Day 61 - Bye bye coal

— 7 minute read


First, some good news. Apparently the coal industry will never recover after the pandemic - this article gives a good overview globally on why and how. But for your reading convenience here are some points (lifted straight from the article):

  • As demand for electricity has fallen, many utilities have cut back on coal first, because it is more expensive than gas, wind and solar. In the EU imports of coal for thermal power plants plunged by almost two-thirds in recent months to reach lows not seen in 30 years.
  • This week, a new report by the US Energy Information Administration projected the US would produce more electricity this year from renewables than from coal for the first time. Industry analysts predict coal’s share of US electricity generation could fall to just 10% in five years, down from 50% a decade ago. Despite Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to “dig coal”, there are now more job losses and closures in the industry than at any time since Eisenhower’s presidency 60 years ago.
  • By Friday, the UK national grid had not burned a single lump of coal for 35 days, the longest uninterrupted period since the start of the industrial revolution more than 230 years ago.
  • In Portugal, the record coal-free run has extended almost two months, the campaign group Europe Beyond Coal recently reported.
  • Last month Sweden closed its last coal-fired power plant, KVV6 in Hjorthagen, eastern Stockholm, two years early because the mild winter meant it was not used even before the pandemic.
  • Austria followed suit with the shutdown of its only remaining coal plant at Mellach.
  • The Netherlands said it would reduce the capacity of its thermal plants by 75% to comply with a court order to reduce climate risks.
  • In India – the world’s second-biggest coal consumer – the government has prioritised cheap solar energy rather than coal in response to a slump in electricity demand caused by Covid-19 and a weak economy. This has led to the first year-on-year fall in carbon emissions in four decades, exceptional air quality, and a growing public clamour for more renewables.
  • A few years ago, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines were expected to be the industry’s biggest growth areas, but the pandemic, falling renewable prices and a growing divestment campaign have put several major coal projects on hold.
  • South Korean president Moon Jae-in has been re-elected on a pledge to phase out domestic coal use, and many in his ruling coalition are pushing to end financing of overseas projects.
  • In Japan, the big three commercial lenders and the governor of the Japan Bank of International Cooperation have recently said they will no longer accept proposals for coal generation.
  • BNP Paribas is one of a growing list of financial institutions which have chosen to sever ties with coal. The bank said last week that it would accelerate its planned exit from coal financing to 2030 to bring its portfolio in line with the Paris climate goals sooner.
  • In the same week, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund – the world’s biggest – ditched a host of coal mining and energy companies, including Glencore, Anglo-American, Vale and AGL over climate concerns. This follows coal blacklisting announcements by BlackRock, Standard Chartered and JPMorgan Chase.
  • Even before the pandemic, Australian coal companies said they were finding it hard to find financing for mines and port facilities due to the international divestment campaign. This is not the only economic squeeze. A near-30% fall in the price of thermal coal has made more than half of production unprofitable, prompting several firms to warn of pit closures and layoffs.
  • The elephant in the room is China, which burns half of the world’s coal and is the biggest financier of mines and power plants in Asia and Africa – largely to provide an export market for its domestic manufacturing and engineering firms. A few years ago, domestic coal consumption fell, prompting hopes that president Xi Jinping was committed to a shift away from dirty, high-emitting power production. But after the lockdown, the political priority is to jumpstart the economy. Provincial governments are now working on a slew of new thermal plants. But they are running at less than half of capacity because demand for coal has not returned to its previous level.

High fives all around

I spent the entire weekend garden planning and reading.

On garden planning, I've now started to a journal with good old-fashioned pen and paper, recording things like plant requirements, activity logs, and ideas for further expansion. There are plenty of variables to play with when it comes to garden design, as I'm blessed with enough of balcony space to consider things like amount of sunlight, container size (the main consideration is root depth of various plants), container availability (do I kill some certain plants that are just lying around taking up space, or do I keep them for sentimental reasons? Should I get fabric pots?), companion plants and intercropping, relay planting (i.e. planting crops every two weeks or so to have a steady harvest), vertical structures (for tomatoes mainly), and so on. When I get a little overwhelmed by the ideas I go out into the garden and stare at the plants.

Yesterday it rained heavily, FINALLY. While I'm happy that my sunflower plants got plenty of sun last week the heat was getting too much. The rain did not subside until this morning, and the entire day it was windy and cloudy.

My coddled tomato seedlings have now dwindled down from twelve to eight, with four heirloom varieties (the problem is that the package doesn't say which, it's a rainbow mix), three heat resistant F1, and a Tumbling Tom which is apparently happy with any size of container it gets. It appears that I should get gigantic pots for them (10 gallon and 20 gallon), and that fabric pots are the best for root growth. I checked and there's a seller in Kulim, even though their pots are out of stock. I am a little excited.

Today I planted german chamomile and edamame. The seeds join the ranks of the sown sage and rosemary. I'm sowing them directly into 4inch pots as opposed to paper towels or yogurt containers, putting them in a tray of water and with a plastic bag on top, to keep the moist conditions. Laziness is the mother of innovation.

On reading, I finished Skylight by Jose Saramago. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Apparently this book was "forgotten" at a publisher's office, and they only found the manuscript in a drawer when they were moving offices... 36 years after it was sent in. As a result of this non-rejection Jose Saramago went for more than two decades without writing anything, even though he eventually won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998. The book was published after his death because he couldn't bear the pain of having it printed during his lifetime.

I found some of my thoughts on life echoed in the musings of one of the characters, Abel, and read with baited breath, having found a kindred spirit in the form of a fictional character. But of course the thoughts of Abel are the thoughts of Saramago... who had died in 2010.

The business of time travelling and telepathy is strong in this one.