Repowering EU Coal Regions: The Role of Municipality-led Renewable Energy Projects

Posted on 22 September 2022

Europe is facing a severe energy crisis. The European Commission’s aim of quickly moving away from Russian fossil fuels adds greater urgency to efforts to save energy and use alternative, secure and ideally sovereign energy sources. To align with and support the EU’s efforts in the fight against the climate crisis, together with energy efficiency and storage investments, ‘repowering’ the EU should be achieved predominantly through renewable energy, stemming mostly from wind and solar. A particular focus needs to be given to the heating sector, which accounts for about 35% of fossil gas use in the EU.
Coal regions are on the frontline of the energy transition. They are facing massive change as economics and climate policy mean that using coal for power must end in Europe by 2030. Although the current crisis has, in some regions, seen demand for coal increase, this rise can only ever be short-lived. Coal regions that embrace a transition to renewable energy now, combined with further investments in skills and technologies for energy savings and storage, will avoid a cliff-edge transition in favour of a more coordinated, safer and more prosperous road forward.

A just transition from coal to renewable energy requires a well-managed approach. The transition from coal entails much more than a shift from one technology or industry to another: the social and cultural heart of communities must be maintained - and sometimes rebuilt. In this paper, we aim to present useful information for mayors and municipalities on the potential of municipality-led renewable energy projects - including energy communities - to play a central role in the just transition of Europe’s coal regions.