Japan’s big equipment suppliers like Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Toshiba and J-Power, together with trading houses like Marubeni and Itochu, are driving the expansion of new coal plants abroad.
The coal industry is struggling in several markets, as its market share is eaten up by cleaner, cheaper and more reliable renewable energy. In response, these companies are pushing for one or two last big coal deals.
While coal makes up a small part of these corporations’ businesses, cumulatively, they could be enough to take us over a climate tipping point.
Marubeni is one of the world’s biggest players in the power generation business. The trading house is actively involved in coal extraction and transport infrastructure around the world, as well as the construction and operation of coal-fired power plants.
Today, Marubeni is involved in over 100 GW worth of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) power-related projects around the world. Coal-fired power plants account for 40 GW.
Marubeni is also engaged in many Independent Power Producer (IPP) projects and developing new coal-fired power plants in nine countries.
Marubeni’s dirty record
Many of Marubeni’s projects are shrouded in scandals, lawsuits, and environmental damage.
Cirebon 1 (660MW) is operational, and Cirebon 2 (1,000 MW) is under construction. The Cirebon 2 project has been taken to court as the local community are concerned that the impacts on their livelihood would deteriorate with Cirebon 2.
In South Africa
Thabametsi (Grootegeluk) (630 MW) is under planning. However the project is in a water-scarce area, so it poses enormous risks to water availability.
Nghi Son 2 (1,200MW) is under construction. Serious air pollution is already a problem in Vietnam, causing 20,000 premature deaths every year. Much air pollution is attributed to coal-fired power.
In The Philippines
Pagbilao 3 (420 MW) is now operational. Since Pagbilao 1 and 2 started running, local residents have been exposed to dust from the coal stockpile. An observable rise in cardiorespiratory disease has been reported.
Morupule B (300 MW) is under planning. Projections have indicated toxic air pollution would far exceed air quality standards in the country should the project go ahead.
Akita Port (1,300 MW) is under planning. If this is built, the project is expected to become a major emitter of carbon dioxide in the region. There is no realistic plan in place to prevent this.
Environmental damage and harm caused to local communities have led to lawsuits being launched to fight some projects. Local community opposition has even delayed some projects and led to investigations.
New coal policy, same old
On September 18, 2018, Marubeni announced new policy regarding its coal-fired power generation and renewable energy businesses.
The company said it would no longer build “new” coal-fired power plants, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its power generation portfolio, and by 2030 would cut in half coal-fired net generation capacity of approximately 3 GW in 2018.
This sounds like good news, but unfortunately it is not. Closer examination shows that Marubeni has little intention to stop or cancel planned or current projects. That means the reduction schedule is not proactive, but rather simply depends on attrition by waiting for existing contracts to end.
Similar to Marubeni, Itochu announced to commit to neither develop any new coal-fired power generation business nor to acquire any new thermal coal mining interest, but doesn’t stop ongoing projects.
This means that Marubeni and Itochu’s policies are significantly out of step with the targets of the Paris Agreement. It also means that Marubeni risks being exposed to substantial financial risks from stranded assets.
No Coal Japan demands
No Coal Japan calls on Marubeni, Itochu, and all other coal power developers to:
- Fix its loophole-filled decarbonisation policies.
- Stop or cancel coal projects, at whatever stage they may be.
- Take proactive action in order to stop the operation of existing plants in order to be consistent with the targets of the Paris Agreements.