Changing energy industry raises employment problems for EU

Author: Emily Waterfield
27 Jan 16 | 16:47 GMT

IN BRIEF
Efforts to clean up power production will bring social problems linked to the closure of coal mines and a lack of renewable-energy expertise in Europe, senior EU officials have conceded. They plan to draft ideas for dealing with that jobs shift in a strategy paper due out in March.

Efforts to clean up power production will bring social problems linked to the closure of coal mines and a lack of renewable-energy expertise in Europe, senior EU officials have conceded. They plan to draft ideas for dealing with that jobs shift in a strategy paper due out in March.

In an interview with MLex, EU commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, charged with the EU's "Energy Union" plans, said Europeans need to face up to the social, economic and technical challenges of modernizing power generation, distribution and use.

"In Europe there is a lack of people with knowledge of the professions of the future," he explains. This means professions such as IT, engineering and the development of clean energies, he says (see the interview in full here).

"At the same time we do have the traditional professions" in the EU, he says. "We have coal miners and others, worried about what the future will bring. We shouldn't overlook that problem."

"We need to develop social programs that will address this issue, so no one is left behind, rather than create some kind of opposition between old and new," he warns.

He and employment commissioner Marianne Thyssen plan to publish a strategy for managing this shift to new skills and professions in March. This "skills" dossier would join an already long line of proposals to build a well-connected, low-emission EU energy union.

The coal industry employed around a quarter of a million people in the EU in 2012, according to industry estimates, or closer to a million including service, supply and other industries dependent on coal mines (see here).

Šefčovič said the question of employment came up frequently when he toured the EU to promote a modernized energy industry.

But people want to know "what our kids should study — and what about our brothers and fathers who were working in those mines?" the commissioner said.

In the wide-ranging interview with MLex (see full text attached below), Šefčovič also touched upon topics including energy prices around the EU, Euroskepticism on an internal energy market, and the creation of a global emissions trading system.