Marubeni is a name most people have never heard of, yet this enormous Japanese conglomerate is involved in everything from agriculture to mining to global transportation. One part of its business is designing and building coal-fired generating plants for clients around the world. It also owns and operates several coal facilities. Last week, Marubeni made a major announcement on its website.
A Transition Away From Coal
“Marubeni Corporation recognizes that climate change is a major issue shared by all of humanity. It is a problem that threatens the co-existence of the global environment and society, a problem that has an enormous effect on Marubeni’s business and its shareholders, and a problem that Marubeni believes must be dealt with swiftly. Therefore, as part of Marubeni’s p, romotion of sustainable management, and in order to…fight global climate change, Marubeni has established new business policies regarding its coal-fired power generation business and its renewable energy generation business.
“As a general principle, Marubeni will no longer enter into any new coal-fired power generation business. However, Marubeni might consider pursuing projects that adopt BAT (“Best Available Technology,” which at present is USC — ultra-supercritical steam generating technology.
There’s more to the story. According to Quartz, Marubeni intends to cut its ownership of coal-fired generating facilities by 50% before 2030, citing a report by Japanese financial news source Nikkei (paywall). Tim Buckley of the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis calls the announcement by Marubeni “one of the biggest breaking stories of 2018 in terms of energy transition [away from fossil fuels].”
The company had plans to build more than 13 GW of new coal generating stations but those plans have now gone into the dumpster. Instead, Marubeni will double its investment in renewable energy from 10% of its energy portfolio to 20%. It is collaborating with Jinko Solar on the largest solar power plant in the Middle East — a 1.17 GW solar farm in Abu Dhabi.
Pressure From Investors
The decision by Marubeni did not happen in a vacuum. Quartz points out that many international investors are putting pressure on coal operators to transition away from coal, among them the Dutch bank ABN Amro, AXA, Generali, Allianz, and SCOR. Japanese banks are reportedly considering doing the same according to a report by IEEFA.
More Needs To Be Done
While the news about Marubeni is welcome, it is far from sufficient to ensure average world temperatures do not increase by more than 2° Celsius. Energy companies in China have nearly 150 GW of new coal capacity in the planning stages and energy companies in India have proposals for another 38 GW of coal-generated electricity. If all those facilities get built, the Earth’s ability to absorb the carbon emissions they create will be exceeded.
The battle against coal is not over, but clearly the tide is turning against it. With the announcement from Marubeni, the likelihood that some of those new coal plants won’t get built has increased. But even if some projects are abandoned, will it be too late for the Earth? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
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