On Monday, 23 January 2023, EURACOAL organised an energy lunch in Brussels. Outgoing EURACOAL President, Ing. Vladimír Budinský, welcomed invited guests to hear presentations from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and RWE.
Members of the European Parliament, colleagues from industry, the media and the European Commission discussed with EURACOAL members the current energy crisis. Carlos Fernández Alvarez presented the IEA’s coal market outlook to 2025, as well as the agency’s views on coal in net-zero transitions.
Roger Miesen, CEO of RWE Generation and representing EURACOAL member DEBRIV, presented a European perspective on energy security. He warned that the phase out of coal needed to be accompanied by the rollout of renewables, otherwise the transition to net zero might not happen. From Bulgaria, MEP Radan Kanev observed that with Russian gas gone, “the transitional fuel is the traditional fuel”, namely coal – a point headlined by Euractiv.
At lunch on the 26th floor of The Hotel, the newly elected EURACOAL President, Dr. Tomasz Rogala, personally thanked guests and discussed the many challenges of the energy transition such as access to sufficient raw materials. Dr. Rogala is Chairman of Polska Grupa Górnicza (Polish Mining Group), Europe’s largest hard coal mining company.
Presentations from the event can be downloaded here:
On 22 March, EURACOAL members joined Commission officials and other stakeholders at a summit meeting in Brussels to launch the first “Big-Ticket” call under the recently modernised EU Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS). The RFCS was established in 2002 after the fifty-year treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) expired. At the coal day, there was a broad discussion on technologies and their role in a “just transition”, but also on energy security. During the preceding steel day, emphasis was put on the green transition, with discussions on how to curb emissions in the steel sector, the need for digitalisation and the rollout of hydrogen in steel production. This 20th anniversary celebration was web-streamsed. Continue reading RFCS Coal Summit 2022, Brussels→
On Monday, 7 March 2022, the Polish Mining Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GIPH) celebrated its 30th anniversary at the Silesian Philharmonic in Katowice with an awards ceremony and concert. The Vice Minister of State Assets and government plenipotentiary for energy and mining transformation, Piotr Pyzik, joined MEPs, members of the Sejm, officials and representatives from science and industry, as well as the President of EURACOAL, Vladimír Budinský. The concert was overshadowed by events in Ukraine where Russian aggressors have created a humanitarian crisis that Poland especially is responding to with great compassion.
Mr. Budinský delivered his speech in Polish (English translation below):
Drodzy przyjaciele, górnicy polscy,
W tych historycznych dniach, kiedy w Niemczech i w Unii Europejskiej obserwujemy, dzięki agresywnej napaści Rosji na Ukrainę, nagłe przebudzenie z fałszywego snu, że rosyjski gaz może zastąpić europejski węgiel, z tego miejsca, tu w Katowicach, w sercu europejskiego górnictwa węglowego, wzywam Komisję Europejską:
Zakończ wojnę z węglem!
Wzywamy zakończenie wojny przeciw ważnemu sektorowi przemysłu, który zapewnia Europie niezależność i bezpieczeństwo energetyczne. Węgiel jest i jeszcze przez długi czas będzie ważnym surowcem na świecie i nie ma powodu, dla którego nie miałoby tak być w Europie. Technologie, które są potrzebne do uzyskania niskiej emisji z gazu, istnieją również w przypadku węgla.
Dlatego jeszcze raz apeluję do rządów państw Unii Europejskiej i Komisji Europejskiej: Zakończ wojnę z węglem!
Jedynym krajem, który wciąż walczy o węgiel w Brukseli, jest Polska. „Jestem w sercu Polakiem.”
Dear friends, Polish miners,
In these historic days, when in Germany and in the European Union we observe, thanks to Russia’s aggressive attack on Ukraine, a sudden awakening from a false dream that Russian gas can replace European coal, from this place, here in Katowice, in the heart of the European coal mining industry, I call on the European Commission:
End the war on coal!
We call for an end to the war against the important industrial sector that gives Europe its independence and energy security. Coal is and will be an important resource in the world for a long time to come, and there is no reason why it should not be so in Europe. The technologies that are needed to achieve low emissions exist also for coal.
Therefore, I once again appeal to the governments of the European Union member states and to the European Commission: End the war on coal!
