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Lusatia, Germany

Region: Lusatia
Country: Germany
Leader: IOER

About the case study

The clean energy transition in Lusatia is both further advanced and better funded than many of the other case studies in ENTRANCES. As part of the German “Strukturwandel”, enacted in August 2020, a total of 17.2bn Euros has been allocated to public investments aimed at compensating the loss of the lignite sector and promoting economic growth in the mining area alongside the phase out of coal-fired energy generation by 2038 at the latest (and sooner if possible). Yet this is no easy task. Integration into market economy following the dissolution of the German Democratic Republic led to precipitative deindustrialisation, mass unemployment, and outmigration as well as peripheralisation trends that have continued into the present day: notably outmigration, declining and ageing population, and weak public services. Additionally, the two federal states, in which Lusatia falls – Brandenburg and Saxony – have opted for different governance approaches with weak cross-border coordination and already perceptible differences in outcomes.

For Work Package 3, IOER conducted the following activities: (a) text analysis of how decarbonisation is framed by key stakeholders in the region, (b) a survey of 87 respondents in the core affected area to assess the impact of the CET on people’s attachment to the region, (c) a focus group examining local perceptions of challenges facing the region, and (d) interviews with key stakeholders to assess the “transformative capacity” available in the region to overcome path dependencies and shape its decarbonisation path towards sustainability outcomes. The researcher also gave an interview to local media on the ENTRANCES project and observations thus far.

The main findings / results so far are the following:

  •  While the Strukturwandel is a “just transition” in the sense that it is the product of a “hard-won compromise” between actors and considerable funds have been allotted to cushion the phase-out of the lignite industry, it is unlikely to result in a broader transition towards sustainability as this is not explicitly prioritised: there is neither a sufficiently articulated vision nor leadership to promote action in this direction.
  • The impacts of ongoing peripheralisation are of more significance to the region than those of decarbonisation. Focus group members highlighted the social consequences of demographic trends – old age isolation and poverty, generational gap, collapse of community life – as well as the effects of dismantled mobility infrastructure and public amenities. To this can be added homogenisation of the population and hardening of attitudes towards right-wing populism. This necessitates an approach to regional economic development that goes beyond attracting big players to the region.
  • The institutional framework matters. Brandenburg has opted for a collaborative process of project qualification through multi-stakeholder “workshops” in five priority areas for the transition, which means that the process is broadly inclusive and enjoys legitimacy among stakeholders. In Saxony, municipalities are tasked with project development and also given a key role in approving projects at periodic meetings of the regional monitoring committee. This has led to a highly conflictual battle over distribution, in which particular interests are prioritised over a broader regional vision.
  • As a public financing directive, the Strukturwandel is limited to funding public sector projects. It is hoped that the Just Transition Fund will support the broader involvement of the private sector in the clean energy transition.

Local support

The following 3 local organisations agreed to support the research activities in Lusatia: State Government of the Free State of Saxony, State Government of the State of Brandenburg, City of Weißwasser (and “Lusatia Roundtable”).


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