Policy Learning Experts and Peers gathered on 26 - 27 February in Stara Zagora for Peer Review to discuss the topic Future-proofing the lignite District Stara Zagora through economic diversification and reduction of the environmental footprint of power production.

The Peer Review was organized by the Policy Learning Platform of the INTERREG EU Programme. It was hosted by the District of Stara Zagora and Stara Zagora Regional Economic Development Agency, Lead Partner of DeCarb project, funded by INTERREG Europe.

The Peer Review started with a welcome speech from the Deputy Governor of Stara Zagora District. Various stakeholders from the Coal Power Plants, mining companies, local and regional authorities, associations, chamber of commerce, business and research organizations were presented. The thematic experts of the Policy Learning Platform have launched a call for peers among a limited number of suitable projects from INTERREG EUROPE and Horizon2020 tried to promote the same call through the Secretariat of the Coal Regions in Transition Platform without success, and researched, identified and contacted a number of suitable experts directly. The Peers experts to assist Stara Zagora District in the field of Clean Coal possibilities and challenges recruited based on the background paper and the personal and phone conversations with the host region representatives. A total of five experts were recruited

  • Dionysios Giannakopoulos, Senior Researcher at Centre for Research & Technology Hellas / Chemical Process & Energy Resources Institute (CERTH/CPERI), Western Macedonia, Greece. Expert in solid fuel utilisation, pollutants formation and abatement techniques, power production and efficiency, clean technologies for advanced utilization of solid fuels, strategies and measures for CO2 emissions reduction and utilization of RES, Environmental Management Systems and Audits, Combined Heat and Power production and energy conservation, strategies and measures for H2 technologies and Fuel Cells.
  • Magda Kowalska, PlanEnergi, DenmarkMagda is a mechanical and energy engineer, she also holds an MBA and has worked for 5 years at two different Danish renewable energy consultancies. She is experienced in Combined Heat and Power Technology, Renewable Energy sources and District Heating systems. Magda has been performing master planning studies, technology options and energy strategies for heat, electricity and cooling supply and distribution systems (boilers, heat pumps, solar, wind, internal combustion engines, air-cooled & water-cooled chillers, steam turbine). She also did techno-financial modelling, feasibility studies, business cases for combined heat and power (CHP), low-carbon, renewables and district heating schemes.
  • Jana Nedrdová, Head of Unit, Regional Authority of the Usti Region / Krajský úřad Ústeckého kraje. Jana works at the Department of Strategy, Project Preparation and Implementation of Usti Region, She is the Head of Coal Regions Department as well as the Secretary of the Smart Region Commission. The biggest structural similarities in terms of lignite within the EU exist between BG and CZ. The Czech Republic has a comparable share of lignite in power production and volume of lignite production as BG. It also shares several other structural specifications with Bulgaria as former Soviet bloc country.
  • Karel Tichý, Deputy manager of RE:START Strategy, Ministry of Regional Development of Czech Republic. The Czech government has decided to implement a national strategy to support structurally disadvantaged coal regions: the RE:START Strategy. The RE:START Strategy is led by the Ministry of Regional Development, and Karel is the Deputy Manager for it.
  • Zoe Kapetaki, Scientific Officer from Joint Research Centre at European Commission. Her expertise is very vast and she is an established author and researcher for many clean energy related projects. Her being the co-author in report "Clean energy technologies in coal regions: Opportunities for jobs and growth" makes her participation of great importance for the outcome of the Peer Review. Peers, Policy Learning Experts, SZREDA team and Stakeholders had very fruitful discussions and were presented various cases on clean coal, economic diversification, social impact mitigation and involvement of municipal and regional authorities in the process of coal transition.

The following policy challenges were addressed during the peer review and the peers formulated specific suggestions on the field of:

  1. Socio-economic diversification: away from power generation into new sectors and within the power sector into renewable energies
  2. Technological solutions to clean power production
  3. Financing options for all of the above Governance, administrative & technical capacity as a pre-requisite for all of the above points came up a lot as horizontal topic. SZREDA will prepare a follow up document to identify the most applicable suggestions and measures and will track their implementation.