep the price of land within the parks low to contain project costs, Kapoor said.
 
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India plans to add 10 000MW of installed wind power capacity each year

That is more than three times the total of all Australia's wind power being added in India every year! See article by Mridul Chadha in Renew Economy, 2014/08/26.

In recent years India has added around 2000-3000MW of wind power each year. India's new government is very pro-renewables.

India plans to install 1000MW of off-shore wind power by 2020

Bloomberg carried an article written by Ganesh Nagarajan on 2014/09/12 reporting that the Ministry of Renewable Energy will seek cabinet approval for installing 1000MW of off-shore wind power by 2020.

Russia agrees to build 20 nuclear power stations for India

World Nuclear News reported 2014/12/11 that Russia and India signed a document that "contains plans to build over 20 nuclear power units in India". This will further reduce India's demand for imported coal.

SunEdison to develop 5GW of wind and solar in Karnataka

The Economic Times of India published an article on 2015/01/13 stating:
"Renewable energy developer and technology provider SunEdison has signed an MOU with Karnataka government to develop five gigawatts of renewable energy projects within the state over the next five years..."
At the end of 2013 the total installed utility-scale wind power in Australia was about 3GW and there was a similar amount of solar PV.

Karnataka is one of the southern states of India.

Adani, the prime mover of Galilee Basin coal, is in very questionable financial shape

"Adani is the prime player in the biggest thermal coal project in Australian history, Galilee Basin. The Galilee coal is to be shipped to India from terminals at Abbot Point where, controversially, the plan is to dredge the port and dump the spoil out to sea.

Without putting too fine a point on it, this is shaping up as the whitest of white elephants. No, more than this, this is an elephant which does not merely lack financial viability but which is also a calamity for the environment."
From an article by Michael West in the Sydney Morning Herald, 2014/09/05.
 
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China

China just scrapped 103 power plants

In a piece written by Peter Dockrill and published on ScienceAlert on 2017/01/19:
"China has announced plans to cancel more than 100 coal plants currently in development, scrapping what would amount to a massive 120 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired electricity capacity if the plants were completed.

In a directive issued this week, the country's National Energy Administration cancelled planning and construction on 85 new coal plants, in addition to 18 facilities canned last year."

China's cancer rates "exploding"; ABC

When China started its great economic and industrian growth a couple decades ago it built many, many coal-burning power stations. Since then China has had shocking air pollution, and now enough time has passed for cancers to have developed.

"China's cancer rates exploding, more than 4 million people diagnosed in 2015, study says". Written by ABC's China Correspondent Matthew Carney, 2016/03/24.

"In some of the industrial provinces, lung cancer rates have increased a staggering four-fold" and the cause seems to be air pollution, largely due to coal burning.

"Cancer has been the leading cause of death in China since 2010, with lung cancer causing the most deaths."

Consumption of coal in China continued to decline in 2016

A report in China Daily stated:
"The decline of China's coal usage may have become a long-term trend, according to experts, after official data on Tuesday showed that coal burning in 2016 dropped for the third consecutive year."
Coal consumption in China in 2016 was 4.7% less than in 2015.

This came after an article in Energy Matters, 2016/03/03, that cited a "Statistical Communique Of The People's Republic of China" in reporting a 3.7 percent decline in coal consumption in 2015 following a decline of 2.9 percent in 2014.

China announces a national emissions trading scheme

Extracted from The Conversation, 2015/09/26.
China has confirmed that it will launch its national emissions trading scheme.

In a joint US-China climate statement, issued as part of President Xi Jinping's state visit to the United States, China confirmed that its new trading sytem will cover "key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making, and nonferrous metals".
This will reduce China's need for coal, both imported and domestic.

Documentary on air pollution gets hundreds of millions of views in a few days

In early March 2015 a 104 minute documentary titled Under the Dome and dealing with air pollution in China had been viewed 200 million times in its first four days. Importantly the documentary has been praised by Chen Jining, Environment Minister.

Merrill Lynch have compared it to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and Rachel Carson's A Silent Spring.

According to the BBC, near the start of the film, Chai interviews a six year old girl in the coal-mining province of Shanxi, one of the most polluted places on earth.
 
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"Have you ever seen stars?" Chai asks. "No," replies the girl. "Have you ever seen a blue sky?" "I have seen a sky that's a little bit blue," the girl tells her. "But have you ever seen white clouds?" "No," the girl sighs.

China is on track for the biggest reduction in coal use ever recorded

 
From Quartz
China's energy mix
On-line news site Quartz produced a page written by Gwynn Guilford on 2015/05/15 under the heading above; it included the graph on the right. Guilford was refering to a report by Greenpeace-Energydesk.

Quoting from the original Greenpeace-Energydesk article:

"Official data from China shows coal use continuing to fall precipitously – bringing carbon dioxide emissions down with it.

The data – which comes months before crucial climate talks in Paris – means China has cut emissions during the first four months of the year by roughly the same amount as the total carbon emissions of the United Kingdom over the same period.

The figures suggest the decline in China's coal use is accelerating after data for last year showed China's coal use fell for the first time this century.

An analysis of the data by Greenpeace/Energydesk China suggests coal consumption in the world's largest economy fell by almost 8% and CO2 emissions by around 5% in the first four months of the year, compared with the same period in 2014.

It comes after the latest data – for April – showed coal output down 7.4% year on year amidst reports of fundamental reform for the sector. China also recently ordered more than 1,000 coal mines to close."

Peak coal use in China by 2015?

 
The people of Beijing are reminded of what a clear sky looks like
Beijing smog
Attribution "Feng Li/Getty Images"
The Conversation published an article on 2014/08/25 regarding a statement by Ross Garnaut who believes that "slowing economic growth, increasing energy efficiency and growth in low-carbon electricity sources are driving" a trend toward reduction in demand for coal. He believes that demand for coal might peak as early as 2015 and then start to decline.

