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IEEFA Japan: Marubeni’s coal exit announcement a good first step but increased commitment needed

March 12, 2019

March 12, 2019 (IEEFA Japan) – Despite announcing a coal exit, Japanese conglomerate Marubeni still has around twelve gigawatts of coal-fired power proposals in development, exposing investors to continued risk as the world moves away from coal.

A new briefing note by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), Marubeni Update: Continuing Coal-fired Power Risks notes the company announced a major change in policy to reduce reliance on coal-fired power in September 2018.

In addition to cutting by half its coal-fired power capacity of around 3 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, Marubeni announced it would not enter into any new coal-fired business ‘as a general principle’ and would be increasing the ratio of renewable energy generation from 10% to 20% by 2023.

Despite this announcement, Marubeni continues to progress existing, outdated coal projects in Japan and across eight developing countries.

IEEFA’s briefing note finds the company’s ongoing coal-fired power projects face a range of difficulties including banks withdrawing from projects, reduced access to insurance, cancellation threats, legal headwinds, community opposition, and cheaper and cleaner renewable energy technology.

Briefing note author Simon Nicholas says developing nations are now leading the transition to clean energy.

“The idea that developing nations will meet growing electricity demand with expensive imported coal-fired power generation is increasingly outdated,” Nicholas said.

“Marubeni must adapt quickly in the face of changing conditions and reduce their coal exposure.

“Given Marubeni’s higher focus on power generation development relative to the other Japanese trading houses, there will be increasing opportunity in renewable energy as the world moves away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy.”

“By accelerating the realignment of its power business towards new clean technology, Marubeni can hope to remain relevant to future power markets and avoid further surprises – such as ever decreasing renewable energy costs – and rising stranded asset risks.”

Over 100 globally significant financial institutions have already exited the coal sector and there’s a new announcement on average every two weeks, including from many of Japan’s significant institutions.

Amongst other moves, in late 2018 Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsui & Co. divested their last remaining thermal coal mine holdings and then in February 2019, Itochu announced it would no longer develop any new coal-fired power plants or thermal coal mines. More recently, Sojitz Corporation likewise divested its existing thermal coal mine exposures just yesterday (11 March 2019).

In July 2018 Sumitomo-Mitsui Trust Bank announced it would stop providing project finance for new coal-fired power stations and the Standard Chartered Bank – historically a very significant financier of Asian coal-fired power – has also announced an immediate, global cessation of lending to such projects.

Co-author of the briefing note Tim Buckley says Japan’s export credit and overseas development agencies have also moved towards supporting low emissions, deflationary renewable energy developments overseas.

“While Japan is moving away from coal, Marubeni’s continued interest in coal-fired power creates financial and reputational risks for the company,” Buckley said.

“Major global investors have started receiving heightened attention on their coal-related investments.

“Marubeni’s major shareholders will be increasingly wary of the financial and reputational risks associated with continuing to be one of world’s most significant builders of coal-fired power.

“With long construction times and slow or little progress on the ground in many cases, Marubeni’s ongoing coal-fired power projects are likely to hang over the company’s reputation for years to come.”

“As a leading, diversified conglomerate with a focus on expansion into new technologies and new markets, Marubeni is in a strong position to more rapidly move away from coal-fired power while positioning its power business for energy markets of the future.

“The time for adaption and corporate leadership is now.”

Read the Briefing Note Marubeni Update: Continuing Coal-fired Power Risks

Media: Kate Finlayson ([email protected]) +61 418 254 237

Authors: Tim Buckley ([email protected]) is director of energy finance studies, IEEFA Asia Pacific.
Simon Nicholas ([email protected]), is an energy finance analyst with IEEFA in Australia.

About IEEFA: The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis conducts research and analyses on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment. The Institute’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy.

Simon Nicholas

Simon Nicholas is IEEFA’s Lead Analyst for the global steel sector, as well as Asian seaborne thermal and coking coal markets.

Simon’s focus is on the energy transition, the long-term outlooks for coal and steel as well as the need for emerging nations to establish financially sustainable power systems to support their development.

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Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley, Director, Climate Energy Finance (CEF) has 30 years of financial market experience covering the Australian, Asian and global equity markets from both a buy and sell side perspective. Tim was formerly Director Energy Finance Studies, Australia/South Asia, IEEFA, and was a Managing Director, Head of Equity Research at Citigroup for 17 years until 2008.

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