This study shows that increasing renewable energy development in coal-mining regions can support local value creation, including increased jobs, and foster an economically sustainable transition away from coal. IFOK, the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) and other research and consulting organizations* conducted this study on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
Replacing coal-fired power plants with large-scale solar and wind power
Experts from several research and consulting institutes recommend more intensively leveraging the potential of renewable energy in coal-mining regions. In particular, combined solar and wind hybrid plants present substantial opportunities. These solar-wind-hybrid plants could be developed step-by-step in the region and use existing grid capacity, while reducing coal-based power generation. Furthermore, the report recommends further developing plants with so-called power-to-X technology, that is, the conversion of electricity into gas or heat, specifically in open-cast coal-mining areas. “Such facilities will play an important role in the future energy system for storage or other uses of intermittent excess electricity from wind or photovoltaics,” says Martina Richwien of IFOK, who led the study.
Stronger focus on the potential of the coal-mining regions for structural change
“In the debate on structural change, the potential of the energy transition is still paid little attention,” says Bernd Hirschl from the Institute for Ecological Economic Research (IÖW). In this study, Mr. Hirschl calculated the extent to which jobs and local value creation could be generated from wind and solar energy. “The existing infrastructure and expertise in the regions present the opportunity to develop the coal mining regions into energy transition model regions – corresponding with their respective requirements. If local actors collaborate with the respective federal states and the federal government, this could result in significant local value creation and employment.”
Working together locally
“The development of this potential can only be achieved locally and together with the regional actors who live and work with the changes on the ground,” Martina Richwien emphasizes. “For example, the question of the availability of suitable land must be answered through local dialogue. Here, it is important to integrate further ideas on land use and find possible supporters in order to leverage the substantial employment potential, especially in the Lusatia region. ”
Experts who developed this study point out that for a successful transformation of Germany’s coal-mining regions, specific measures are required, in which federal, state and local governments work together. For example, special tenders would be required to ensure that installations are targeted in these regions. For these areas to profit economically, substantial engagement is required from municipalities, companies and local citizens.
Case study on Lusatia: several thousand jobs possible
The report calculated the specific regional economic potential of transforming the Lusatia coal-mining region towards an energy transition. With an ambitious expansion of wind energy and photovoltaics, for example, around one thousand full-time jobs could be created in this area alone. This estimate does not include any effects from producing solar panels themselves, which already employs more than one thousand people today. Moreover, additional jobs can be created from transition in the electricity, heating and transportation sectors – from biogas to solar thermal energy to power-to-gas, and in areas such as public transportation, car-sharing, e-mobility and autonomous driving.
The study can be downloaded here.
* IFOK and the Institute for Ecological Economy Research, short IÖW, together with: Deusche WindGuard GmbH, Solarpraxis Engineering GmbH and Prognos AG as well as Becker Büttner Held PartGmbB for legal aspects.