Downward spiral of Chinese coal use

An article in Think Progress written by Joe Romm published on 2015/12/04 provided evidence that peak coal use may have happened in China in 2013 and that coal use was going into decline.

Beijing to ban coal use

Just one day after the Indian solar article above, on 2014/08/05 Paul Carston of the Financial Review reported that:
"Beijing will ban coal use in its six main districts by the end of 2020, state media cited the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau as saying, as the Chinese capital steps up efforts to combat air pollution. In 2012, coal made up one-quarter of the city's total energy consumption, Xinhua quoted official statistics as saying. Fuel oil, petroleum coke, combustible waste and some biomass fuels will also be prohibited as part of the effort to fight pollution, Xinhua said."

China to reduce fossil fuel imports by 45%

 
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John Mathews and Hao Tan published a paper in the prestigious science journal Nature which dealt with China's huge take-up of renewables. Relevant to this page, Mathews and Tan suggested that if China is able to reach its target of 550GW of renewables by 2017 it could reduce its imports of fossil fuels by 45%. (The Conversation, 2014/09/11)

Renewable energy 86% in China by 2050?

 
Projected energy sources in China
China renewables
Graph credit Clean Technica
An article by Sonia Aggarwal in CleanTechnica discussed a new study from China's Energy Research Institute, State Grid Energy Research Institute and others "envisioning a nation powered by 57% renewables in 2030, growing to 86% renewables by 2050, all at the same time as China's economy grows sevenfold."

Note the major decline in coal.



China sees huge potential in manufacturing renewable energy equipment

In a paper published in academia.edu Lynette H. Ong reported that:
"The [Chinese] government aims to raise [the renewable energy] industries' contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) from 5% currently to 8% by 2015 and 15% by 2020."
This trebling of China's already huge renewables industry will boost the world-wide renewables sector at the cost of the fossil fuel sector.

Turbine and message

China to ban dirty coal

Brian Robins wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled "Australian export risk on China dirty coal ban".

Brian wrote:

"A significant portion of Australia's coal exports to China could be at risk from a Chinese government decision to block imports of lower quality "dirty" coal from 2015, potentially hitting exports worth billions of dollars. The government has decided to limit the use of imported coal with more than 40 per cent ash and 3 per cent sulphur in the three main coal-using regions from January 1, 2015 in a bid to improve air quality, especially in the major cities such as Beijing."
A consultant has estimated that the Chinese ban could affect more than half of Australia's thermal coal exports to China.



Japan too

The Newcastle Herald carried an article titled 'Coal industry decline in Hunter inevitable' written by Lee Rhiannon on 22nd May 2014. Rhiannom mentioned that Japan, Australia's key long-term customer, was pushing the downward trend in coal prices.
 
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The US coal industry was in deep trouble

US coal industry is collapsing

Published in Fusion, 2015/05/31. Alex C. Madrigal wrote
... the market value of coal companies has collapsed. The four largest coal companies were worth a combined $21.7 billion dollars in June 2010. Now they're worth $1.2 billion. Two other large coal concerns, Patriot and James River, have both filed for bankruptcy in recent years. And one market analyst told the Financial Times in February to expect "multiple bankruptcies in US coal over the next 12-18 months."

The US coal sector was in terminal decline

Conor O'Sullivan wrote an article for Breaking Energy, 2015/03/25, headlined Energy News Roundup: Coal Decline...

He went on to write:

The US coal sector is in terminal decline resulting with 26 companies entering insolvency in the last three years, according to financial analysts. "A report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative found that in the past five years the US coal industry lost 76% of its value. At least 264 mines were closed between 2011 and 2013. The world's largest private coal company, Peabody Energy, lost 80% of its share price.

These declines were in spite of the Dow Jones industrial average increasing by 69% during the same period. Authors said this indicated a decoupling of US economic growth from coal.
In April 2016 Peabody filed for bankruptcy.

Coal-fired generation in the USA is to fall by 1/4 by 2020

Research by analysts at Alliance Bernstein suggests that nearly 230 million tonnes of coal will be removed from US coal generation by 2020 the equivalent of Australia's current level of coal exports. This reduction is caused mostly as a result of the Obama Administration's new emissions controls, but also because of the impact of the renewable energy targets in place in 29 states.

This is an extract from a report by Giles Parkinson of 2014/09/15.

The US is burning less of its own coal and exporting more

Quoting from Nine Reasons Why Thermal Coal is Struggling (and will continue to do so) published in RenewEconomy and written by Nathan Mim, 2014/08/13:
"Domestic coal is not so welcome at home anymore. This is best seen in the US where in the past 10 years, they have gone from exporting approximately 20 million tonnes to about 55 million tonnes at the end of 2013. Tightening legislation required existing power plants to upgrade their emission equipment with some owners simply electing to close the facility as the upgrade was too expensive. With the latest US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on mercury becoming enforceable on March 2015, the next major round of closures will further destroy coal demand. This coal is finding its way into the international coal markets further expanding the gap between supply and demand."
Increasing coal exports from the USA and decreasing domestic consumption will, of course, put downward pressure on coal prices.

Peabody Energy in deep trouble

Peabody Energy is one of the major coal miners in the USA and has coal mining interests in Australia. Renew Economy reported in late April 2015 that Peabody is losing money on every tonne of coal it mines in Australia and its share price has fallen 90% over the past five years.

In April 2016 Peabody filed for bankruptcy.

The Conversation: Peabody's bankruptcy claim is a symbol of coal's end.

US coal stocks even worse in July 2015

Quoting from Desmog:
 

Update 2015/08/05

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

"Another major U.S. coal company, Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) hit a new all-time low yesterday at just 27 cents per share, and sank as low as 24 cents that morning.

Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI) also hit its all-time low of 33 cents per share as well, down from its all-time high of $73.42 in 2008.

All three companies' stock values are down roughly 80% from the beginning of 2015."
 
