Study Areas

Coal regions in transition

WINTER will study 3 EU coal regions in Greece, Germany and Poland. Within the framework of WINTER project, the transition process of Western Macedonia (Greece) and the Konin region (Poland) will be enhanced through the dissemination of the web-based interactive tool that will include the best practices identified for the area. The Ruhr area (Germany) will be the “mirror” of the transformation strategies of Konin and Western Macedonia because the two other regions have the opportunity to gain experience from the Ruhr area.

Konin region (Poland)

Konin Brown Coal Basin is located in the eastern part of Wielkopolska region, mainly in Konin and Turek districts, on Gnieźnieńskie and Kujawskie lakes and Rychwalska and Turecka uplands (main centres: Konin, Turek, Poland). In particular, Konin Brown Coal Mine is located in Kleczew, which is an urban-rural municipality in the Konin County.

Konin Brown Coal Mine is owned by a large energy generation group, ZE PAK Capital Group, producing energy in three brown coal -fired power plants. Konin Brown Coal Mine (PAK KWB Konin) currently operates three open cast mines. Two out of those three plants are going to stop coal excavation in 2021-2022, therefore their activities in the nearest future will be focused mostly on post-mining land reclamation. The third mine will operate until 2030. Coal mining caused significant changes in the environment. These large-scale land and water environment transformations are followed by transformations in other components of the natural environment and agricultural land. This translates into losses in the economy, including tourism and agriculture in the region. Moreover, the mining activities have required water drainage with use of drainage wells and drainage systems. Due to intense groundwater pumping from the pits, a depression cone has developed, which affects many elements of the natural environment such as soil moisture, water abundance in natural habitats (meadows, forests), water level in watercourses and water reservoirs, groundwater resources etc.

The Konin Brown Coal Basin industrial activities and their transition into green and sustainable economy are covered by the Territorial Just Transition Plan of Eastern Wielkopolska which is presently in the final phase of development.

Excavation sites of Konin region
Service Layer Credits: Source: Esri, Maxar, GeoEye, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, USDA, USGS, AeroGRID, IGN, and the GIS User Community

Ruhr area (Germany)

The Ruhr region is an urban and metropolitan area with 5 Mio inhabitants living on 4.400 km². The transformation process already started in the late 50ies of the last millennium with first coal mine closures. Until 1963 already, 33 coal mines were closed with an annual total output of 10 Miot. In 2008, the German government decided to phase out hard coal mining by 2018. The current transition phase is focusing on the shut down and demolishing of the coal fired power plants in the Ruhr area. This decision enabled the coal mining regions in Germany, the Saar and the Ruhr area to prepare the post coal mining time within this period of 10 years.

The first step in this transformation process was the development of a strategic perspective for the region for the next decade. Based on the previous urban development policies, the so called “concept Ruhr” took up the future challenges and turned into operation in regional development concepts and master plans. These concepts and plans were also the base for applying and receiving EU regional development funding.

The second step in this transformation process was to assess the joint implementation of the medium and long-term concepts in more than 40 cities and communities in the Ruhr area. The main objective was first to be safeguard the areas and afterwards to develop them in a sustainable way. The regional association Ruhr RVR (consisting of Ruhr cities), the Ministry of Economics NRW and the coal mining company RAG and its subsidiary RAG Montan Immobilien (the Real Estate company) are the drivers of this transformation process.

Location of Ruhr area
Service Layer Credits: Source: Esri, Maxar, GeoEye, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, USDA, USGS, AeroGRID, IGN, and the GIS User Community

Western Macedonia region (Greece)

Western Macedonia is a region in North-western Greece with a population of 290,000, with its economy largely dominated by lignite mining and lignite-fired power plants and district heating systems. Since 2010, there has been a constant decrease in lignite-fired power plants (the four oldest ones have ceased operation). That decrease has accelerated since 2019, triggered by the increased Emissions Trading System (ETS) carbon price which increased the costs to produce lignite-based electricity, combined with policies to promote the use of renewable energy and natural gas.

In 2019, the Greek Government as part of its National Energy and Climate Plan set the goal of a full lignite phase-out by 2028; only one plant will continue to operate until 2028 and is still under construction. Throughout the decarbonisation effort, a central priority is to ensure a fair development transition of the lignite areas of Western Macedonia which is based on three pillars: employment protection, compensation of the socio-economic impact of the transition and energy self-sufficiency of lignite areas and the country at large. To address the socio-economic implications of the rapid lignite phase-out, the Greek Government published, following public consultation, a Master Plan for the Just Development Transition (JDTP) in December 2020. According to the Master plan, the vision for the “next day” in Western Macedonia is based on five principles:

  • Create new employment opportunities in the local community.
  • Utilize the comparative advantages of the region, including high technical skill base of workforce, large potential for clean energy investment (solar PV, biomass, green hydrogen), prospects for sustainable tourism and smart agriculture, proximity to large urban centres, availability of district heating infrastructure, etc.
  • Ensure a fast transition with a focus on realistic and workable solutions.
  • Aim at sustainable development to promote social and environmental sustainability.
  • Promote research and innovation and integrate modern technology.

Excavation sites of Western Macedonia region

Service Layer Credits: Source: Esri, Maxar, GeoEye, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, USDA, USGS, AeroGRID, IGN, and the GIS User Community