Greece will face socioeconomic challenges as a result of the government’s decision to gradually shut down the country’s lignite units in the northern region of west Macedonia and Megolopoli, in the Peloponnese, for a climate-neutral economy by 2050, the European Commission has noted in a report delivered as an addition to its post-bailout report on the Greek economy.
Some 27,000 jobs could be lost in both areas, according to the report, delivered as an additional chapter intended to serve as basis for talks between Brussels and Athens on Greece’s transition towards a lignite-free era.
The two sides are already negotiating funding details from the Just Transition Fund, expected to financially support a new growth plan for west Macedonia and Megolopoli between 2021 and 2027.
Also, the Greek government has assembled an interministerial committee tasked with shaping a post-lignite plan for the west Macedonia and Megolopoli areas, both lignite-dependent local economies. The committee will deliver a plan by June, according to the energy ministry.
In its latest report, Brussels highlights the significance of lignite for the local economy and community of west Macedonia, whose population numbers 280,000, especially Kozani, representing more than half this figure with a population of 150,000.
“The [country’s] biggest mines and most lignite-fired power stations are located in this area. Lignite-based electricity generation is its most significant economic sector, representing over one-third of the area’s GDP,” the report notes.
An estimated 5,500 jobs at the lignite mines and power stations are directly threatened, while a further 20,000 jobs are indirectly threatened, the report’s authors added.
The west Macedonia region is already burdened by one of the highest unemployment rates (31% according to 2016 data) of all the EU’s lignite areas, the report notes. The region’s GDP per capita fell from 86 percent to 59 percent of the EU average between 2009 and 2017, it adds.
Over 100,000 residents are linked to telethermal systems for lignite power station-based domestic heating, the report also highlights. The replacement of lignite units in the area is one of the challenges that must be dealth with, it adds.
As for Megalopoli, the lignite sector is by far the most significant economic activity in this Peloponnesian region of 6,000 residents, the report notes. Some 1,600 jobs are at risk of being lost here, it adds, which takes the overall tally of jobs on the line, including in west Macedonia, to just over 27,000.