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The European Union is acting on carbon emissions

Quoting from Nine Reasons Why Thermal Coal is Struggling (and will continue to do so) published in RenewEconomy and written by Nathan Mim, 2014/08/13:
"For its next decadal goal, the EU has targeted a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030. A cut of this size will naturally force out the highest emitters or at the minimum prevent their growth. Amongst the highest emitting fossil fuels, coal will continue to be friendless in Europe.

A more punitive price on carbon will make the EU's goal more easily achievable. At this time, carbon prices have been distorted by unintended policy decisions but in time it is expected the 'right' structure will be found. When this happens, we expect the cost of coal pollution will dramatically increase the cost of coal-fired electricity and allow other, low emission technologies to better compete."
As the EU imports less coal the international coal industry in general will suffer.

EU installs much more renewables than coal and gas combined in 2014

 
Wind in power: 2014 European statistics, February 2015
New and old
Image credit: European Wind Energy Association
The graph on the right is from European Wind Energy Association. It shows that more solar PV was installed in the European Union in 2015 than gas and coal combined and that the amount of wind power installed was more than twice as much as gas and coal combined.

 
Wind in power: 2014 European statistics, February 2015
Net installation
Image credit: European Wind Energy Association
The net coal-power generation capacity in the period from 2000-2014 was strongly negative while wind, gas and solar PV installations were huge.

German utilities suffer as renewables surge

The New York Times reported on how the "Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind", 2014/09/13.

Germany is building huge wind turbines as far as 100km from the mainland as well as massive solar PV installations. The old fossil-fuelled utilities are facing devastating impacts.

 
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Air pollution from burning coal kills millions each year

 
A big screen reminds people in Beijing of what a blue sky looks like
Beijing smog
Air pollution purchased from Australia
Image source: FengLi/Getty Images
 
This wind farm produces electricity without the air pollution
Waterloo Wind Farm, 
Australia
Waterloo Wind Farm, Mid North South Australia
It has been known for a long time that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is dangerous to people's health; the World Health Organisation (March 2014) has estimated deaths from air pollution at seven million people each year and an article, Electricity generation and health, published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet in 2007 put numbers to the deaths and serious diseases caused by burning coal to generate electricity.

It can conservatively be estimated that the air pollution from the burning of coal kills at least two million people world-wide each year. I have written more on this on another page on this site.

The governments of the more advanced developing nations have become aware of this problem, to the cost of their peoples. Several are trying to kick the coal habit and adopt renewables.

Not only is Australia exporting coal; with the coal we are exporting illness and death. In a world that must stop burning coal because of the damage it is doing to the climate and the oceans, this great additional harm amounts to a crime against humanity.

We do not need to burn coal. Renewables are quite capable of taking its place as has been shown in South Australia which has gone from near zero renewables in early 2003 to around 40% in 2014.


Report published in Nature 2015/09/16

A report published in the prestigious journal Nature estimated that outdoor air pollution "leads to 3.3 million premature deaths per year worldwide".
"The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale": J. Lelieveld, J. S. Evans, M. Fnais, D. Giannadaki and A. Pozzer.


Europe's Dark Cloud: How coal-burning countries are making their neighbours sick

This report found that:
  • "EU's currently operational coal-fired power plants were responsible for about 22,900 premature deaths in 2013: this can be compared to 26,000 deaths in road traffic accidents in the EU the same year.
  • The coal plants were responsible for 11,800 new cases of chronic bronchitis and 21,000 hospital admissions in 2013.
  • The health impacts of EU coal created an overall bill of 32.4 to 62.3 billion Euros."
The report involved a collaboration between Sandbag, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Greenpeace, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe and WWF.

 
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Morwell coal mine fire, February 2014
Hazelwood fire
Image credit 350.org
This coal mine fire burned in Morwell, in Victoria's Latrobe Valley, for over a month, producing a hugh amount of air pollution.

The Latrobe Valley, with its coal-fired power stations, is notorious for its air pollution at the best of times.

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Renewable energy is becoming cheaper than coal

 
Wind turbine
Wind turbine
Generating electricity from a fuel that is inexhaustable and free
At the time of writing both solar photo-voltaic and on-shore wind power were cheaper per installed megawatt than building new coal-fired power stations.

The cost of wind power is gradually declining while solar PV prices continue to fall sharply.

While the proportion of electricity generated by renewables is lower than around 30% of the total electricity in a power grid their intermittency does not cause problems, as has been shown by the South Australian experience.

South Australia's renewables were supplying around 40% of the state's electricity at the time of writing (August 2014) and wind power alone reached an average of 43% of the state's power in July 2014 with no problems. Solar and other renewables were in addition of this.

Increasing Australia's renewables to 30% would not present any major challenges to the supply-demand cycle.

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Competition from gas

In an ABC article by Neal Woolrich mainly about Beijing's banning of coal use the competition from gas was also discussed.

Woolrich wrote:

"The US shale gas revolution, and the push to renewable energy, are also expected to dampen demand for coal in the decades to come. Prices for solar continue to fall. It has the potential to be a major disruptor for the coal industry because it can generate power during the most profitable peak hours."
The article also mentioned that liquefied natural gas was likely to provide more competition to coal in Australia.
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Stranded assets

 
Maules Creek coal mine
Maules Creek coal mine
Note that forest is being cleared to make way for this unnecessary, polluting, and probably unprofitable mine.
Image source: maulescreek.org
When I started writing this page in late July 2014 multi-national Rio Tinto had just quit their Mozambique coal project following a loss of more than $3 billion dollars. They were unable to proceed with it because no one would loan them the money they needed to develop a mine; investment banks and individual investors are seeing coal mining as a very risky place to put their money. Also see Mining.com.

Coal deposits, which have cost millions of dollars to explore and evaluate, have become embarrassments rather than assets. A financial think tank named Carbon Tracker has shown that about 80% of the world's coal reserves can never be mined, yet the mining companies involved are in denial; they all seem to believe that their coal deposits can be mined, it is other companies that will miss out. Obviously they can't all be right.

