Coal: Exit means entry

4/11/19, 11:02 AM -

It is essential for the exit from coal to create new jobs around renewable energies in the affected regions. This was the conclusion of an international panel discussion at the "Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue".

Coal-fired-power station of EnBW in Karlsruhe.
Coal-fired-power station of EnBW in Karlsruhe.

"If we only talk about opting out, we have already lost," said Samantha Smith, Director of the Just Transition Centre of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Brussels. From a trade union perspective, she accompanies the structural change away from coal in many countries.  It must be a question of getting started, especially in clean jobs, around future technologies such as renewable energies and the strengthening of disadvantaged regions such as in Lusatia, Smith emphasised. She therefore regards the work and recommendations of the "Coal Commission" in Germany as exemplary.

Claudia Kemfert, Head of the Energy, Transport and Environment Department at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), said that it was now time to consistently implement the social consensus and recommendations of the Commission. It is central to take the people and affected employees seriously and not to label them as losers, but to offer them alternatives and modernise the infrastructure, invest in research and development as well as renewable energies. "If we can do this, we can set an example for others," said Kemfert.

"Energy used to be our problem, now energy is our solution".

Claude Turmes, Luxembourg's energy minister, stressed that it must also be a matter of creating a spirit of optimism in the regions affected.  He also advocated supporting the structural change towards a decarbonised energy supply through stronger CO2 pricing in Europe. Nevertheless, the coal phase-out regions need targeted financial assistance, as is the case in Germany and the EU. The binding climate policy guidelines of the EU are also extremely important, said Turmes.

Chilean Energy Minister Susana Jiménez sees the exit from coal as an opportunity. "In the past, energy was our problem, now energy is our solution", she said. The sunny country is relying primarily on photovoltaics, solar thermal power plants, wind power, Power-to-X and geothermal energy. In future, coal-fired power plants may only be operated with CO2 capture and storage (CCS), if at all.

Further development of storage technologies including hydrogen

"We are benefiting enormously from the global cost reductions in renewable energies, especially photovoltaics and wind power," Jiménez said. Lord Oliver Henley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in Theresa May's cabinet, also sees a "huge opportunity" in the expansion of low-cost offshore wind power in particular. Within a few years, Great Britain reduced the share of coal in the electricity mix from over 40 percent to currently below 5 percent, mainly driven by CO2 pricing and the switch to gas. He sees the further development of storage technologies as both a challenge and an opportunity, with enormous potential for hydrogen in particular.

Jiménez sees a challenge, also for her country, in the expansion of electricity transmission networks, especially for wind power, and the high investment requirements for the construction of new plants. In addition, the aim must be to avoid energy and electricity price increases in order not to exclude large population groups.

Putting banks under an obligation

"We need to get the financial and banking sectors to invest even more in renewable energy than before," Turmes said. He is also committed to this in Luxembourg as a financial centre. In addition, the long-standing Green MEP called for state and parastatal banks to ban investments in coal and other fossil fuels. (hcn)

Stay informed, get our free newsletter twice a week, register here

Join our pv Guided Tours at The smarter E Europe 2019 (Intersolar Europe, ees Europe, Power2Drive, EM-Power), register here