Europe is struggling to get the backing of its poorest regions that are heavily reliant on coal and old “mono-industries” in its shift to renewable energy.
Last year, the European Commission has launched a platform to help the bloc’s coal producing countries transition away away from the energy source. However, there is growing concern that Europe’s wealthiest countries have not considered the fuel’s importance as part of the energy mix, with 25% of the EU’s total electricity output generated by coal.
This was made all too clear at a Politico event held last month – “Balancing coal and climate: What is a ‘just’ energy transition?” — sponsored by the Polish Electricity Association (PKEE).
During the event, Filip Grzegorczyk, chief executive of Poland’s Tauron Polska Energia, which owns power, heating and coal mining assets, and vice-president of PKEE, said: “I understand that for many member states of the European Union, decarbonisation is not a radical issue. For Poland, it really is.”
He added: “If we have almost 80 percent of our energy mix based on coal, it simply means the very ambitious plans of the European Commission are a radical transformation for Poland.”
Although it has set targets for countries to reduce greenhouse emissions, improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewables, Brussels has been criticised for not being more specific on how members should meet these requirements.
Cristina Pruna, a member of the Romanian parliament, warned that pushing such a transition too fast risks will create fuel poverty and a backlash amongst coal-dependent regions.
A sponsored Politico article, by The Polish Electricity Association (PKEE), highlighted the need for reliable sources of energy to provide secure supplies and maintain affordable electricity prices in coal reliant countries, such as Poland.
Earlier this year, countries across Eastern Europe expressed plans to continue burning coal for decades to come, insisting they do not have the finances to transition to other forms of energy.
As the developed world continues its transition towards renewables, it has become increasingly important for global institutions to recognise the importance of fossil fuels for developing countries and how these plans pose a threat to their economic growth.