As a result of commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as to the vision of a climate-neutral EU by 2050, in the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2019 greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the termination of operation of all Greece’s lignite power plants by 2028. In fact most of them (80% of today’s installed capacity) are supposed to close down by 2023.

The news sounded like a bomb to the ears of the residents and local authorities of the lignite production areas of Western Macedonia who only got informed about the transition by watching the PM’s declarations on TV. “Decarbonisation is needed but this transition is violent” they claim.

Since the founding of PPC in 1950, domestically extracted lignite along with hydropower has been the base of power production in Greece. According to the Regulatory Authority for Energy, in 2011, 50% of the country’s power was produced by the lignite power plants of Western Macedonia. Although in 2021 lignite covered only 16% of Greece’s power needs, still the energy transition presents a great challenge, especially for the northern districts of Kozani, Ptolemaida, Amindeo and Florina. In these regions, where lignite mining is a “monoculture” for the local economy, energy transition equals to an economic and social one.

The sacrifices for stable energy production were many along the years: 5 villages have been already swallowed by the South Field Mine, another 2 villages standing at the edge of the mine are looking at an uncertain future, air and water pollution issues and a 30,5% cancer rate among the citizens of Ptolemaida in 2018, are among them.

In order to resolve this issue, in late 2020 the greek government issued the Just Transition master plan. The plan aimed to restructure the economy of the lignite production areas by 2025 by attracting investments that will support local farming production and manufacturing, smart farming and agriculture, alternative tourism, technology and education. While developing the infrastructure for renewables with the help of private and foreign investments, imported natural gas would be used as a transitional fuel. Criticised for the short window of time to prepare the transition, the Just Transition got practically cancelled when after the Russian invasion in Ukraine in March 2022, the greek government ordered the reopening of the local lignite production.

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