Debate hears coal phase-out date should be set with consensus

Ljubljana – A round table debate on Tuesday heard that, while coal phase-out is inevitable, it should be made sure that power supply is not threatened as Slovenia is making the relevant transition. The participants agreed that the year of closure of the sole operational coal mine in Velenje should be set in consensus of all stakeholders.

Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Blaž Košorok said at the event hosted by the newspaper Finance that coal phase-out was inevitable, noting that 2033 had been determined as the year of closure of the mine in the relevant draft strategy.

Later dates had also been discussed, including 2038 and 2042, he said, adding that Slovenia would be able to use funds from the Just Transition Fund for coal phase-out if the exact year of exit is determined.

The year 2033 is the most ambitious scenario, where the key question is how to install new sources of electricity production in Slovenia, Košorok said. “Time is running out. The year of exit from coal needs to be determined with a consensus.”

Boštjan Gorjup, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), said that Slovenian economy needed a stable source of power and that the social situation of the Šalek Valley needed to be taken into account when determining the date.

Gorjup thinks that Slovenia will not be ready to abandon coal by 2033, with the more realistic dates being 2036 or 2038, when new jobs could also be created. The plan is to create 1,500 jobs in the area by 2025 and another 1,000 by 2035.

Janez Rošer, the director general of the mine operator Premogovnik Velenje, said it would be a major challenge to avoid difficulties related to the mine closure. He thinks the number of jobs could be reduced with retirements and reassignments.

Velenje Mayor Peter Dermol said that the strategy did not clearly define a just transition, and wondered what should be done to restructure around 5,000 jobs and how to arrive to an appropriate date for the closure. He expects the state to help the local community find investors for new jobs.

Simon Lamot of the in-house trade union expects a just transition, meaning that miners will be taken care of by applying best European practices.