PM Mitsotakis in W. Macedonia: Region to get 7 bln euros in green transition funds

The government is “absolutely committed” to a just green transition from lignite use in West Macedonia, and so is he personally, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday after a four-hour meeting with representatives of local government, scientists and unions in Kozani.

The project is expected to use 7 billion euros in private and public funds, he said, adding that there is adequate funding but political will must also exist at all levels, including at the general public level. Despite reservations expressed during the meeting on the speed of the transition to a post-lignite era, Mitsotakis added, “this is not simply the right choice, it’s the only choice,” one which his government took in 2019, ahead of other countries.

The Public Power Corporation, which has major lignite-run power plants in the area, will continue to have a strong presence in the area, but under a different role, while it will not lose its public utility nature.

Job concerns

Western Macedonia regional officials and mayors, heads of labor centers and the president of the Public Power Company’s (PPC) workers’ union expressed their concerns about green transition plans to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a meeting in Kozani on Friday.

Their concerns focused on the loss of thousands of jobs after the closure of lignite plants in Western Macedonia, as the region is undergoing a gradual phasing out of lignite dependency for electricity production, in the context of the EU’s Fair Transition project.

They also asked for the premier’s intervention in accelerating the approval of important development projects that can change the environmental footprint of the municipalities in Western Macedonia.

Voicing concerns for the region as a whole, Regional Governor Giorgos Kassapidis suggested that green hydrogen – produced by using renewable energy, thus emitting no greenhouse gases – “is the best way to replace the loss of more than 20,000 jobs from the closure of lignite plants, and the loss of 2 billion eruos in revenue that the region will see by 2028,” when the last of these plants is due to shut down.

Mayor of Florina Vassilis Giannakis, stressed that the transition to renewable energy sources “is taking place in a suffocating context,” and he asked for the extension of operation of the lignite production substation at Melitis beyond 2023, which is when it has been announced that it will shut down permanently.

Giannakis also spoke about the need to complete works for the railway connection of Florina with the neighboring country of North Macedonia, and the planning of another regional connection with Albania.