For sustainable society


Coal-free in Sweden and Austria

Do you know that, in recent years, decoalization is being advanced in Europe? In this April, two countries, Sweden and Austria, closed their domestic coal-fired power plants. Both countries have become the second and third countries in Europe to stop coal-fired power generation, following Belgium in 2016.

Originally, the beginning of the European Union (EU) was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was founded in 1952. It is an organization established to manage coal outside the framework of nation and prevent competition for energy sources, on the basis of the reflection of World War II. In a sense, it can be said that coal has brought Europe together; however, why is decoalization being advanced now?

It is because that, as you know, coal is one of fossil fuels. Coal began to be used as a fuel alternative to charcoal in England in the mid-16th century and became a major energy source supporting the industrial revolution in the 18th century. From around the time of World War II, it was replaced by oil; however, since coal reserves are widely distributed in Asia, the United States, and Europe, it is still used around the world as a stable energy source.

On the other hand, it is said that CO2 emissions from coal are the highest among fossil fuels. For this reason, the EU, which has been promoting measures against climate change, has implemented regulations such as prohibiting national assistance to the coal industry and tightening emission standards for air pollutants in order to reduce CO2 emissions by reducing the amount of coal used. These efforts have inspired many countries to close their coal-fired power plants, and each country has declared its target year of abolition.

The last coal-fired power plant in Sweden was the Värtaverket power plant of the power company Stockholm Exergi. The power plant, which started operation in 1989 and had supplied electricity throughout Stockholm, was shut down on April 16. The abolition is estimated to reduce Exergi’s CO2 emissions from 800,000-900,000 tonnes per year to almost half, 400,000 tonnes. By the way, although the abolition was originally planned for 2022, the goal was achieved two years ahead of schedule. It is said that the warmer winter caused by global warming has made it unnecessary to generate electricity as much as it used to.

In the same way, in Austria, a coal-fired power plant of the electricity company Verbund has stopped generating electricity as originally planned. However, in the country, the steel company Voestalpine uses coal in the steelmaking process, it is in a situation where it has to take one step further for decoalization. 

According to Europe Beyond Coal, a civic group aiming to abolish the use of coal step by step, the countries that have declared abolition and their target year are as follows: France (2022), Slovakia (2023), Portugal (2023), the UK (2024), Ireland (2025), Italy (2025), Hungary (2030), Denmark (2030), and Germany (2038). Since Germany is a coal producing country, it is still important in terms of both production and consumption, which makes it behind in comparison with other countries.


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