Financial firms — including British insurer Prudential, lenders Citi and HSBC, and BlackRock Real Assets — are devising plans to speed the closure of Asia’s coal-fired power plants to lower the biggest source of carbon emissions, five people with knowledge of the initiative said.
The novel proposal, which is being driven by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), offers a potentially workable model and early talks with Asian governments and multilateral banks are promising, the sources said.
The group plans to create public-private partnerships to buy out the plants and wind them down within 15 years, far sooner than their usual life, giving workers time to retire or find new jobs, and allowing countries to shift to renewable energy sources.
Illustration: Kevin Sheu
It aims to have a model ready for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
“The private sector has great ideas on how to address climate change and we are bridging the gap between them and the official-sector actors,” ADB vice president Ahmed Saeed said.
The initiative comes as commercial and development banks, under pressure from large investors, pull back from financing new power plants to meet climate targets.
A first purchase under the proposed scheme, which would comprise a mix of equity, debt and concessional finance, could come as soon as next year, Saeed said.
“If you can come up with an orderly way to replace those plants sooner and retire them sooner, but not overnight, that opens up a more predictable, massively bigger space for renewables,” said Donald Kanak, chairman of Prudential’s insurance growth markets, who came up with the idea.
Coal-fired power accounts for about one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it the biggest polluter.
The proposed mechanism entails raising low cost, blended finance which would be used for a carbon reduction facility, while a separate facility would fund renewable incentives.
HSBC declined to comment on the plan.
Finding a way for developing nations in Asia, which has the world’s newest fleet of coal plants and more under construction, to make the most of the billions already spent and switch to renewables has proved a major challenge.
The International Energy Agency expects global coal demand to rise 4.5 percent this year, with Asia making up 80 percent of that growth.
Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is calling for a drop in coal-fired electricity from 38 percent to 9 percent of global generation by 2030 and to 0.6 percent by 2050.
The proposed carbon reduction facility would buy and operate coal-fired power plants, at a lower cost of capital than is available to commercial plants, allowing them to run at a wider margin, but for less time to generate similar returns.
The cash flow would repay debt and investors.
The other facility would be used to jump start investments in renewables and storage to take over the energy load from the plants as it grows, attracting finance on its own.
The model is already familiar to infrastructure investors who rely on blended finance in so-called public-private deals, backed by government-financed institutions.
In this case, development banks would take the biggest risk by agreeing to take first loss as holders of junior debt as well as accepting a lower return, according to the proposal.
“To make this viable on more than one or two plants, you’ve got to get private investors,” said Michael Paulus, head of Citi’s Asia-Pacific public sector group, who is involved in the initiative.
“There are some who are interested, but they are not going to do it for free. They may not need a normal return of 10 to 12 percent, they may do it for less, but they are not going to accept 1 or 2 percent. We are trying to figure out some way to make this work,” he added.
Citi declined further comment.
The framework has already been presented to ASEAN finance ministers, the European Commission and European development officials, said Kanak, who cochairs the ASEAN Hub of the Sustainable Development Investment Partnership.
Details still to be finalized include ways to encourage coal plant owners to sell, what to do with the plants once they are retired, any rehabilitation requirements, and what role if any carbon credits might play.
The firms aim to attract finance and other commitments at COP26, when governments would be asked to commit to more ambitious emissions targets and increase financing for countries most vulnerable to climate change.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has re-entered the Paris Agreement and is pushing for ambitious reductions of carbon emissions, while in July, US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen told the heads of major development banks, including ADB and the World Bank, to devise plans to mobilize more capital to fight climate change and support emission cuts.
A US Treasury official said that the ADB’s plans for coal plant retirement are among the types of projects that Yellen wants banks to pursue, adding that the administration is “interested in accelerating coal transitions” to tackle the climate crisis.
As part of the group’s proposal, the ADB has allocated about US$1.7 million for feasibility studies covering Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, to estimate the costs of early closure, which assets could be acquired, and engage with governments and other stakeholders.
“We would like to do the first [coal plant] acquisition in 2022,” Saeed said, adding that the mechanism could be scaled up and used as a template for other regions, if successful.
It is already in discussions about extending this work to other countries in Asia, he said.
To retire 50 percent of a country’s capacity early at US$1 million to US$1.8 million per megawatt suggests that Indonesia would require a total facility of US$16 billion to US$29 billion, while the Philippines would be about US$5 billion to US$9 billion and Vietnam US$9 billion to US$17 billion, according to Kanak’s estimates.
One challenge that needs to be tackled is the potential risk of moral hazard, London School of Economics sustainable finance professor Nick Robins said.
“There’s a longstanding principle that the polluter should pay. We need to make absolutely sure that we are not paying the polluter, but rather paying for accelerated transition,” he said.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has a good reason to avoid a split vote against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next month’s presidential election. It has been here before and last time things did not go well. Taiwan had its second direct presidential election in 2000 and the nation’s first ever transition of political power, with the KMT in opposition for the first time. Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was ushered in with less than 40 percent of the vote, only marginally ahead of James Soong (宋楚瑜), the candidate of the then-newly formed People First Party (PFP), who got almost 37
The three teams running in January’s presidential election were finally settled on Friday last week, but as the official race started, the vice-presidential candidates of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) have attracted more of the spotlight than the presidential candidates in the first week. After the two parties’ anticipated “blue-white alliance” dramatically broke up on the eve of the registration deadline, the KMT’s candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), the next day announced Broadcasting Corp of China chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) as his running mate, while TPP Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s TAIEX stock index peaked at 17,360 points and closed at 17,341 points, surpassing Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, which fell to 17,303 points and closed at 17,541 points. A few years ago, the gap between the Taiwanese and Hong Kong stock indices was more than 20,000 points, but this was before the 2019 anti-extradition protests. Hong Kong is one of the world’s most important financial centers, but many Chinese Internet users joke that it is only a ruin today. When asked by a legislative councilor whether he would communicate with social media platforms in the mainland to request
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) has called on his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counterpart, William Lai (賴清德), to abandon his party’s Taiwanese independence platform. Hou’s remarks follow an article published in the Nov. 30 issue of Foreign Affairs by three US-China relations academics: Bonnie Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss and Thomas Christensen. They suggested that the US emphasize opposition to any unilateral changes in the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, and that if Lai wins the election, he should consider freezing the Taiwanese independence clause. The concept of de jure independence was first