Many coal mining projects in Australia have been unable to raise the investment needed to get them started. According to Greentechmedia, while there are more than $60 billion of projects either publicly announced or undergoing feasibility studies in Australia, only one project the Whitehaven Maules Creek Mine is currently in development.

HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, and Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest, have stated that they were not interested in financing any coal mines that would export from ports near Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Some of Australia's largest coal deposits are in the Galilee Basin; if the Galilee Basin coal is to be mined and exported economically it must be shipped out through the Great Barrier Reef, but this has unacceptable environmental consequences.

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Coal-fired power stations are shutting down:
The death spiral

UK has its first coal-free day since the industrial revolution; Friday 21st of May 2017 was the first day that the UK went a full 24 hours without burning coal to generate electricity in recent times.

 
Decline of coal-fired power in Australia
Changes in generation by fuel type
Note that brown coal (mainly in Victoria) burned for power generation has declined by about 5%, but black coal (NSW and Queensland) has declined by a massive 25%.
It was not clear whether this was for the whole of Australia or just the NEM (eastern states).
Image credit Renew Economy
On 2016/04/05 Climate Change News reported that Belgium was the seventh EU country to go coal-free.

Even here in Australia, where governments have been highly supportive of the coal industry, coal-fired power stations are being shut down. On 2016/04/08 ABC on-line news reported that Western Australia's Energy Minister was to order 380 megawatts of generation capacity to be cut and that this would almost certainly be made up of coal-fired power.

Over several years up to the time of the original writing of this page (August 2014) Australian power prices have risen due to high and as it turned-out, unjustified spending on increasing the capacity of the power grid. This has caused electricity consumers to look for energy efficiencies at a time when things like compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs became financially viable. At the same time, the costs of photo-voltaic solar power hugely declined and more than a million Australian households installed their own power generating systems.

This has all led to a decline in demand for electricity from the grid and this, in turn, has impacted heavily on the profitability of coal-fired power stations in particular.

 
Energy Brix power station
Energy Brix
Shutting down
Image source Renew Economy
The feed-back loop between;

  • Rising prices;
  • Declining demand due to economising in reaction to rising prices;
  • Installation of solar power due to rising electricity prices and declining solar power prices;
  • Leading to declining demand from the power grid;
  • Leading to rising prices as power suppliers try to maintain profitability;
has been called the 'death spiral' of the power grid. (More on another page.)

South Australia

 
Updated 2016/10/19
In South Australia the Thomas Playford coal-fired power station has been closed and demolition has started. The nearby Northern Power Station (NPS), also coal-fired, was closed on 2016/05/09.

Victoria

In Victoria's Latrobe Valley, infamous for it air pollution levels caused by coal mining and coal burning, the Energy Brix coal-fired power station is being shut down (August 2014).

New South Wales

In January 2014 Energy Australia removed one half of the Wallerawang Power Station from service and in March it placed the other half on 'three month recall'; that is, it was not used but could be brought back into service at three month's notice. The Wallerawang Power Station is in NSW's Central Tablelands. See Energy Australia's Net site for more information.
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Employment in coal is in serious decline

The Newcastle Herald carried an article titled 'Coal industry decline in Hunter inevitable' written by Lee Rhiannon on 22nd May 2014. Rhiannon wrote:

Of course what holds for coal mining profitability in the Hunter Valley holds for the other of Australia's coal mining regions.

"The price of coal has dropped from $US130 a tonne in 2011 to $US81.50 now. At least half of Australia's mines operate at a loss when the price of coal is below $US87.

Elsewhere it has been noted that there is more employment now (mid 2014) in the solar PV industry in Australia than in the coal industry.

Steep and continued decrease in coal-fired power generation leads to more job losses
Just another small sign of the times

Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio USA, 2016/06/28, by Jim Mackinnon and Katie Byard Beacon Journal business writers.
"A steep and continued decrease in the use of coal to make electricity is largely responsible for costing 126 people their jobs at Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises' facilities in Summit County.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based power generation company on Tuesday said it is laying off more than 200 people – 126 in Barberton and Copley Township – as it restructures its traditional power business in the face of declining coal usage by electric utilities in the United States."
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Public resistance: Australians do not want more coal mines

 
Maules Creek protest
Protesters
This elderly couple were arrested for peacefully protesting at the proposed Whitehaven Maules Creek mine.
Photo credit SBS
Considering all the signs of a poor future for the coal industry listed on this page it is not surprising that those who are wanting to raise finance for new coal mines are having difficulty.

According to Greentechmedia, while there are more than $60 billion of projects either publicly announced or undergoing feasibility studies in Australia, only one project the Whitehaven Maules Creek Mine is currently in development and that mine is facing huge opposition from environmentalists.

Australians who are intelligent enough to see the damage that climate change will bring with it, and who have not been corrupted by the greed that is associated with the coal industry, are fiercely opposed to allowing any more coal mining.

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Energy conservation

 

Warrumbungle Shire to switch to solar?

This sort of action will become more and more common.

Sophie Vorrath reported (2014/08/07) that the Warrumbungle Shire Council is expecting a huge increase in the cost of public lighting and is consequently investigating installing solar PV on all its suitable buildings (between 80 and 100).

This decision follows a plan by state government owned network operator, Essential Energy, to increase its charges.

If it is viable for the Warrumbungle Shire to go solar, it will probably also be for all other NSW rural shires.

The retail price of electricity has increased. It will increase further; for at least two reasons:
  • With the export of natural gas from the east coast, domestic natural gas prices will rise to meet export parity;
  • Reduction in consumption has meant that the cost of maintaining the power grid increases relative to the amount of power consumed.
This has resulted in what has been called the death spiral of the power grid; increased prices lead to electricity conservation producing decreased consumption leading to increased prices leading to further economies and decreases in consumption, etc. etc.

There will be further adoption of solar photo-voltaic electricity, especially for 'behind-the-meter' situations, such as in shopping centres, warehouses, factories, councils, etc. This will also reduce the amount of electricity coming from the grid.

Unless the Abbott Government totally abolishes the Large Scale Renewable Energy Target there will be more wind power, solar PV, and possibly solar thermal power generation built.

