Weekly wrap: Carmichael curveball and subsidy-free offshore wind

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A ruling by India's Supreme Court makes the business case for coal imports tougher (Pic: Smeet Chowdhury/Flickr)


Remember the time the yakka skink got in the way of Australia’s biggest planned coal mine?

The victory for green groups in 2015 was short-lived. Despite numerous legal challenges, the Australian government and Indian conglomerate Adani stand by the Carmichael project.

But this week India’s Supreme Court threw a curveball that hit Adani where it hurts – in the wallet. The company’s shares dropped 20% on a ruling that cost it almost half a billion dollars.

While not directly related to Carmichael, the court order makes the economics that bit tougher for overseas mining ventures, reports Aditi Roy Ghatak from Kolkata.

Adani were also in trouble this week after the Queensland port from which they intend to export their coal dumped a coal-blackened slick of storm water onto a nearby wetland.

If developed, Carmichael coal would be shipped through the Great Barrier Reef, putting further pressure on an ecosystem devastated by two years of coral bleaching in a row. Tragic pictures shocked the world with many despairing for the survival of the wonder.

Number of the week

5 cents a kilowatt hour – solar power price bid by French company Solairedirect in a new record low for India

Bad bet

If new mines for Indian power stations are on shaky ground, new coal plants in developed countries look downright foolish.

Take Maasvlakte 3 in the Netherlands, which lost half its value in the first full year of operation. An awkwardly timed climate lawsuit combined with low electricity demand and strong renewables growth to make its future uncertain.

It was more a case of caving to market reality than climate leadership when EU lobbyists Eurelectric announced its members would build no more coal generators from 2020.

So why do utilities in Western Balkan countries, which aspire to join the EU, still think they can make coal pay? Pippa Gallop asks.

In the US, Climatewire reports, the coal lobby is looking for subsidies to build new plants. Green groups have promised to fight “tooth and nail” so that doesn’t happen.

Subsidy free

Meanwhile in Germany, an offshore wind project – yes, usually one of the most expensive forms of renewable generation – is promising to supply power without subsidies.

EnBW says the 900MW windfarm in the North Sea, due to be commissioned in 2025, will benefit from rapidly advancing technology.

Rigs to reefs

As new energy springs up across the North Sea, the old is reaching the end of its productive life.

Decommissioning British oil rigs is expected to cost some £50 billion, of which half may come from the UK taxpayer.

Chemical engineer Tom Baxter argues that it would be better for the environment to leave the structures alone and put the money into clean energy.

US on the fence

The US refused to sign up to a G7 statement in support of the Paris climate agreement this week, pending a review of its climate policies. At a meeting of energy ministers in Rome, the other six members reaffirmed their commitment to the deal.

Scott Pruitt, head of the US environmental protection agency, told Fox News he wanted out of the Paris pact. That sets him against secretary of state Rex Tillerson and even coal companies, who are advising Donald Trump to keep a seat at the table.

Azeri gas

The Southern Gas Corridor is “already a reality” and objections to it have “no grounds”, Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev told ministers this week.

His bullishness on the $46 billion pipeline to Europe comes in the face of a suspension by human rights watchdog the Extraction Industries Transparency Initiative.

Palm oil spat

Indonesia labelled a push by EU lawmakers to ban palm oil for biofuels a “discriminative act” that would favour European farmers.

Rising demand for palm oil has been linked to tropical deforestation, but producer countries argue it can be part of the solution to climate change.

Read more on: Climate politics