Turning Coal Dependence Into an Opportunity

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are the most dependent on coal-fired energy production among the countries of the European Union. How can this weakness be turned into an opportunity?

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Coal in the hand of worker miner
The EU's ambition to become a carbon-neutral continent by 2050 is an incredible challenge for the Central Eastern European countries most dependent on coal-fired electricity production. Photo: iStock.com / Adam88xx

The European Union’s ambition to become a carbon-neutral continent by 2050 means, first and foremost, the decarbonization of the industrial and energy sectors. This is an incredible challenge for the Central and Eastern European countries most dependent on coal-fired electricity production.

For example, data from Eurostat shows that Poland’s energy production is nearly 70% dependent on coal, and the Czech Republic is at 38%. If the countries play their cards right, this challenge can be an opportunity.

One such challenge is the disappearance of coal-fired power plants and mining jobs. Losing a job is a painful subject. Nevertheless, professional retraining in a much better-paid profession is an excellent opportunity.

Coal dependence: the aim to retrain

For example, in 2019, Czech electricity producer CEZ, in collaboration with the Romanian Wind Energy Association (Asociaţia Română pentru Energie Eoliană – RWEA), launched a program for the professional retraining of 8,000 miners in the Jiu Valley in Romania. The program aims to retrain these workers for jobs in wind energy, a sector with better wages and less risk. The academy, called RenewAcad, was opened in 2021 and is funded by EU funds, among other resources.

“RenewAcad, a training and professional training center, will retrain miners and personnel in the Romanian coal sector to become specialists in the field of renewable energy and electricity distribution. Over 3,000 miners will benefit from training courses in the first five years,” said the RWEA representatives.

Energy transition as a challenge

RenewAcad has begun collaborating with local and central authorities, the private sector, and academia. The association now runs professional counseling courses in Constanța, near Romania’s largest wind farms, to guide potential new specialists in wind energy.

In Petroșani, one of the country’s most critical mining points, RenewAcad holds courses with the goal “to increase the participation in the continuing vocational training programs of 700 employees from less developed regions, especially for those with a low level of qualification and people over the age of 40, respectively, from disadvantaged rural areas.”

So the energy transition and giving up coal dependence is undoubtedly a challenge for Central and Eastern European countries and a concern that people could lose their jobs. Looking ahead, however, change is an opportunity: the upcoming investments will mean economic growth, and the retraining of employees will mean better wages and better life.

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