The only country that is still fighting for coal in Brussels is Poland. “I am a Pole at heart.”
The hashtag #StandWithUkraine expresses our feelings, but what can we as individuals actually do to help the people of Ukraine in this time of deep crisis in Europe? Colleagues working for DTEK, our member in Ukraine, are on the front line, working with the army to ensure critical infrastructure is operational. To secure Ukraine’s electricity supply, ENTSO-E must urgently synchronise the now isolated Ukrainian power system with the EU system.
As refugees pour out of the country – women and children escaping the war now being fought by their husbands and fathers – Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania are working to accommodate what will quickly become millions of people, each needing food and shelter. This will be a huge undertaking involving many other countries: some have already simplified their visa systems.
EURACOAL member companies, such as Polska Grupa Gornicza in Poland, are providing support through fundraising among employees, collection of medical supplies and equipment, and also crucial help with a special psychological assistance programme. The mining and energy industry shows its unity.
The whole of Europe is at one with Ukraine, terrified by what is happening now and worried about what might happen next. We must all prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The coal sector is well placed to help wean Europe off its heavy dependence on coal, oil and gas imported from Russia. That is our mission.
On 14 July 2021, the European Commission adopted a package of proposals to deliver on the targets agreed in the European Climate Law and so revolutionise the economy and society for a fairer, greener and more prosperous future. Known as the “Fit-for-55” package, it aims to make the EU’s climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Europe would then be on the way to becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 – making the European Green Deal a reality.
Today, EURACOAL responds to this important package of legislative proposals which will have a dramatic impact on coal production and use across the EU:
On 13 July 2021, the ІV International Coal Conference “Coal regions of Ukraine: just transition and coal mining – Ukrainian and international experience” took place at Academy DTEK in Kyiv. More than two hundred experts from Ukraine and EU countries discussed the coal industry transition. Representatives of the Ukrainian government and large businesses, leaders of trade unions and directors of regional authorities joined thematic sessions on:
Achieving carbon neutrality and leveraging opportunities for coal communities
Coal mining in the context of the green energy transition, and
Just transition for the coal regions – possibilities for economic diversification of mono-towns.
The experts agreed that a successful transition of Ukraine’s coal regions heavily depends on the engagement of public authorities, local communities, international partners and corporate businesses.
Mr. Denys Shmyhal, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, noted that by sharing the values of the European Green Deal, Ukraine is taking meaningful steps towards its energy independence while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, gradually phasing out fossil fuels and lowering the carbon intensity of its industry. At the same, he envisaged a social transition of those towns and cities that depend on coal mining and coal-fired power generation. “We are actively discussing with the EU, the World Bank and other partners the just transition of our coal regions, following the example of the EU’s Just Transition programme. A complex just transition policy for the coal regions is being elaborated on the country level. Our task is to implement the necessary incentives to enable these regions to become attractive places for investment and to design a comprehensive plan for creating new jobs, as well as to bring new opportunities for small and medium business development,” stressed the Prime Minister.
Mr. Stanislaw Tillich, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Structural Change in the Ukrainian Coal-Mining Regions, said, “In August last year, we signed the German-Ukrainian Energy Partnership with the Ukrainian Government to share the experience in transformation of coal industry in our country.” This five-year, €35 million programme will support Ukraine’s decision to embark on transition, “because such a decision concerns both coal miners and the necessary societal support for decarbonisation.” He suggested exploring firstly the development potential and prospects for the mining regions, to include reskilling workers and identifying risks.
President of EURACOAL, Mr. Vladimír Budinský outlined the European Green Deal, including the impact on the coal sector of new legislative proposals to be published the following day (the Fit-for-55 package of 14 July) which would mean further change for all coal regions across Europe. Coming seventy years after the start of the European Coal and Steel Community was established in 1952, this change offered new prospects for the coal regions as power generation switched away from coal combustion. Mr. Budinský advised Ukraine “to focus on the future, innovate as quickly as possible, diversify your generation portfolio, invest in people, and keep all options open.” On the energy transition – which he said was a jump into the unknown – Mr Budinský could not predict the energy system of 2050, but promised it would be better, “just as our energy system today is better than it was in 1952 when King Coal dominated.”
According to Mr. Ildar Salieiev, CEO of DTEK Energy, his company has been supporting coal communities to develop road maps for a just transition over the last three years or more. “DTEK fully shares the European values”, he said. With the support of DTEK Energy, Dobropillia became Ukraine’s first coal city to follow a path of economic diversification and he pointed to the more than forty projects aimed at creating new jobs in various sectors of the local economy: from construction to services. Mr. Salieiev added that the Dnipropetrovsk region was following the same path, again with DTEK’s support.
The EU Methane Strategy, published by the European Commission in October 2020, covers several areas of human activity.
For the energy sector, the focus is on fugitive emissions from oil and gas production, supply infrastructure and end use, rather than from coal mining. In light of the international nature of emissions from EU energy-supply chains, this is the right approach and the strategy should be used as a tool in climate diplomacy. In the case of methane from coal mines, EURACOAL highlights in a new position paper several actions at the EU level that would further encourage the mitigation of this methane, turning an environmental issue into a clean energy resource.
EURACOAL submitted its position paper with a letter to the European Commission in which we warn against measures that risk slowing new investment in clean technologies. Current proposals to revise the “Aarhus Regulation” would delay transformation of the EU energy sector as interest groups seek to challenge new developments of all types. Why? Because every project could be argued to have a climate impact, and any NGO could claim to represent the environment.
EURACOAL supports equal access to justice. However, access should only be granted to those directly affected. Extending justice to all under climate law risks opening a Pandora’s box whereby literally anyone can claim harm caused by others.
Secure planning procedures
To transform the EU energy sector and economy, we need faster investment procedures, not slower ones. EURACOAL has urged the European Commission to begin a process to renegotiate the UNECE Aarhus Convention at the international level, so that a better balance can be found between access to justice and a secure planning framework for clean-tech investments.
The European Commission’s Coal Regions in Transition Platform initiative includes a number of activities of relevance to the research community. EURACOAL has been a partner in the EU-supported CoalTech2051 project which has developed a future coal-related research strategy with input from many stakeholders.
This report details the strategy and gives examples of research projects that are already pushing the boundaries to deliver new solutions that can better position coal and the coal regions for the future.
Imagine an energy system where the electricity that powers our cars came from the solar panels on our roofs, while our buildings are kept warm with heat from a nearby factory, and the factory is fuelled by clean hydrogen produced from offshore wind turbines. With the European Commission’s new hydrogen strategy (COM(2020) 301), this vision of an hydrogen ecosystem can be reality. Continue reading EURACOAL joins Clean Hydrogen Alliance→
Like every other country, Ukraine is facing a Covid-19 crisis, but with the added complication that its electricity market is failing to deliver.
In March 2020, Ukrainian electricity demand fell by 7%, because of the Covid-19 lockdown. At the same time, power exports to Hungary, Slovakia and Romania surged by over 50% in the first quarter of 2020 from the synchronised Burshtyn region of Ukraine. This was because wholesale electricity prices outside Ukraine are far more attractive. To protect the country’s heavily indebted energy sector, the government imposed a 65% tariff on coal and electricity imports from Russia on 1 April 2020. Meanwhile, household, commercial and even industrial prices remain regulated with caps, despite an opening-up of the electricity market last year.
In its letter to President Zelenskyy, EURACOAL looks to the future and asks the Ukrainian government to stick with market-based solutions and electricity market liberalisation, rather than return to a failed system of central planning. As agreed in its Association Agreement with the EU, Ukraine should implement the EU Third Energy Package and did introduce the necessary legislation with a start date of 1 July 2019.
Protectionist measures are not working and Ukraine’s largest energy company, DTEK, has had to idle the big Pavlohradcoal mine. Energy companies, including SOEs, are not receiving enough income to operate. The State Company “Guaranteed Buyer” (responsible for subsidising household tariffs and renewables) has massive debts to the nuclear and renewable power companies (estimated at UAH 8.7 billion or EUR 300 million).
Part of the problem is that cross subsidies and over-generous feed-in tariffs for renewable energy sources have pushed up electricity prices such that huge debts have built up in the energy system. The government has responded by retrospectively reducing feed-in tariffs. A fairer solution would be to introduce an auction system for renewables. Electricity prices caps should be replaced with social support for those on low incomes. The caps mean heavy industry benefits from unfair subsidies. Unfortunately, the government has reduced social support intended to help with utility bills – this will lead to more debt.