With less electricity consumption and increasing wind and solar power, coal-generation will tend to be pushed out of the Australian market.

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Deserted by PR firms

Suzanne Goldenberg wrote an article in the Guardian on 7th August 2014. She reported that a number of prominent US public relations firms had said that they will "not take on clients or campaigns that deny climate change".

Climate science denial has been one of the main tools of the coal industry. So long as they can make a lot of people believe that climate change is not real they have a chance of keeping their killer industry alive.

Their disinformation campaign has been very effective in the past, but with the big PR firms refusing to cooperate in the future they will find it a lot harder to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.

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Overproduction: too many operating coal mines

Electricity consumption has decreased, renewable energy generating is increasing, but generation by coal-fired power stations continues. According to RenewEconomy about 40% of all Australian seaborne coal is unprofitable, but mining continues because the miners have contracts they have to fill. Overproduction will only stop when these mines close down.

See Nine Reasons Why Thermal Coal is Struggling (and will continue to do so) RenewEconomy, written by Nathan Mim, 2014/08/13.

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Coal-fired power station sold for $0 in New South Wales

On 2014/08/20 Giles Parkinson reported in RenewEconomy that AGL had taken over the 2000 megawatt Liddell coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley for $0.

This is an old power station, commissioned between 1971 and 1973. It will be interesting whether, with the continued decline in the coal industry, AGL finds that the price may have been too high. Or perhaps the bosses at AGL have been assured by our Federal Government that they will make sure that coal continues to be looked after?

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Coal mines close, miners going bankrupt

In mid-January 2016 Arch Coal, the second largest coal supplier in the US filed for bankruptcy.

On 2014/10/29 Mining Weekly reported that Centenial's 30-year old NSW Angus Place mine near Lithgow would be placed on care and maintenance in November.

In July 2016 Rio Tinto was trying to sell its big Blair Athol coal mine for $1.

Coal-fired power stations were shutting down, greatly reducing the demand for coal.

Huge US coal company Peabody energy was in deep financial trouble.

In October 2014 Rio Tinto sold its $3.7b Mozambique coal business for $50m.






Solar PV taking over

Gerard Wynn wrote in RTCC News 2015/03/05 that Deutsche Bank was expecting a continued decline in solar PV prices causing increasing inroads into fossil fuels. They suggested that solar PV prices could fall another 40% by 2020.
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Coal stocks have lost most of their value

May 2015 – The Institute for Energy Economics and Finanicial Analysis (IEEFA) reported that "The Stowe Coal Index, an index of leading global coal stocks, has lost 71% of its value over the past five years."

IEEFA's Tom Sanzillo went on to say

"Coal markets globally are in the midst of a wrenching structural decline. No investment fund in the world – be it university, pension or institutional – can make a compelling financial case to hold these equities in their portfolio any longer.

The coal industry has failed to compete with other energy resources, particularly wind, solar and energy efficiency. Its various export and trading schemes have only resulted in further deterioration of share value.

Coal stocks are losing money every day. No investment policy that I am familiar with can holding stocks in an industry with catastrophic losses and with no realistic case for an upside for the foreseeable future."
The above was taken from publications by RenewEconomy and IEEFA.

Arch Coal's Future gets darker

Hellenic Shipping News: Commodity News, 2015/07/28:
"One of the world's largest coal companies in terms of reserves, Arch has seen its stock slump some 99.7% in the past five years to 20 cents recently."

"Mainly used for power generation and metallurgy, the percentage of U.S. electricity from coal-fired plants recently fell to 30%, just below the share from natural gas, according to SNL Energy. Five years ago, coal had twice the share of gas at 44%."
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Australia backs a dying horse

The Abbott Government has chosen to ignore the evidence and go on supporting the coal industry. There can be little doubt that this will be to the detriment of the long-term future of the national economy and of the environmental health of the planet.

Queensland's Treasury advised the government that the Carmichael Mine was unbankable

Lisa Cox wrote an 'exclusive' in the Sydney Morning Herald, 2015/06/30. Quoting from the article:
Documents released under Queensland's freedom-of-information laws show officials at the highest level of the Queensland Treasury held grave doubts about Indian mining company Adani's capacity to see through its Carmichael coal mine project in central Queensland even as former premier Campbell Newman was promising taxpayer funds to help establish the mine.

Hundreds of pages of correspondence from senior figures in the Queensland department, including former under treasurer Mark Gray and principal commercial analyst Jason Wishart, express fears about Adani's high level of debt and identify the mining giant as a "risk" because of its unclear corporate structure and use of offshore entities.

In one document, an email from November last year, days before an announcement that the Newman government would help Adani build its rail, Projects Queensland principal commercial analyst Jason Wishart wrote to David Quinn, the executive director of Projects Queensland: "It is unlikely to stack up on a conventional project finance assessment."

Taxpayers bailing out the coal industry in Queensland, Australia

Mine rehabilitation

In August 2016 a leaked Queensland government report stated that funds invested by coal mining companies were likely to be inadequate for rehabilitation of the coal mines in the state by something like Aus$3.2 billion (US$2.4 billion). The Australian taxpayers would have to make up this short-fall.

The report was titled 'Targeted Compliance Programme Report on Financial Assurance for Queensland Coal Mines (TCP-009)'. It was written by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and was dated 29 January 2016.

Galilee Basin

In November 2014 the Queensland government has invested tax-payer's money in developing the Galilee Basin and associated infrastructure because private financiers didn't want to touch it.

Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Resource Studies Australasia at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has been reported as saying:

"The people of Queensland and Australia should be outraged at this idea of questionable politicians spending many billions of tax payer dollars to make an unviable, unwanted and dangerous mega coal project a reality"

"Many would consider this a Government simply pissing taxpayers' money up against the wall."
This is typical of Australian Liberal governments attempting to prop up the coal industry in spite of evidence that it is an industry of the past. (Also see Renew Economy.)
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Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

Big project dropped by US DoE

News, 2015/02/05, from RenewEconomy: FutureGen's demise another blow to CCS "FutureGen 2.0 coal power project in Illinois has collapsed following a US Department of Energy decision to withdraw funding for the plant".

