Australian coal

Top stories:

1) 2.1% fall in China’s coal production in 2014

The official figures are out – which show a 2.1% drop in coal production from 2013 to 2014 – and it looks like the decreases are set to continue.

Environmental regulations against smog – which Quartz has found to be deterring international visitors – and one-off demand impacts are cited as reasons for the drop, but the industry expects a 2.5% drop this year.

Our piece from this week confirms the new data and asks why and how it happened: It’s official: China’s coal consumption fell in 2014

China is also the world’s largest investor in clean technologies, leading some eyebrows to be raised over the breakneck growth of one solar company, Hanergy, which has made its founder China’s fifth-richest man.

The Chinese drop in production and use of coal is a blow for Australian coal exporters, as the decreases are occurring more quickly than expected.

A slash in quarterly dividend to shareholders from Peabody – the largest coal company in the world – may indicate economic troubles for coal more internationally – and crude woes continue on the eve of fourth quarter reporting for the world’s biggest oil companies.

2) UK energy and politics: Gas bills and fracking

The last of the Big Six energy companies to reduce bills following a drop of 20% in wholesale gas price – EDF energy – has done so by only 1.3 per cent.

Chancellor George Osborne urged companies to pass savings onto customers earlier this month, promising action if they failed to do so. EDF defended itself by saying its prices were already lower than competitors.

And Labour leader Ed Miliband is in the Telegraph mocking claims that the 1980s privatisation of the energy industry was a success.

Energy is a top political issue in the run up to the UK’s General Election in May, with the shale gas front and centre (in case you missed it, you can read the rundown from Carbon Brief here). The latest is that the business secretary Vince Cable’s aide, Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt, has resigned “with regret”, saying she would not compromise on her opposition to fracking.

Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal has an opinion on the UK shale situation: that “A victory for shale producers is a victory for everyone”.

But perhaps not for those living near natural gas operations in Australia’s New South Wales – AGL Energy Ltd suspended tests on one fracking site after finding toxic chemicals in water samples. The company says they are probably naturally occurring.

3) India-US climate deal: Solar for India, but also coal

India’s new plan, already underway, will actually increase emissions by doubling its coal production.

The news emerges from the failure of India and the US to agree any significant climate deal when they met on Sunday – apart from 100GW of US solar support for India, the announcement for which has caused solar power stocks to rally up to 11 per cent.

This could mean business opportunities for US companies in the country, reports the WSJ – as a complaint to the WTO is withdrawn.

The US president did, however, conclude his three day trip by urging India to do more on human rights and climate change.

At home, Obama is becoming known as the climate president, but has just approved more oil and gas drilling on the East coast.

And the Indian environment minister is meeting his German equivalent today to talk climate change.

Other news 

Scientists from Exeter University have discovered that solar panels made from perovskite can convert solar energy into household electricity more cheaply than ever before.

More solar news as Berlin startup Mobilsol finds a way to combine solar energy and mobile phones in East Africa.

Analysts predict global renewable energy capacity to double by 2025, writes Business Green.

And from Swedish researchers via Xinhua, carbon nanonballs could be the key to sustainable energy systems.