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Solar photovoltaic electricity generation: a lifeline for the European coal regions in transition

Abstract: 

The use of coal for electricity generation is the main emitter of Greenhous Gas Emissions worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency, these emissions have to be reduced by more than 70% by 2040 to stay on track for the 1.5–2 C scenario suggested by the Paris Agreement. To ensure a socially fair transition towards the phase-out of coal, the European Commission introduced the Coal Regions in Transition initiative in late 2017. The present paper analyses to what extent the use of photovoltaic electricity generation systems can help with this transition in the coal regions of the European Union (EU). A spatially explicit methodology was developed to assess the solar photovoltaic (PV) potential in selected regions where open-cast coal mines are planned to cease operation in the near future. Di erent types of solar PV systems were considered including ground-mounted systems developed either on mining land or its surroundings. Furthermore, the installation of rooftop solar PV systems on the existing building stock was also analysed. The obtained results show that the available area in those regions is abundant and that solar PV systems could fully substitute the current electricity generation of coal-fired power plants in the analysed regions.