CCS technology has been touted as a way of keeping the coal industry alive at the same time as getting rid of the CO2 emissions. While injecting CO2 underground has been used to enhance oil recovery in aging oil-fields, so far as I have been able to find out no power station anywhere in the world has successfully used CCS.

In early 2015 renewables are around financial parity with new-built coal-fired power stations even without the huge additional cost of CCS. CCS just does not stack up from the economic point of view.

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The UK, where the industrial revolution started, is to stop using unabated coal

In a move of perhaps even more symbolic importance than practical importance, although that too should not be underestimated, the leaders of the UK's three main political parties have pleged a cross-party fight against climate change, including a promise to end the use of unabated coal.

For more read ReNews 2015/02/14.

UK to close down coal-fired power stations by 2025

In November 2015 the UK Government announced that all coal-fired power stations not having carbon capture and sequestration technology would be closed by 2025.
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Coal must go for health reasons

Responding to climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century

The following was extracted from The Lancet: Health and climate change

The 2015 UCL-Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change was formed to map out a comprehensive response to climate change, in order to ensure the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide. The Commission is multidisciplinary and international in nature, with strong collaboration between academic centres in Europe and China.

10 Policy Recommendations

Responding to climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.

To help drive a transition to a low-carbon economy, over the next five years, the Commission recommends that governments: [The emphasis on the points particularly relating to the end of the coal industry is mine.]

  1. Invest in climate change and public health research, monitoring, and surveillance
  2. Scale-up financing for climate resilient health systems world-wide
  3. Protect cardiovascular and respiratory health by ensuring a rapid phase out of coal from the global energy mix
  4. Encourage a transition to cities that support and promote lifestyles that are healthy for the individual and for the planet
  5. Establish the framework for a strong, predictable, and international carbon pricing mechanism
  6. Rapidly expand access to renewable energy in low-income and middle-income countries
  7. Support accurate quantification of the avoided burden of disease, reduced health-care costs, and enhanced economic productivity associated with a low-carbon economy
  8. Facilitate collaboration between Ministries of Health and other government departments, empowering health professionals and ensuring that health and climate considerations are thoroughly integrated in government-wide strategies
  9. Agree and implement an international agreement that supports countries in transitioning to a low-carbon economy
  10. To help drive this transition, the 2015 Lancet Commission will develop an independent Countdown to 2030: Global Health and Climate Action, designed to monitor progress on the implementation of climate change policies that promote health over the next 15 years.





World's public health leaders call for and end to coal

The world's public health leaders have called for an end to coal because of ACC and coal's more immediate health impacts due to air pollution (2015/02/16).

Quoting from a Healthy Energy Initiative media release:

At the close of their international conference in Kolkata, as part of a broad "Call to Action for Public Health," the world's public health associations advocated "a rapid phase-out of coal" to limit further global warming and prevent illnesses and deaths associated with air pollution.

The Healthy Energy Initiative welcomed the Call to Action released at the World Congress on Public Health, hosted by the Indian Public Health Association and attended by more than 1,600 delegates. The Call to Action points to the "contribution of fossil fuels and coal in particular to climate change as well as to detrimental impacts on the health and wellbeing of local communities."

President of the World Federation of Public Health Associations Dr Mengistu Asnake said the emphasis on fossil fuels as drivers of climate change and risks to community health in the statement "highlights their contribution to a massive burden of illness and death worldwide."

"Millions of lives are at risk from climate change and the carbon intensive global economy," Dr Asnake said, citing World Health Organization figures that seven million people die every year from air pollution, of which coal is significant contributor.
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Coal produces unacceptable pollution

Of course it is well known that the burning of coal produces air pollution. The pollution has two effects:
  • Some of the air pollution, which includes mercury, oxides of sulfur and nitrogen and various particles, is toxic to people and other animals;
  • The carbon dioxide is one of the main causes of climate change and ocean acidification.
But in addition to the pollution caused by burning coal there is the pollution caused by just mining the coal.

Environmental Justice Australia April 2015; National Pollutant Inventory data showed large increases in air pollution from coal mining in the last five years.

Quoting from Environmental Justice Australia:

"New analysis of the latest annual National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) data, and mapping of trends in the preceding five years, shows big hikes in air pollution from the nation's coal mines, coal fired power-stations and coal terminals."
  • Coal mining is Australia's leading source of particle pollution. Coal companies reported 435,000 tonnes of PM10 in the latest 2013-14 NPI report, 47% of the national total. This represents a doubling in PM10 emissions in just five years.
  • Emissions of toxic pollutants from coal mines including PM10, lead, arsenic and fluoride increased by 100-200% during the last decade.
  • Particle pollution (PM10) emissions from the nation's ten most polluting mines increased by between 48% and 1030% during the last five years.
  • Australia's 20 most polluting coal mines are located in the Bowen Basin (QLD) and the Hunter Valley (NSW).
  • Victoria's Latrobe Valley is home to Australia's four highest emitting coal-fired power stations. PM10 emissions from electricity generation increased in the Valley by 28% during the last five years and PM2.5 (dangerous fine particle) emissions increased by 27%.
  • Newcastle's three massive coal terminals are that city's top source of PM10 and have seen a 70% increase in emissions over five years.
  • Air pollution contributes to the premature death of over 3,000 Australians every year alone, with coal a major contributor."
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Big oil companies request a carbon price

2015/06/02
The CEOs of the six European oil giants Shell, BP, Total, Statoil, Eni and BG Group last Friday sent letters to the head of UN climate negotiations, Christiana Figueres, asking for a price on carbon emissions. See RenewEconomy.

It seems that the aim is not a sudden altruism on the part of the oil giants, but rather a desire to remove some competition. However, whatever the motivation, it is yet another blow to coal.

