Spotlight Activity: Coal Remains a Key Component of the Energy Mix in Several Regions
While the European Commission has committed to a long-term vision of a climate neutral economy by 2050, coal remains a key component in the energy mix of several regions in the European Union (EU) countries. Coal is currently mined in 41 regions across 12 EU countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and United Kingdom. It is thus the most abundant fossil fuel in the EU. It represents a significant source of economic activity that provides jobs to an estimated 240,000 people. That is a justifiable reason why the EU has struggle to phase out of coal. Moreover, it accounts for about a quarter of the total electricity production in the EU and it is an important fuel for industrial processes such as steel production, even though the production and consumption of coal has been steadily declining over previous decades. Coal has declined by about a third in Europe because of economics rather than climate change. The cost of renewables has gone down and makes it much cheaper to invest in renewables rather than new coal.
The EU’s objective to build a climate neutral economy implies the closing of mines across the region in order to phase out of coal. To ensure that no region is left behind, in December 2017 the Commission launched the “Platform on Coal Regions in Transition”. It gives the chance for national, regional, and local representatives to exchange information on what the possibilities are for a clean energy transition that includes provisions for social equity, new job training skills and financing for the economy.
Status: Right Direction (needs more work)
The European Commission has created a special secretariat that will be in charge of the Platform. Projects undertaken within the platform will include building geothermal and hydro energy plants in former coal mines. The Commission will invest in e-mobility, digitalization, forming local energy communities, and developing tourism and agricultural activities. Pilot projects are currently operating in 14 regions.
However, there is a concern that Brussels, and Europe’s wealthiest countries are out of touch with the reality of what this energy transformation requires of these regions. For instance, this disconnection was addressed in an event sponsored by the Polish Electricity Association “Balancing coal and climate: What is a ‘just’ energy transition?”.
“I understand that for many member states of the European Union, decarbonization is not a radical issue. For Poland, it really is,” said Filip Grzegorczyk, chief executive of Poland’s Tauron Polska Energia, which owns power, heating and coal mining assets, and vice-president of PKEE. Noting that 80% of Poland’s energy mix is based on coal.
Write to Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner in Charge of Climate Action & Energy with the following message:
Dear Mr. Arias Cañete,
We would like to express our support for the EU’s “Platform on Coal Regions in Transition” which we think is a critical step towards the achievement of a climate neutral Europe.
However, we urge the Commission to provide help to countries and regions still heavily reliant on heavy old mono-industries. The transition to clean energy must be well-managed to prevent poverty and de-population in these countries. Adapted transitions should be socially fair and economically feasible to be accepted by local populations.
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