Coal mining in Czech Republic to be phased out by 2033

Coal mining in the Czech Republic will end sooner than originally planned. The new five-party coalition government wants to phase out coal from its energy mix by 2033, five years sooner than the 2038 target recommended by the government’s Coal Commission. However, mining activity is expected to significantly increase in the near future in response to the high costs of natural gas.

According to a government statement, the new administration plans to phase-out coal mining by 2033, although the Minister of the Environment Anna Hubáčková pushed for a 2030 target.

According to analysts the government’s plan to cease coal mining in eleven years’ time is realistic and will give the country enough time for the construction of new capacities mainly in the field of renewable sources and gas.

Experts say the commitment to stop mining earlier than planned makes financial sense as well, since economic factors will gradually work in favour of shutting down mines.

The country’s energy giant ČEZ wants to significantly reduce the use of coal by 2030. According to a plan published last year, the company intends to reduce its electricity output from coal to 25 percent by 2025 and bring it down to 12.5 percent by 2030. In 2019 the share of coal in its output was over 32 percent.

Photo: Juandev,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

However, the earlier phase-out is likely to be preceded by record mining in response to growing global demand for coal.  Energy prices are soaring not only in the Czech Republic and economists predict that this year's global demand for coal will be the highest in history.

This year coal mining and consumption is expected to see a significant increase, driven by the soaring costs of electricity, natural gas and price of emission allowances. Experts say there in unlikely to be a significant change in the price of these commodities for at least the first six months of this year, so the higher demand for coal will continue.

Coal mines are already responding to the demand. The OKD mining company increased its mining capacity at the ČSM Mine last year, exceeding the production plan by more than 370,000 tons.

The same scenario is playing out elsewhere. Coal mining increased around the world last year. The Guardian says 9 percent more electricity was produced in coal-fired power plants year-on-year in the recovery period following the Covid lockdown of economies. This year, according to the International Energy Agency (IAEA), global demand for coal could reach its highest level in history.

According to the agency, the demand for electricity exceeded the capacity of new low-carbon power sources making some of the developed countries turn back to coal for the time being.

As the country’s only domestic fossil fuel, coal has been and still is a key energy source in the Czech Republic. It accounts for half of total domestic energy production, despite a 36% decrease since 2009. In 2019, it accounted for one-third of total energy supply, 46% of electricity generation and over 25% of residential heating.

Government projections suggest that initially coal will be replaced largely by natural gas generation, and more gradually by bioenergy, nuclear and solar power.