Europe’s Just Transition Fund must rise to the challenge

On 3 December WindEurope Deputy CEO Malgosia Bartosik called for an ambitious Just Transition Fund – a “must have” if we want the energy transition to work for all Europeans.

Bartosik spoke on a panel in Brussels about financing the energy transition alongside: MEP Jerzy Buzek; Marc Lemaître, Director General for Regional and Urban development at the European Commission; Luc Triangle, IndustriAll General Secretary and Norbert Schultes, Head of Economic Affairs and Energy at the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU.

The Commission estimates that reaching the EU climate and energy targets by 2030 will need annual investments of €180bn across the EU. As outlined by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in the transition to a climate neutral economy “we must recognise and respect that we do not all start from the same point. We all share the same ambition but some may need more tailored support than others to get there.”

This is particularly true for regions with an energy mix heavily reliant on coal and with a GDP per capita below the EU average. The investment needs in the energy sector in these regions are much higher than elsewhere in the EU. And the efforts needed to find alternative jobs for coal miners are higher too.

Renewable energy like wind already plays a key role in this. In Romania for example, the wind sector is opening a training centre to reskill coal miners from the Jiu Valley (among others) into wind workers, offering prospects for the communities affected by the closure of the mines.

But without support from the EU, the financial scale of the transformation of coal-dominated areas will make it difficult to happen. The Just Transition Fund established within the Multiannual Financial Framework is a step in the right direction, but to be successful it will need to be expanded and well targeted.

“Wind energy and coal regions can have a happy marriage, but the Just Transition Fund needs to be the matchmaker,” Bartosik said.

In a joint statement, AVERE – the European association for Electromobility, Eurelectric – the electricity industry association, EuropeOn – the European electrical contractors association and WindEurope identified four measures for the Just Transition Fund to achieve its goal:

  1. Funding available for the Just Transition Fund needs to be considerably higher than the €5bn for the EU proposed by the European Parliament
  2. As in the management of the Structural Funds, Member States should have a leading role in selecting the most relevant projects for financing based on a transparent selection process. Accountability on project delivery will also be critical to ensure funding is properly allocated
  3. The Just Transition Fund should prioritise highly carbon-intensive regions
  4. Funds should be made available for investment in renewables, smart electricity solutions and infrastructure. Crucially it should finance re-skilling programmes for coal miners as well as investment in renewables, and enabling technologies and infrastructure. Among others, the Just Transition Fund should support investment in grids and port infrastructure to boost the development of offshore wind, where some coal-heavy Member States have major ambitions.