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Economic diversification and cleaning power production

Peer review
By Platform

The Policy Learning Platform organised a peer review on the topic of 'Future-proofing the lignite District Stara Zagora through economic diversification and reduction of the environmental footprint of power production' with the District Administration and the Economic Development Agency of Stara Zagora on 26-27 February 2020 in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. 

Access the recommendations in the follow-up report


Located in a territory socio-economically largely dominated by coal mining and power production from lignite and motivated by the desire to prepare their District as well as possible for the future that is likely to see a decline in coal mining and power production, the local authorities had requested a peer review to explore two issues of concern to their territory in the absence of a national decision on phasing out coal:

  • Diversification of the regional economy through activities that match the skill profile and the infrastructure currently available in the region.
  • Reduction of the environmental footprint of lignite-based power production in the region through technological solutions (e.g. 'clean-coal' technologies).

Peers from across Europe

Five talented peers, alongside our low-carbon economy expert Katharina Krell, came in South-East Bulgaria to share with the hosts their rich experience and suggestions regarding the hot topics of transition that many European coal regions are currently facing. The peers were:

  • Dionysios Giannakopoulos, Center for Research and Technolohy Hellas / Chemical Process and Energy Resources Institure (CERTH/CPERI), Western Macedonia (Greece)
  • Jana Nedrdová, Regional Authority of the Usti Region, Usti Region (Czech Republic)
  • Karel Tichý, Ministry of Regional Development, Prague (Czech Republic)
  • Magda Kowalska, PlanEnergi, (Denmark)
  • Zoe Kapetaki, Project Officer at the DG Joint Research Center, European Commission, Peten (The Netherlands)


The peer review was also used by the hosts as occasion to unite the multiple and diverse local stakeholders around a topic that spurs heated debates as it concerns the very identify and future perspectives of a District with high economic and social stakes.

The peers formulated recommendations around the topics of governance, capacity building, diversification of the power sector, technological options to clean the coal sector, as well as financing. A set of recommendations to the national level was also made.

Please find the policy challenges of the host and the suggestions of the peers in the follow-up report.

Dr Rumyana Grozeva, Executive Director of Stara Zagora Regional Economic Development Agency commented after the intensive 2-day meeting: "The Peer Review came in at a very good timing as the District of Stara Zagora, being highly dependent on the energy sector, is exploring options towards cleaner coal and economic diversification. The Peer Review tool of the Policy Learning Platform was a great opportunity for us. The 2-days event was certainly very interesting. The peers showed various interesting cases. It was a great practical experience as well, so I hope that each of the stakeholders has learned the most from its lessons and experience."

The host authorities are currently following up on the recommendations and are working on including these in the Regional / District Development Plans, the OP Competitiveness and innovations 2021 - 2027 and OP Regions in Growth. 

Image credit: Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels