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The Challenge of Structural Change: Full power for Brandenburg

More than one tenth of all energy consumed in Germany is produced in Brandenburg. With a mix of sustainable and conventional energy, Brandenburg has to be a reliable supplier of affordable and environmentally friendly electricity coming from domestic sources. Naturally, the signals on European level must be set in the right way.

Being the coordinator of the Industry Committee of the European Parliament, I have been able, together with my colleagues from the EPP (European People’s Party), to contribute to new energy strategies right from the start.

My aim is to focus on the question how to make use of new employment opportunities in the wake of our changing energy system. A push for innovation, new investments and qualifications is necessary. I would like to encourage regions affected by the energy transition to engage with the European Commission and the European Parliament as to how appropriate measures can be implemented.

Support by the European Union

Today, regions facing structural changes due to climate change and energy transition can count on comprehensive financial support through EU funds. These funding is part of the cohesion policy, which currently account for one third of the total EU budget. In the new Financial Framework Programme starting in 2020, the Parliament will continue to put great emphasis on supporting regions that are subject to industrial change.

This requires a consistent strategy for each region concerned: for example the Master Plan Lausitz or the so-called ‘Coal Platform’, a programme from the EU commission which specifically supports regions that have to cope with structural change.

In order for this initiative to succeed, everybody must cooperate. So, I ask the local government, the regions and the EU to agree on the co-called ‘Lausitz formula’. For every gigawatt not being produced due to power plant switch-offs, there must be Government-supported investments so that an equivalent industrial output and good jobs can be created locally.

The future of coal in Brandenburg

Making up 23% of the energy source, lignite coal continues to be an important pillar of German electricity supply. In addition, surface mining, electricity output and the many jobs that depend on it shape the economic structure of whole regions, Lausitz being no exception.

There is no ideological question about the necessity to expand the use of sustainable energies. It is simply a question of proportionality.

Changes to the current status should not only be judged by taking climate change objectives and possible CO2 reductions into consideration. I am worried that currently Brandenburg focusses only on the numbers when it comes to the expansion of sustainable energy sources. Important questions like supply reliability and system integration are disregarded. Today, it is evident that the necessary development of the electricity grid does not keep up with the constant construction of more and more power plants for sustainable energy.

As a consequence, the price of electricity in Brandenburg is the highest in all of Germany. It is very important for me that energy continues to be affordable for the population of Brandenburg.

I see a lot of potential in research and innovation. Unfortunately, as recently as 2015, Brandenburg was fourth-to-last of all German regions with regards to research and development work. This should not be hard to improve, as there is no lack of efficient and dynamic universities and research institutes.