European Parliament, Brussels, 28 January 2020
MEP Grzegorz Tobiszowski hosted an evening event dedicated to the coal industry in transition, bringing together eight fellow MEPs with members of the European Association for Coal and Lignite, prior to the launch of EURACOAL’s latest publication.
Invited guest, Mr. Lou Hrkman who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Energy, spoke about his government’s approach to coal, after remarking that, “the US has no greater friends than Poland and the EU”. The current US administration supports innovations that will reduce GHG emissions from coal to zero, he said, while improving the efficiency and reducing the costs of power plants. He offered the new Allam cycle as an example of a power plant with zero emissions – it supplies pure CO2 to the oil industry and even produces water, he added. Work on smaller, modular power plants will lead to cheaper units that many coal-using countries can rely on to supply heat and power while meeting their Paris Agreement commitments. He wished the EU well with its “just transition”, but said that this was diametrically opposite to the US approach, with its focus on preserving jobs and using fossil fuels in a positive way to enhance economic growth and security. He cited the US oil and shale gas boom which had allowed the US to become energy self-sufficient. For coal, he predicted the 21st century would bring new opportunities, with products made from coal, such as new construction materials and hydrogen for transport. He concluded that, “technology and innovation by the private sector is much better than heavy regulation and taxes”.
Referring to the European Commission’s proposal for a European Green Deal, MEP Grzegorz Tobiszowski (ECR, PL), a former Secretary of State in the Polish Ministry of Energy, highlighted the importance of the proposed Just Transition Mechanism for the coal regions. He went on to explained how Poland’s Energy Policy to 2040 responds to current EU climate and energy policy with several new, state-of-the-art coal power plants being commissioned in Poland, as well as plans for a new coal gasification power plant (IGCC). This will be built near Lublin in partnership with Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems of Japan. Thanks to biomass co-firing, Mr. Tobiszowski said it would meet the recent EU emission performance standard of 550 gCO2/kWh.
The First Vice President of EURACOAL, Mr. Vladimír Budinský, presented MEPs with a preview of the association’s latest report: “Coal industry across Europe”. As EURACOAL’s flagship publication, it provides a snap shot of the coal and lignite mining industry and the influence of EU policy on the coal sector as a whole, including power generation. With many facts and figures, it covers not only the EU, but also Energy Community countries. According to Mr. Budinský, future editions – this being the seventh – should cover the US and Russia as both are major coal exporters and of growing importance to meeting EU coal demand.
Participants agreed that coal will be used for several decades to come: here in Europe and in the US. While the volumes used in EU member states will surely decline to meet political targets, the rest of the world will continue to rely on the “black stuff”. Technology will allow the use of coal in new and better ways, which is what the Coal FIRST initiative (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, and Transformative) aims to show under the leadership of Deputy Assistant Secretary Hrkman. He offered to partner with the EU on clean coal technology development by informing MEPs and working towards a Coal FIRST project in say Poland.