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Cleaner, securer, and more prosperous

World Coal,

Pawel Smolen, president of EURACOAL, spoke at length during the first keynote session at the 33rd Coaltrans world coal conference in Berlin, Germany, on the challenges the European coal industry must navigate, as well as the opportunities that will present themselves.

Smolen stressed the need for Europe’s coal industry to develop a three-step strategy to make the industry cleaner, securer and more prosperous. In this strategy, Smolen said, the industry would need to develop means of decarbonisation in a way that does not end the financing of coal.

With global recoverable thermal coal reserves of 1,038 billion t, or 135 years of energy for the world at current and expected use levels, “It does not make sense,” Smolen argued, “that we should end the financing of coal.”

Discussing current EU measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions, Smolen argued that while the measures might work to a degree in countries like Germany, other EU countries are not in a position to embrace decarbonisation, if it means they must reduce their reliance on coal.

Poland in particular, Smolen said, is particularly at risk from current measures aimed at reducing carbon and other emissions. In Poland, where coal is also known as black gold, “de-carbonisation means de-electrification, which is impossible,” Smolen said.

Common sense

With EU member states, on average, using coal to supply around 30% of power generation, and with the undeniable need for electricity and power seven days a week, 24 hours a day, a sharp move away from coal would undercut the power sector in too many European countries, Smolen insisted.

When looking at the German system, Smolen said that while the country should be praised for its support of renewable energy, it should not be thought that renewable energy should completely replace coal or other fossil fuels as a source of power and energy. “Wind and coal go together, they need each other” Smolen said. “Coal is not the enemy of wind.”

Smolen spoke passionately at during his keynote speech, telling delegates at Coaltrans: “I’m not a coal lobbyist, I’m a lobbyist for common sense.”

Three-step strategy

While there is a need to fight CO2, Smolen reminded the audience that to think it is possible to remove 100% of CO2 emissions from human activity is something far easier said than done. He therefore outlined EURACOAL’s three-step strategy for supporting Europe’s coal industry in the future:

  1. Old power units at power plants must be replaced.
  2. Develop the next generation of technologies for coal-fired power generation.
  3. Demonstrate and deploy CO2 capture technologies, developed in tandem with CCS for other fuels and sectors.

Smolen suggested that by using this approach, it would be possible to reduce European emissions by 30%.

Smolen concluded his speech by stressing: “Coal is not against other fuels.” He argued that coal should not be seen as the enemy to decarbonisation, but should be used to support EU efforts to reduce emissions. “Give coal a chance,” Smolen urged, "fight emissions: not coal itself.”

Written by Sam Dodson

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