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The owner of Hazelwood, Australia's dirtiest power station, issued a 'call to arms' against coal

The French company that owns the infamous coal-fired Hazelwood power station in Victoria's Latrobe Valley has 'signalled a big push against coal-fired generation'.

The company, previously named GDF Suez, now Engie, is pushing for a transition to gas, wind, solar and nuclear.

For more see an article by Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy, 2015/06/17.

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This section added 2015/06/05

Progressive organisations are investing in renewables

Progressive organisations, such as IKEA, can see the way the world must go and is going. Sophie Vorrath wrote a piece for RenewEconomy on 2015/06/04 about IKEA investing six hundred million euros in renewable energy as part of a billion euro climate change funding plan.

Quoting the RenewEconomy article:

... "IKEA Group said the majority of the 600 million euro figure would be invested in wind energy (500m euros), while around 100 million euros would be invested in solar up to 2020.

The new funding commitment builds on the 1.5 billion euros the manufacturer has invested already in wind and solar since 2009 – including the 3.9MW of rooftop solar PV systems it is building across all of its Australian east coast stores and warehouses."
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What happens when the subsidies dry up?

At present (June 2015) governments are spending billions of taxpayers' dollars each year on subsidies for the world's coal industry.

Considering the harm that the burning of coal is doing – air pollution, climate change, ocean acidification – this is plainly unethical and is being exposed as such. As can be seen elsewhere on this page, the coal industry has a very bleak future.

Governments will be forced to reduce coal subsidies and as they do the decline in the industry is likely to become a catastrophic collapse with huge financial losses for those who have invested in coal.

In an article titled "Under the Rug: How Governments and International Institutions are Hiding Billions in Support to the Coal Industry" David Tumbull revealed how much government money around the world is going into coal subsidies.

IMF report May 2015

The IMF increased its previous estimate of the subsidies going to (mainly) fossil fuels. They put the figure at $5.3 trillion per year (or about $10 million per minute).

This is more than the total spending on health of all the world's governments and largely relates to polluters not paying the costs – social welfare, health, environmental and broader economic – imposed on governments for the burning of coal, oil and gas.

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An alliance of Australian peak bodies calls for climate change action

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald Mark Kenny and Lisa Cox wrote a piece headlined "Unprecedented alliance of peak bodies pressures PM over climate change".

The group, calling itself a climate round table, includes the two most recognised and powerful employer organisations, the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia as well as the Australian Aluminium Council, Australian Industry Group, The Climate Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation, Business Council of Australia, WWF Australia, Australian Council of Social Service, Energy Supply Association of Australia, Australian Council of Trade Unions, and Investor Group on Climate Change.

Quoting from the SMH article:

"The group wants to set the path for policies that reduce financial risk, encourage investment in low and zero-carbon technologies, and help avoid an increase in global temperature of greater than 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels."
The alliance wants to push PM Abbott toward making firm and significant commitments ahead of the Paris climate summit in December (2015).

The stated Principles of the Climate Roundtable included the following (of particular relevance to The End of Coal):

"Achieving this goal will require deep global emissions reductions, with most countries including Australia eventually reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero or below."
Also see the full statement of the Joint Principles for Climate Policy of the Climate Roundtable.
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Railways become stranded assets

In an article written by Michael W Kahn for ECT.coop a top US railroad executive lamented millions of dollars spent in upgrading railways for transporting coal in the Powder River Basin. He expected continued decline in the use of the railways and that they would become stranded assets.
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Religious groups calling for climate change action

Statements from representatives of religions and denominations on the need for action on climate change...
 
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The rats are leaving the sinking ship

The rats are leaving the sinking ship! Wester Australia Energy Minister and State Treasurer (and once head of the notoriously right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, IPA), Mike Nahan, recognised that coal is on the way out and solar the way of the future.

To top it off, Mike Nahan is a minister in a Liberal government. Wake up Australian Liberal Pary!

For more detail see the Renew Economy article by Giles Parkinson, 2015/08/28.


Giles Parkinson wrote again 2016/05/30:
The two men who ran Australia's two dirtiest brown coal generators, and who were one-time trenchant critics of climate and renewable energy policies, have switched sides. They have now thrown in their lot with the solar industry and other disruptive technologies.

Tony Concannon is the former Australian boss of GDF Suez, now Engie, which operates the Hazelwood brown coal generator, among other assets. He has now re-emerged as the chief executive of Reach Solar, which is looking at solar projects and battery storage across Australia, including a 200MW solar PV facility located near Port Augusta airport.

Richard McIndoe is the former head of Energy Australia, which owns the Yallourn power station...
 
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Adani investing into big solar, neglecting coal

Indian mega coal mining company, Adani, seems to have seen the writing on the wall. It has announced 650MW of solar PV development that it intends to build in Australia and a colossal 10GW (10,000MW) in India.

A company spokesman said they still want to go ahead with their Carmichael coal mine in Australia, but nobody else (apart from some Australian governments) seems to see it as being viable. RenewEconomy, 2016/05/25.

 
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Big corporations were changing to renewables

Jon Walter reported 2015/09/24 on RenewEconomy about nine huge US corporation that had pledged to go to 100% renewable energy. They included "Fortune 500-listed companies Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, NIKE, Inc, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Steelcase, Voya Financial, and Walmart".

On 2015/09/23 Henning Gloystein for Reuters reported that:

  • Coal futures have tumbled 77% since 2008;
  • Coal has fared worse than oil and natural gas;
  • Goldman Sachs says coal demand will peak before 2020;
  • Goldman Sachs said coal is in terminal decline.
 
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Galilee Basin – not financially viable

 
Galilee Basin in the NE Australian state of Queensland
Galilee Basin
Image credit galileebasin.org
There are huge coal reserves in Australia's Galilee Basin, but it is highly unlikely that mining them will ever turn a profit for anyone.

