General trading companies such as Marubeni, Mitsubishi Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation and ITOCHU Corporation are promoting the development of new coal-fired power plants overseas.
Even today, Japan is getting involved in a number of plans to construct new coal-fired power plants at home and abroad. Electrical utilities such as Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Chubu Electric Power Company, and J-POWER and heavy electrical machinery such as Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS), IHI, and Toshiba are not the only ones involved in coal-related business. General trading companies such as Marubeni, Mitsubishi Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation and ITOCHU Corporation are also promoting the development of new coal-fired power plants overseas.
Many countries around the world are already moving away from coal. While electricity markets continue to shift to cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable renewable energy resources over coal, pro-coal companies continue to focus on remaining large-scale coal projects.
For general trading companies, coal-related projects take a small part of their overall business operations. However, taken together their combined power-generation capacity is enough to exceed climate change’s “tipping point.”
Marubeni is among the world’s biggest players in the power-generation business. It is actively involved in the construction and operation of coal-fired power plants, coal mining, and other coal-related infrastructure development across the globe.
As of September 18, 2018, Marubeni announced a new policy that it is no longer involved in new coal-fired power generation projects and would cut its FY2018 coal-fired power net generation capacity of approximately 3GW in half by 2030. Additionally, they announced in October 2019 their withdrawal from the Morupule-B coal-fired power plant in Botswana as well as two other projects in Asia as progress pertaining to its sustainable policy. However, there are still large projects planned or under constructed that are listed below.
In Indonesia, Cirebon Unit 1 (660 MW) is in operation and Unit 2 (1,000MW) is under construction. Regarding Unit 2, local residents filed legal actions to point out the illegal issuance of environment permission by the local authority, which resulted in the loss of their livelihood. A corruption case has also come up with Cirebon 2, which is still under investigation by Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission.
In South Africa, construction of the Thabametsi coal-fired power plant (Grootegeluk) (630MW) is in the planning stage. However, the location of this project is an area with scarce water resources, increasing the risk of local residents having difficulty obtaining water.
In Vietnam, the Nghi Son 2 (1,200MW) coal-fired power plant is under construction. Severe air pollution is already a problem in Vietnam, bringing risk of premature death to 20,000 people every year. One of the primary causes of the air pollution is emissions from coal-fired power plants.
In the Philippines, the Pagbilao 3 coal-fired power plant (420MW) is in operation. From the time Units 1 and 2 began operating, local residents have been exposed to harmful dust from coal storage yards and some reports say that more people have suffered from cardiopulmonary diseases.
In December, 2019, Mitsubishi Corporation published the ESG Data Book 2019, in which it stated Mitsubishi Corp. would not develop any new coal-fired power plants. However, this revised policy is still insufficient as “considering the result of scenario analyses based on 2°C scenario” by excluding “already commenced projects to develop.” The following four projects are excluded:
The Vung Ang 2 coal-fired power generation project (1,200MW) as well as the Vinh Tan 3 coal-fired power generation project (1,980MW)
The Hirono IGCC and the Nakoso IGCC (Integrated Coal Gasification Combined Cycle) (543MW each)
In August 2019, Sumitomo Corporation released the Integrated Report 2019. While this report states it is no longer involved in new coal-fired power generation projects or coal mining businesses in the future, like other companies Sumitomo Corporation’s projects that have already been planned or are under construction are ongoing.
Tanjung Jati B coal-fired power generation project and further expansion plan (2,000MW total)
Van Phong 1 coal-fired power generation project (1,320MW)
In February 2019, ITOCHU Corporation announced its policy to no longer acquire business of new coal-fired power generation and coal mining projects. It already expressed that ITOCHU sold off its assets of the Rolleston Coal Mine in Australia, which they owned through IMEA. However, ITOCHU still owns other existing coal-mining projects. Indeed, it is heavily involved in both the coal-mining and coal-fired power plant development including the constructed plant where locals carry on opposition movements.
Batang coal-fired power generation project (2,000MW) – under construction
Supplement: Many global investors refer the Global Coal Exit List (GCEL), a database of companies involved in any coal related business published by German environmental NGO Urgewald to make decisions for divestment from companies or financial institutions that do not indicate No Coal policy.
Lawsuits have occurred with some projects due to their environmental destruction and damage to local residents. In other cases, projects have been postponed or subjected to investigation following opposition from local residents.
As mentioned above, most general trading companies have stated that they will not build any “new” coal-fired power plants and will reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions from their power generation portfolio. This is not enough.
It is time to face the facts and recognize that their coal policies are not sufficient to achieve the Paris Agreement targets and, furthermore, their portfolio would be exposed to serious risk of stranded assets.
No Coal Japan demands
No Coal Japan calls on Marubeni, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, 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.