Gov’t seeking post-lignite plan, communities to be reassured

The energy ministry is looking to reassure local authorities in the country’s lignite-dependent northern region of west Macedonia that Greece’s planned transition towards a post-lignite era will take place following comprehensive planning and also include financial support for affected communities through EU funds.

Deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas will travel to the region today for talks over the weekend with local authorities, union leaders and workers. Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and power utility PPC’s chief executive may also follow up with visits to the region next week.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York earlier this week, spoke of complete decarbonization in Greece by 2028. The prospect has unsettled lignite-dependent communities in Greece.

Shutting down all lignite-fired power stations in Greece will require considerable planning.

Power utility PPC’s activities in western Macedonia represent 45 percent of the region’s economic activity. Approximately 4,200 persons are employed at PPC’s mines and power stations in west Macedonia and Megalopoli, the country’s other major lignite source in the Peloponnese. Adding sub-contractors to this tally increases the workforce figure to 6,000.

The move towards decarbonization is a European challenge concerning many countries besides Greece, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Romania. All are currently seeking solutions.

Member states feeling insecure about their post-lignite futures are eagerly awaiting the new EU budget, expected to be completed by early 2020, to see if additional funding will become available for Europe’s energy transition fund, currently limited to 4.8 billion euros for 41 lignite-dependent regions around the continent.