The international response to Russia’s brutal February 2022 invasion of Ukraine has altered and transformed the energy transition, in some ways accelerating the move towards wind and solar generation but also forcing countries dependent on Russian fossil fuels, particularly European nations and the European Union as a whole, to search for and secure alternative supplies.
The sudden shocks of this new reality largely acerbated the already growing triple crisis of climate, energy and inflation that we continue to face. For decades renewable energy proponents have advocated for the transformation of aging or abandoned coal mines and coal power plants into green energy centers.
Throughout the European Union, converting coal mines and plants into renewable energy sites became a key strategy within the new Repower EU plan adopted as a way to help speed the EU’s move away from imported Russian gas and LNG. In addition, the war has helped spur renewable development across the 27 member states to record levels. In 2022, for the first time, wind and solar reached over a fifth (22%) of EU electricity generation.
According to climate think tank, Ember, record installations of new solar capacity, some 41 GW came online, helping to avoid some €10 billion in gas costs. Moreover, all that solar, plus new wind coming online, coupled with a fall in electricity usage prevented a much larger return to coal. In addition, looking ahead, Solar and wind adoption is now moving so fast, that the IEA says renewables will surpass coal’s share worldwide by 2025.
In cooperation with the NGO Europe Beyond Coal, during the summer of 2022, Podcast host Michael Buchsbaum conduced a survey of coal to wind and solar projects throughout Europe. This led him to another fresh report on this subject published by the GreenTank, an Athens, Greece-based environmental NGO that looked through this subject through a Just Transitions lens.
Therefore, for this episode of the Global Energy Transition Podcast, our host talks about this excitingly rapid uptake of new renewables and solar development on old or abandoned coal mining lands with one of the authors of the GreenTank’s report, Nikos Mantzaris.