Climate funds for coal highlight lack of UN rules

Coal Power Plant Emissions PEPWR

KANCI KULON, Indonesia (AP) - About $1 billion in loans under a U.N. initiative for poor countries to tackle global warming is going toward the construction of power plants fired by coal, the biggest human source of carbon pollution.

Japan gave the money to help its companies build three such plants in Indonesia and listed it with the United Nations as climate finance, The Associated Press has found. Japan says these plants burn coal more efficiently and are therefore cleaner than old coal plants.

However, they still emit twice as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide as plants running on natural gas. Villagers near the Cirebon plant in Indonesia also complain that stocks of shrimp, fish and green mussels have dwindled.

Japan's coal projects highlight the lack of rules to steer the flow of climate finance from rich to poor countries - a critical part of U.N. talks on global warming, which resume Monday in Lima, Peru. There is no watchdog agency that ensures the money is spent in the most effective way, and no definition of what climate finance is.

Japan, a top contributor of climate finance, denies any wrongdoing and has done nothing illegal - there are no rules against counting such projects as climate finance in the U.N. system.

"There are countries ... that cannot afford to have other methods than coal," Japanese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Takako Ito said. "For these countries, we'd like to provide the best method of reducing carbon dioxide."

However, U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres, who was unaware that the Japanese-funded coal plants in Indonesia were labeled as climate finance, said "there is no argument" for supporting such projects with climate money.

"Unabated coal has no room in the future energy system," she told AP. "Over time, what we should be seeing is a very, very clear trend of investment into clean renewable energy."

Even the newly launched Green Climate Fund, a key channel for climate finance in the future, still only has vague guidelines on how to spend the money. Board member Jan Cedergren said he didn't believe the fund would support fossil fuels but acknowledged no decision has so far been made.

In 2009, rich countries pledged that by 2020 they would provide $100 billion a year in climate finance. They agreed to come up with $30 billion over the next three years, with Japan providing about half.

An analysis of the 300 top climate finance projects during that period showed Japan was the only country to include direct support to new coal plants.

The second-largest project on the list was a $729 million loan for what Japan described as a "high energy efficient thermal power plant project in East Java." AP found that the loan from Japan's Bank for International Cooperation, or JBIC, was used to build an 815-megawatt coal-fired unit at the Paiton power plant, which is partly owned by Japanese firms Mitsui and Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Also among the top 30 projects globally was a $214 million JBIC loan for another "thermal power plant" in West Java, which AP confirmed was the Cirebon power station. The plant is co-owned by Marubeni Corp., a Japanese company that was fined $88 million this year by the U.S. Department of Justice for bribing Indonesian government officials to secure a separate power project.

Japan's climate finance also included a $15 million development loan for a plant in Indramayu, West Java, and a dozen smaller coal projects in India, Indonesia and Vietnam. Those were identified as coal projects in documents submitted to the U.N., while the larger projects in Paiton and Cirebon were not.

Japanese officials said there was no specific reason for that.

"We don't have anything to hide or disguise," a Foreign Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the topic.

Marubeni and Mitsui declined requests for comment. Tokyo Electric said transferring Japanese technology can lead to a substantial reduction in carbon emissions.

However, many climate scientists say even the new technology Japan promotes is not enough to meet the U.N. goal of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees. The only way for the math to work with coal, they say, is through technology that sucks carbon dioxide from the air and stores it underground.

That expensive technology is not yet commercially available on a large scale, and neither Cirebon nor Paiton has it.

Although no environmental studies have been done, local fishermen in Kanci Kulon village near the Cirebon plant in West Java say their catches have shrunk. Daud, a 50-year-old fisherman who like many Indonesians only uses one name, said he used to bring in 45 crabs a day. Now the most he gets is 10.

"I believe this is because of the coal sludge" from the plant, he yelled, struggling to be heard over the jet-like roar from the power station.

Cirebon officials told AP journalists touring the site that the plant is safe and denied that any sludge is released into the Java Sea. Heru Dewanto, vice president of the utility that runs Cirebon, acknowledged that the plant had caused some problems for "200 to 300 green mussel farmers or fishermen," but noted that it also provides electricity to half a million homes.

Edi Wibowo, Cirebon's senior environmental engineer, said emissions from the plant were between 856 and 875 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of energy produced - 20 percent lower than from an old coal plant. That compares with 600 to 700 for oil, 400 for natural gas, and near zero for renewables like solar and wind power.

Unlike Japan, the U.S. and many other rich countries have cut public funding for coal projects in developing countries. Germany still supports such projects, but doesn't count them as climate finance.

Most environmental groups weren't aware Japan was using climate finance to build coal plants.

