Coal is currently mined in 41 regions across 12 EU countries, making it the most abundant fossil fuel in the EU and a significant source of economic activity. Additionally, the coal sector provides jobs to an estimated 240,000 people, including 180,000 in the mining of coal and lignite and 60,000 in coal- and lignite-fired power plants. Coal accounts for nearly 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 the past few decades.
While coal remains a central fuel in the European energy mix, the EU is committed to drastically reducing its carbon emissions, including those from coal-fired power plants. To encourage the long-term sustainable use of coal, the deployment of innovative technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) are key.
Platform on coal regions in transition
The declining use of coal has led to mines closing down in a number of regions across Europe. To ensure that no regions is left behind in the move towards a climate neutral economy, the Commission launched in December 2017 the ‘Platform on coal regions in transition’. It provides opportunities for national, regional and local representatives to discuss how these regions best can modernise their economies in line with a clean energy transition that also focuses on social fairness, new skills and financing for the real economy.
The platform is a key part of the coal and carbon-intensive regions in transition initiative, and it is included as a non-legislative element of the Clean Energy for All Europeans package of November 2016. To date, the European Commission has undertaken a broad range of activities in relation to the platform, including hosting working group sessions and an annual dialogue as well as organising several bilateral meetings with EU countries. The commission has also appointed a special secretariat that will be in charge of the platform. For any queries, contact details for the secretariat will be published soon.
Projects undertaken within the platform 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. At present, pilot projects are underway in 14 regions: Silesia (Poland), Western Macedonia (Greece), Trencin (Slovakia), Moravia-Silesia, Usti and Karlovy Vary (Czechia), Jiu Valley (Romania), Asturias, Aragón , Castilla-y-León and Castilla-La Mancha (Spain), Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony Anhalt (Germany). Projects may be eligible for for existing EU funding.