Coal - including both hard coal and lignite - is currently mined in 12 EU countries, in a total of 41 regions. This makes it the most abundant fossil fuel in the EU and an important source of economic activity in these regions. The coal sector provides jobs to about 240,000 people: about 180,000 in the mining of coal and lignite and about 60,000 in coal- and lignite-fired power plants. Coal accounts for about a quarter of all electricity production in the EU and is also an important fuel for industrial processes such as steel production, although the production and consumption of coal in the EU has been steadily declining over the past few decades.
Coal is nevertheless the most carbon-intensive energy fuel in the EU's energy mix. As the EU is working towards drastically reducing its carbon emissions, including those from coal-fired power plants, the deployment of advanced technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) is key for the long-term sustainability of coal use.
Platform on Coal Regions in Transition
Declining coal usage has led to mine closures in a number of countries. The EU is committed to ensuring that none of the regions affected is left behind in the move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels. It has therefore created the Platform on Coal Regions in Transition to help develop projects with the potential to kick-start a viable economic and technological transformation. The platform provides opportunities for national, regional and local representatives and EU staff to discuss how these regions can best modernise their economies. It is facilitating the development of long-term strategies to boost the clean energy transition by bringing more focus on social fairness, new skills and financing for the real economy.
Currently, pilot projects are underway in three regions: Silesia (Poland), Western Macedonia (Greece), and Trencin (Slovakia). Project initiatives may include building geothermal and hydro energy plants in former coal mines, investing in e-mobility, digitalisation and data centres, creating innovation parks, forming local energy communities, and developing tourism and agricultural activities. Projects may be eligible for existing EU funding.
Two working groups contribute to the Platform’s activities:
- The ‘Post Coal Economy and Structural Transformation’ group covers strategies and projects focusing on the economic diversification of coal regions
- The ‘Eco-Innovation and Advanced Coal Technologies’ group covers strategies and projects focusing on the improvement of air quality and coal-based technologies which are compatible with the long-term vision of the decarbonisation of the European economy.
The Platform on Coal Regions in Transition is part of the Coal and Carbon-Intensive Regions in Transition Initiative, included in the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package of November 2016. Its activities are currently focused on coal regions, with the intention of expanding to carbon-intensive regions in the future. Anyone with an interest in the successful economic transformation of such regions, including representatives of public authorities (national and regional), industry, social partners and civil society is invited to join the Platform. To get involved, please contact ENER-COAL-PLATFORM@ec.europa.eu.
(Source: European Commission 2017)