The energy transition and counteracting the climate changes present a huge economic and social challenge to the EU. Particularly so, as 41 regions of the Community are actively producing coal. How to make the changes to the European power sector so that they are beneficial to all was the topic of expert discussions during the “What is a ‘just’ Energy transition?” conference organised in Brussels by Politico and the Polish Electricity Association.
The European coal sector and the supporting sectors in 2015 were employing around 452 thousand people. The employment is mostly concentrated in the Silesian district in Poland, Yugoiztochen in Bulgaria, Severozapad and Moravskoslezsko in the Czech Republic, Muenster in Germany and Sud-Vest Oltenia in Romania. For this large professional group and the economies of the above countries, the way the energy transition and discontinuation of coal use will be performed is extremely important. “The transition is a process that needs time and money. Radical solutions may negatively impact the security of supply of energy, the competitive positions of businesses and the economic situation of households. In our opinion, for now, the uncontrollable renewable energy sources need a backup, including with dispatchable gas- and coal- fired sources. Please rest assured, however, that we are making efforts to use them in a modern and effective way” – said Filip Grzegorczyk, President of the Management Board of Grupa Tauron and the Vice-President of the Polish Electricity Association.
During the conference, the experts have agreed that many countries are still undergoing the energy transition process. Poland is one of them. However, the European Commission is planning for funds for the transition of the post-mining areas. “We are able to develop tailored strategies for individual regions based on what they have at their disposal. We are ready to go ahead. My motto is ‘no region will be left behind’” – assured Corina Crețu, the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy.
The support under the transition process is also to concern the jobs in the mining regions. Both those directly and indirectly related to the coal sector. “Among others, there is a proposition to increase the spending on scientific research aimed at finding new technologies that will contribute to the growth of the clean and sustainable economy in these regions. We are striving at making sure the decarbonisation does not slow the growth but boosts it” – said Megan Richards, Director of Energy Policy in DG Energy (ENER) of the European Commission.
The conference participants agreed that every country has different individual circumstances and is at a different stage of progress of its transition. This is why it should, first and foremost, be just. “The EU regions are different. Some regions have diversified energy mixes; some still depend on a single technology. This is why funds for changes have to be provided” – summed up Marion Labatut, representing Eurelectric.
The meeting organised by Politico and the PKEE was attended by the representatives of the EU, the power sector and the ecologists. It is another example of the continuing engagement of the PKEE in the growth and the future form of the European power sector. The experts have agreed that the transition process entails high costs and should be reasonably spread over time and should take into account the specifics of the regions where coal still plays a significant role in the energy mixes.