About the case study
Through its rich coal deposits, the Rhineland has economically always been interesting for mining and quarrying. In 2020, a Coal Phase-out Act has been adopted by the German government. It sets far-reaching energy policy guidelines for energy supply in Germany for the coming decades. This implies a reduction and cessation of lignite and hard coal electricity generation in Germany by 2038 at the latest. Furthermore, it poses challenges to a region that historically and culturally puts a strong focus on those industries when deposits are exhausted or political and societal change demands for restructuring. As a high-performance industrial and science region, the Rhenish mining area is facing major challenges in the structural transformation against the backdrop of climate change and the energy transition.
Different methodological approaches were adopted to grasp the multi-faceted aspects. According to the results of the socio-cultural component, the major issues are the relative scarcity of land and water. Furthermore, a polarisation of political culture with environmental protests and reactions by the state is observable, in addition to a critical view of the gap between energy policy aims and their implementation, in particular with lagging viable sources of renewables. The socio-psychological component analysis revealed that the factors of place rootedness and life satisfaction are remarkably high in Rhineland. At the same time, the overall decarbonisation process is perceived as being quite fair. The socio-economic component identified migration as a key driver in the region, which counteracts the natural population trend. The main socio-economic consequences are more likely to be the result of the transformation in the energy-intensive manufacturing industry rather than in the mining and utility industry itself. According to the socio-political component, two main conflicts prevail—first, the speed of the coal phase-out and second, how the public transition funds are used. Finally, an assessment of the transformative capacity (socio-ecological and -technical component) of the region is rated by the interviewed stakeholders as slightly above intermediate although stakeholders from different sectors perceive the transformative capacity differently.
The main findings / results so far are the following:
- The upcoming structural change and the development of new energy and mobility strategies are the most important challenge.
- The extent of climate change and climate mitigation policies even foster the speed of the coal phase-out and the associated structural change. While the energy transition in Rhineland is ongoing, accelerating the coal phase-out by rescheduling it from 2038 to 2030 for example was seen as a breach of word to a certain extent.
- However, the state government put forward the State’s Energy Supply Strategy with the aim to remain an innovative centre of business and industry whilst providing crucial support to the national and international climate effort.
- The most recent energy crisis due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can cause a faster clean energy transition or a delay.
The following local organisation has already offered support to the research activities in Rhineland: RWE.
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