There are a number of reasons that the coal resources of the Galilee Basin should never be developed:

  1. They are not economically viable;
  2. Burning the coal from the Galilee Basin would add hugely to carbon dioxide emissions and to the anthropogenic climate change problem;
  3. The coal would have to be shipped out through the Great Barrier Reef and that would pose very high risks to the world's greatest coral reef system.

The only way that the Galilee Basin coal could ever be mined is with huge and unconscienable subsidation by Australia's taxpayers.

As the whole of this page shows, coal has no financial future. If a mine in the Galilee Basin was opened it would have a very short life and would be a financial disaster for Australia.

For more see Economics and finance of the Galilee Basin and The financial viability of the Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin.

 
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Black lung returns to Australia

As reported on 2015/12/23 by Matt Peacock on the ABC, black lung or coal miners' pneumoconiosis, has recently been confirmed in four cases in Queensland coal mines.

The mining union, the CFMEU, has told the underground mining industry that they need to improve underground miners' working conditions. This will, of course, increase costs and reduce the attractiveness of coal as an energy source.

According to a paper published in The Lancet (a highly prestegious medical journal) globally 25,000 people died of black lung in 2013 alone.

 
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100% renewable power and cheapest electricity in Australia

RenewEconomy reported on 2016/04/29 that the Australian Capital Territory government has a target of 100% renewable electricity by 2020 and at the same time retaining the lowest power prices in the country.

The ACT's Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Simon Corbell, said "We are demonstrating through these policies that not only is a transition to a renewable energy future achievable, it is affordable and is creating jobs."

This demonstrates that renewables now are highly competitive with fossil fuels, especially including coal. This being so, why would anyone choose coal in a world that must reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible?

 
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Links

Apart from the links listed in this section, there are many more scattered through the text.

The untold story of the end of coal, David Crane, Pegasus

The Conversation: Peabody's bankruptcy claim is a symbol of coal's end.

ABC TV, 2015/06/15: The end of coal: "With the price of coal plummeting and our biggest customers turning to renewable energy, is Australia backing a loser?"

Nine reasons why thermal coal is struggling (and will continue to do so) Renew Economy, written by Nathan Mim, 2014/08/13.

Business Spectator, Tristan Edis, 27thMay 2014; Big Banks See Bleak Future for Coal

Greentechmedia: Beginning of the end for coal? Citi sees structural decline.

Oliver Milman, The Guardian, Australian coal mining is entering 'structural decline', report says.

Antony Froggatt, Chathamhouse, The Beginning of the End for Coal?; a USA perspective.

John Upton, gristmill, Is this the beginning of the end for coal?; USA.

The Global Mail, Mike Seccombe, Coal? It's Over. "There are good reasons both ecological and economic to think the slowdown in demand for coal is not a slump, but the start of a post-coal world."

Black lung: Diagnosed miner fears for friends still working underground, Australian Broadcasting Commission. The article mentions a study in The Lancet (a highly prestegious medical journal) which states that 25,000 people died of black lung (coal worker's pneumoconiosis) in 2013.





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Index: on this page...

ACT – 100% renewable power and cheapest electricity in Australia
Adani in trouble
Adani investing in big solar, neglecting coal
Air pollution kills millions
Alliance of Australian peak bodies calls for climate change action
Australia backs dying horse
Banks rule out financing Carmichael coal mine
Beijing to ban coal use
Big oil was requesting a carbon price
Black lung returns to Australia
Cancers in China
Carbon capture and storage (CCS)
China
China announces a national emissions trading scheme
China: consumption of coal continues to decline
China on track for the biggest reduction in coal use ever recorded
China to ban dirty coal
China to reduce fossil fuel imports by 45%
Chinese documentary on air pollution
Coal-fired generation in the USA is to fall by 1/4 by 2020
Coal-fired power station given away by government.
Coal India Limited, the world's biggest coal company, to build 1GW of solar power
Coal mines close
Coal must go for health reasons
Coal power shutting down
Coal price fall continues
Coal produces unacceptable pollution
Coal stocks lost most of their value
Competition from gas
Corporations were changing to renewables
Countries acting on carbon
Death spiral
Deserted by PR firms
Divestment campaign
Divestment for financial reasons
Employment in coal is in serious decline
Energy conservation
European Union is acting on carbon emissions
EU installs much more renewables than coal and gas combined
Galilee Basin – not financially viable
German utilities suffer as renewables surge
Germany looks to fast-track exit from coal
India
India aims at 100GW of solar by 2020 India cancels four big coal-fired power stations
India, China adopting renewables
India to add 10 000MW of wind power each year
India to end coal imports in 2-3 years
India to increase solar PV ten-fold
India to install 1000MW of off-shore wind power by 2020
India increases nuclear power
Insurance company Axa divests from coal
Introduction
Investors desert coal
Japan too
Links
Little financial support for coal mining
More banks swearing off coal and GBR ports
Newcastle council divests
Norwegian Pension Fund Global dumps coal investments
Overproduction
Peabody Energy in trouble
Peak coal use in China by 2015?
Pollution kills millions
Progressive organisations investing in renewables
Public resistance: Australians do not want more coal mines
Queensland's Treasury: "the Carmichael Mine is unbankable"
Railways become stranded assets
Rats leaving the sinking ship
Religious groups calling for climate change action
Renewable energy is becoming cheaper than coal
Renewable energy 86% in China by 2050?
Renewable energy becoming cheaper than new coal
Renewables manufacturing in China
Responding to climate change greatest health opportunity of the 21st century
Rockefellers divest from fossil fuels
Solar PV taking over
Stranded assets
SunEdison to develop 5GW of wind and solar in Karnataka
Taxpayers bailing out coal industry in Queensland
UK to close down coal-fired power stations by 2025
UK to stop using coal
USA coal industry in deep trouble
USA is cutting back on coal
US coal industry is collapsing
US coal stocks even worse in July 2015
US coal sector in terminal decline
When the subsidies dry up
World Health Organisation: Air pollution kills millions
Why should the world turn away from coal?
World's biggest sovereign wealth fund dumps dozens of coal companies
World's public health leaders call for and end to coal
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