"Climate finance is such a mess. It needs to get straightened out," said Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth. "It would be such a shame if those resources went to fossil fuel-based technologies. It would be counterproductive."

Subscribe to Power Engineering magazine



2014 Articles

Harvard Law School professor pays Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional

12/31/2014

Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University and former mentor to Barack Obama, said in an article last week that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional.

3 SKorea workers die at nuke plant construction site

12/30/2014

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Three South Korean workers died Friday after apparently inhaling toxic gas at a construction site for a nuclear plant being built by South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company, which has come un...

UMaine in business of certifying turbine blades

12/30/2014

ORONO, Maine (AP) — The University of Maine has tested its largest wind turbine blade to date. UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center completed static strength testing this month of a 184-foot-long wind turbine...

Mergers, EPA carbon plan generated much attention during 2014

12/29/2014

Mergers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan, cheap natural gas and the polar vortex were among the most noteworthy generation stories of 2014.

Developer opens Ohio review for 800-MW, gas-fired project

12/29/2014

Clean Energy Future-Lordstown LLC plans an 800-MW, gas-fired power project, and on Dec. 24 applied with the Ohio Power Siting Board for certain routine waivers it needs before filing a full siting application for this proj...

New England utility exec named to Vermont PSB

12/29/2014

A woman who worked for Vermont's Department of Public Service for 17 years is going to become the next member of the utility-regulating Public Service Board. The appointment of Sarah Hofmann was announced Monday by Gov. Pe...

Brown picks aide to lead troubled California utility board

12/29/2014

Gov. Jerry Brown named a former adviser on Tuesday to be the next head of California's troubled utilities commission, replacing a regulatory chief accused of back-channel dealings with utilities. Michael Picker, a former a...

Washington state carbon emissions dropped in 2011

12/29/2014

Greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state dropped by about 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2011, led by reductions in emissions from the electricity sector, according to the latest figures released by the state. The latest...

Group wants state regulators recused from PNM case

12/29/2014

State regulators in less than two weeks are to begin deliberating a proposal that calls for shutting down part of an aging coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico that serves more than 2 million customers in the ...

Vermont Yankee plant prepares to shut down

12/29/2014

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is getting ready to shut down. Its owner, Entergy Corp., says it is closing the plant for economic reasons. The plant in Vernon is expected to disconnect from the regional power grid Monday.

PSEG Solar to acquire Maryland solar project from juwi

12/23/2014

PSEG Solar Source will acquire a 12.9-MW solar energy facility near Waldorf, Maryland from juwi solar (JSI). The PSEG Waldorf Solar Energy Center will increase the capacity of PSEG Solar Source's portfolio to 123-MW.

PG&E discloses more emails with state regulators

12/23/2014

California's largest power utility released a dozen more emails Monday that it said showed improper back-channel discussions between the utility and top state regulators.

Indianapolis airport solar farm expansion completed

12/23/2014

Contractors have finished bringing online dozens of acres of solar panels at Indianapolis International Airport, solidifying its status as the home of the nation's largest airport-based solar farm.

French power company to pay $772M in bribery case

12/23/2014

A French power and transportation company has agreed to pay $772 million to resolve allegations that it bribed high-ranking foreign government officials for lucrative projects, the Justice Department said Monday.

Nebraska nuclear plant back online after short outage

12/23/2014

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant is back online less than a week after its main generator unexpectedly shut down as a precaution.

Ameren Missouri plans $135M in energy efficiency

12/23/2014

Missouri's largest electric company said Monday that it plans to invest $135 million in energy efficiency programs for customers over a three-year period.

TEPCO completes nuclear fuel assemblies removal from Fukushima 4

12/22/2014

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said it has safely removed the fuel assemblies from the most damaged nuclear reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

B&W Vølund to build waste-to-energy power plant in Scotland

12/22/2014

In a consortium with Interserve, Babcock & Wilcox Co.’s (B&W, NYSE:BWC) subsidiary, Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S (B&W Vølund), will engineer, procure and construct (EPC) a waste-to-energy (WTE) power plant f...

SKorea holds N-plant drills against cyber threats

12/22/2014

South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company said it began drills Monday against possible cyberattacks after online threats of attack against its plants.

PSC approves solar power project

12/22/2014

The Public Service Commission has approved solar power project planned by Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric in Mercer County.

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now

Whitepapers

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...

Leveraging the Power of Information in the Energy Industry

Information Governance is about more than compliance. It’s about using your information to drive ...

Reduce Engineering Project Complexity

Engineering document management presents unique and complex challenges. A solution based in Enter...

Revolutionizing Asset Management in the Electric Power Industry

With the arrival of the Industrial Internet of Things, data is growing and becoming more accessib...