Will the miners lose their jobs due to Serbia’s energy transition?

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The energy transition in Serbia will leave 90% of miners employed in the coal industry without a job. Those who remain should be implemented through the transition and trained for new jobs. The wood industry may be an alternative, the conclusions of today’s debate are “Fair energy transition in Serbia and potential socio-economic consequences”.

Energy expert Aleksandar Kovacevic said Serbia has a coal industry that has never been competitive since coal was used for industrial purposes.

He believes that Serbia today has “unusually expensive district heating, unusually expensive gas, unusually expensive firewood”.

“We import unusually expensive oil and produce unusually expensive oil derivatives, and the end result is an economy that can barely make ends meet, where employment is low or unfavorable,” Kovacevic said.

In addition, he says, there are concerns about several cities and some 15,000 to 20,000 workers in a “failed industry” that has never had adequate competitiveness and ability.
The question, says Kovacevic, is whether Serbia will be able to enable industrial development and employment.

“This issue is crucial for miners, they will definitely lose their jobs, if we try to make this industry more productive 90 miners will immediately lose their jobs. If we try to immediately turn this industry into a renewable industry again 90 percent of them will lose their jobs. Whatever happens, these people lose their jobs,” he said.

Kovacevic spoke about the example of Montenegro, where currently about 800 people in the coal industry produce one million and 500 thousand tons of coal.

Kovacevic believes that if that coal were replaced with waste wood biomass from the normal forest production of Montenegro, 17,600 people would be employed in that process.

“Let’s employ 15,000 mine workers, give them exactly the same salary, the same type of work, work on a machine, and in a period of five years to create 700,000 hectares of rolled forests, create foundations for the production of four million tons of quality biomass, create a foundation for a timber industry that will employ 200,000 people, let’s call it a transition,” he said.

Aleksandar Jovovic from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering stated that 29,153 people currently work in EPS, and that 16,000 people work in the mines. At some point in time, thermal power plants will shut down, he said.

According to him, there are models for reducing the consumption of fossil fuels in the Low Carbon Development Strategy, and according to the most economically acceptable mechanism, the number of jobs that will be lost by 2030 is 35, when new jobs are taken into account.

Ilija Batas Bjelic from the Institute of Technical Sciences of SANU says that the transition is happening where it is not economically sustainable, and that it is unacceptable to say that the transition is happening in Serbia because it is happening in the EU as well.

“The real price of electricity from coal is much higher than you think and than what you are taught in school, in college. Any rationalization will not lead to something that is economically viable. If we are talking about transition, a fair transition is ideal, it is much more realistic a fair transition, about something that would allow for long-term economic efficiency,” he said.

Ksenija Petovar, a retired full professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Geography, stated that the energy transition will have numerous consequences, conditionally negative, related to job closures, which will be a serious challenge for collectives and communities.

“Others are conditionally positive, the energy transition should ensure the functioning and solve many problems that local communities have faced, and those are pollution, problems with water, land, etc.” said Ksenija Petovar, Nova Ekonomija reports.