Indigenous coal in the EU energy transition (own-initiative opinion)

EESC opinion: Indigenous coal in the EU energy transition (own-initiative opinion)

Conclusions and recommendations


  • During the energy transition towards the low-emission economy, the EU energy system faces a period of profound technological, economic and social change that will affect many of the energy sectors, including the coal industry and hence the coal-mining regions of the EU.
  • In some Member States, indigenous coal and lignite are still important for electricity and heat. They contribute to a secure and affordable energy supply, economic competitiveness and play a stabilising role in the energy system, both technically and economically.
  • However, the currently active coal-mining regions have to prepare for the phasing-out of coal production to be in line with EU energy and climate policy decisions on fossil fuel use or for economic reasons.
  • The future of regions currently dependent on the use of coal and future living conditions there must be included in forward planning covering two generations, i.e. 25-50 years. Phasing out the use of coal for energy purposes in these regions cannot be allowed to lead to their stagnation. In view of their economic and social potential, these regions must be involved in implementing the EU’s energy and climate policy. The sustainable development of these regions must be achieved through the guarantee of political, civic and social dialogues which must ensure that there are plans for transition at national, industry and enterprise levels.
  • To preserve energy security, a competitive industry, environmental protection, compliance with GHG emission reduction obligations and social cohesion in coal-mining regions, the EESC recommends a “Transition Support Plan for the Communities and Regions Dependent on Coal Production” (the "Plan"), to address coal industry restructuring issues during the energy transition so that coal-mining regions can adapt to change.
  • The "Plan" might be developed by an advisory group in co-operation with the European Commission and the European Parliament. Members of this advisory group should be representatives of the mining regions, unions, NGOs, R&D and the coal industry.
  • The Plan should be based on three pillars: (i) political, civic and social dialogues; (ii) economic, social and environmental investments; and (iii) investments in education, training, research and development, innovation and culture.
  • The Plan should encourage regions to change, stimulate innovative development, maintain investment attractiveness and create opportunities for employment and a decent life. In this transition process, it is necessary to take full advantage of the know-how and potential of the mining regions.
  • Regional authorities, Member State governments and EU institutions must all engage with the energy transition and the related restructuring of the coal-mining regions.
  • The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions have the necessary experience to be involved in this process, both at the European and national levels. They are also able to provide an effective framework for the political, social and civic dialogue that is necessary for consultation with people from the coal-mining regions.
  • In respect of the energy transition, one of the main concerns of EU coal-mining regions is the existence of an adequate institutional and political framework that can boost the public and private investments which will be needed in the coming years.



Brian Ricketts, Secretary General of Euracol: Coal in Europe and contribution to energy security
Michael Eyll-Vetter, Vice President Mining, RWE Power: Modern use of lignite
Prof. DSc. Eng. Krzysztof Stanczyk, Coordinator of clean coal technology center, Central Mining Institute, Katowice: Research, Development and Innovation for cleaner use of coal
Jonas M. Helseth, Bellona: Environmental perspective / Contribution of coal and lignite to the EU’s energy security
Mr. Salvatore Cherchi, Member of the Board of SOTACARBO SpA, Societa Technologie Avanzate Carbone, Carbonia, Italy: Clean technologies for the future of the coal
Ph. D. Michal Wilczynski, Freelance Expert for NGOs in Poland, The Institute for Sustainable Development, Warsaw: Will coal and lignite reinforce energy security of Europe?
Jan Panek, Head of Unit, Retail markets, oil and coal, DG ENER: Coal in the EU energy mix – present situation and future challenges
(RO) László Domokos: President of the trade union "Huila" from Romania: Economic and Social Impact of the mining industry