US Coal Giant Peabody Energy Sees The Light. Sort Of.

Peabody Energy - solar power

While not exactly a road to Damascus moment, Peabody Energy’s foray into solar power after removing some of the coal dust crusting its eyes is an encouraging sign.

Peabody is pretty big – apparently it’s the largest private-sector coal company in the world. According to Statista, Peabody Energy sold approximately 132.6 million tons of coal in 2020 – but that was well down on a peak (since 2006) of 251.7 million tons in 2013.

The company supplies coal to more than 25 countries on six continents, and digs up the problematic black rock from a bunch of mines in the USA and Australia1.

The company’s relationship with the truth about coal’s future in a carbon-constrained world is interesting, but it has evolved. Still, don’t risk reading its Statement On Climate Change with a mouthful of coffee as it will likely wind up all over the screen of whatever device you’re using to view it.

But the times, they are a-changin’. Peabody has figured out there might be something to this solar power gig all the cool kids are talking about.

R3 Renewables Launched

Yesterday the company announced it would be getting into the solar energy game, and not just with a token bunch of solar panels slapped on the rooftop of one of its offices somewhere.

The company says it has launched R3 Renewables LLC in a joint venture with Riverstone Credit Partners and Summit Partners Credit Advisors. According to Peabody, R3 Renewables is looking to develop 3.3 GW of solar PV and 1.6 GW of battery storage capacity over the next five years.

President and CEO of Peabody Jim Grech commented :

“We are pleased to announce this new joint venture as part of Peabody’s commitment to be the coal producer of choice, creating additional value from our existing assets, supporting our own and our customers’ ESG ambitions and providing added economic benefits for the communities in which we work and live.”

Initially the new company will be looking at developing six potential sites on or near previous coal mining operations in Indiana and Illinois; sites that could support the largest solar and battery storage projects in both states.

There’s already a web site for the new company, so if you were thinking of being a scamp and registering the domain name to do something mischievous with it, you’re out of luck.

So, what’s the R3 in R3 Renewables stand for? The company’s slogan is “reclaim | reimagine | repower”. The blurb about Peabody on the site states (again, swallow that coffee first):

“Our commitment to sustainability underpins everything we do and shapes our strategy for the future.”

Regardless of this commitment, an exit from coal doesn’t appear to be on the cards for Peabody Energy anytime soon. But it’s a start and quite a change from Peabody’s “Advanced Energy For Life” days, which involved a rather short-lived pro-coal web site.


  1. And just on Peabody’s presence in Australia, Peabody Australia Holdco Pty Ltd was recently smacked on the wrist by Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator for consistently screwing up its emissions reporting.
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. George Kaplan says

    “… don’t risk reading its Statement On Climate Change with a mouthful of coffee”? Why? They give the narrative approved view on anthropogenic climate change, but note that coal is an essential affordable reliable provider of power that will continue to play a vital role in the global energy mix for the foreseeable future. Peabody also notes that access to (affordable & reliable?) energy is critical to meeting basic needs, improving living standards, reducing poverty, enable urbanisation (why?), strengthen economies, and correlates with increased life expectancy, education, and economic development. Globally fossil fuels provide about 80% of primary energy demand.

    80%? Uh what’s primary energy demand?

    For 2019 world electricity generation I’m seeing
    Coal: 37%
    Natural Gas: 24%
    Hydro: 16%
    Nuclear: 10%
    Wind: 5%
    Solar: 3%
    Other: 5%

    So Wind and Solar only comprise about 8% of the global mix, but fossil fuels appear to be 61%. Hydro and Nuclear comprise another 26%.

    Ah ha! Found a definition. Primary energy is the total energy generated to provide the energy actually consumed. Final energy consumption does not include transmission and distribution losses or inefficiencies.

    Still seems like a disparity as regards the 80% claim, but perhaps apples v oranges?

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