Action 23: Shaping structural change in coal-mining areas through research and innovation

We want to form structural change in coal-mining areas through research and innovation.

Where do we stand?

The Structural Development Act for coal-mining regions was adopted in July 2020. This will implement the structural policy recommendations of the Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment. It is planned to fund support for the affected coal regions in Germany to a total of around 40 billion euros by 2038. The funding of research and innovation is an essential component of the Act. These include measures to support energy system transformation and climate protection and to create concrete prospects for new, future-proof jobs and value creation. The end of coal-fired power generation represents a particular challenge for Germany as a highly industrialised export nation with a comparatively large share of coal in electricity generation.

What are the research needs?

Structural change must be successfully managed, and climate protection, the creation of future-proof jobs, the strengthening of economic power and regional development must be reconciled. The aim of this generational project is to use research and innovation to open up long-term sustainable prospects for transformation in the coal regions, while exploiting the opportunities offered by new technologies and business models. We see the coal phase-out as an opportunity and are launching innovative and viable activities in the coal regions in joint efforts with local stakeholders. In this way we want to make the structural change in the lignite mining areas a real success story.

Implementation steps and milestones

  • In the Rhenish lignite mining district, we are supporting the project ‘Incubator for Sustainable Electrochemical Value Creation’ (iNEW) as part of the immediate action plan. This establishes until 2021 an open innovation platform for crucial future technology in the transformation of the energy system called “Power-to-X”. Through this project, we will expand development of the excellent research capacities in the region and make them accessible for local companies. In doing so we can maintain the Rhenish mining area as an energy region.
  • Through the project ‘BioökonomieREVIER Rheinland’ (BioREVIER) we will develop the Rhineland into a model region for sustainable economic activity and launch 15 innovation laboratories by 2021. The focus here is on the use of biogenic resources, the transition from material flows to material cycles, and integration with the energy sector. In this way, the exit from coal-fired power generation is being used as an opportunity to make the region’s available and established strengths the basis for a new and sustainable economic alignment of the region.
  • In addition, we have introduced further initiatives in the draft of the Structural Development Act for coal-mining regions. With our funding, which is open to all topics, we support initiatives from structurally weak regions that aim to advance the region with new technologies or innovative business models.
  • In the area of institutional funding, we intend to support the establishment of a new Fraunhofer Research Institution for Energy Infrastructures and Geothermal Systems in Brandenburg, Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. Two new research facilities are to be built in Lusatia and the Central German lignite mining district. A hydrogen cluster focusing on transport and storage is being established in the Rhenish mining district.

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