Spain has recently announced that it is seeking a switch to 100% renewable electricity by 2050.

As part of Spain’s renewable energy strategy, the country has introduced a draft of its climate change and energy transition law, pledging to cut greenhouse emissions by 90% from 1990 levels by installing 3,000 megawatts of photovoltaic power each year between 2018 and 2019.

However, although the switch to renewable energy is necessary to curb CO2 emissions, the switch to alternative energy sources can have a negative impact on those already employed in the fossil fuels industry, sparking job loss fears among the country’s mining communities.

Spain’s renewable energy push paired with job protection

Part of Spain’s renewable energy plan involves the closure of ten of the country’s coal mines by the end of 2018, which will see 1,000 miners and subcontractors unemployed in a country that already has a high unemployment rate of 15.8%.

To remedy this, the Spanish government has agreed to allocate €250m to re-skilling miners for clean energy jobs and environmental restoration. The money will also fund early retirement plans for 60% of miners.

It is hoped that this will meant the transition to 100% renewable electricity will not come at the expense of the coal miners responsible for producing 2.3% of electricity in the country.

Montserrat Mir, the confederal secretary for the European Trades Union Congress, has welcomed the decision, and has urged the rest of Europe to take notice.

“Spain can export this deal as an example of good practice,” he said. “We don’t need to choose between a job and protecting the environment. It is possible to have both.”

Concerns across Europe

The issue of balancing the necessary switch to renewable energy with job losses has been a cause for concern in the European Union, as plans for the EU to source 32% of energy from renewables by 2030 could lead to higher unemployment in Europe’s largest coal mining countries.

The Polish mining industry is expected to lost 41,000 jobs by 2030 and the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania are expected to lose a further 10,000 each.

European energy experts have urged the governments of these countries to look to Spain’s renewable energy model over the next decade as they seek to make the important transition to renewables.

Andrius Terskovas, chief business development officer of Sun Investment Group, said:

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“We understand the concerns of Europe’s largest coal mining countries, but we believe that if the coal mining unions and governments cooperate as they did in Spain to achieve an exemplary outcome, then jobs and communities will be protected as Europe works towards a common future based on renewable energy.

“We, as an investor in renewable energy, view Spain as one of the most attractive markets for solar plants. Investment in solar energy creates new jobs and supports the economy.”