1.  Romania’s hard coal reserves and share in the power system

In Romania coal deposits are concentrated in four geographical areas, of which the most important: 1. the Southern Carpathian Mountains, including all the high-grade coal such as anthracite, pit coal (higher ranking than brown coal – bituminous and sub-bituminous), and hard coal from Petroșani mining basin (Jiu Valley micro-region), Anina, and Țebea-Brad basins; 2. the Sub-Carpathian creep of the Getic Plateau, between the river Olt and the Danube, including the lignite deposits of Rovinari, Motru, Jilț, Berbești-Alunu (more than 90% of lignite reserves are located here in Oltenia mining basin), and Mehedinți.

According to the Romanian Academy of Technical Sciences the hard coal geological reserves, all concentrated in Jiu Valley, were estimated at around 900 million tonnes. Hard coal resources were estimated, in 2015, at 232 million tonnes, of which 83 million tonnes being leasable permits. The annual hard coal production registered in 2017 was 0.8 million tonnes, dropping from 1.3 million tonnes in 2015, covering around 3%-5% of the total domestic energy production from coal. The average calorific value of the Romanian hard coal is 3,650 kcal/kg.

Organised hard coal exploitation started in 1840, summing up, according to Jiu Valley National Mines Closure Society (SNIMVJ), mining perimeters of about 90 km2. Today, only 4 underground mining perimeters (Vulcan, Livezeni, Lonea and Lupeni), covering around 52 km2, are under exploitation by Hunedoara Energy Holding – the only major producer of hard coal in Romania. The Holding generates also hard coal-based power and heat in 1,225 MW installed (Paroşeni CHPP and Deva TPP), having a strategic role in the Romanian National Power System in terms of security of electricity supply and balanced transmission system operation due to geographic location.

The decline in share of the coal-based power units will accelerate after 2025, as obsolete units reaches their life cycle end, but coal, mainly lignite and hard coal to a much smaller extent, will still play an important role in Romania, for ensuring our country energy independence and security of electricity supply: 27.5% in 2017, 20.5% in 2030, 17.3% in 2050 coal contribution in the total primary energy production.

2. Geographical and population characteristics of Jiu Valley micro-region (West Region RO42)

West Region (RO 42) is located in the extreme West part of Romania, bounded by Serbia and Hungary borders and includes Jiu Valley micro-region, also called the Petroșani coalfield, which is the gateway to Retezat National Park, being surrounded by Parâng and Retezat Mountains and crossed by the Jiu River. The total surface of Jiu Valley coal intensive micro-region is 1,033 sq.km, representing 3.2% of West Region covering 32,042 sq.km (13.4% of Romania). Jiu Valley impresses with its wild mountain landscapes and the numerous recreational places lined up along the rivers rushed through the steep slopes.

In terms of administrative structure West Region (RO42) includes four counties: Timiș, Arad, Caraș-Severin and Hunedoara, 12 municipalities, 30 cities, 281 communes and 1327 villages. Jiu Valley micro-region is subordinated to Hunedoara, being situated in the South-Eastern part of the county. The territorial administrative structure inside Jiu valley micro-region includes 3 municipalities, 3 cities, 14 communes and their subordinated villages.

The National Institute of Statistics reports for 2018 a population of 1,784,522 inhabitants for the West Region (of which 7.6 % in Jiu Valley), covering 9 % of the total population at national level, but for Jiu Valley micro-region the closest to reality figure is 120,734 inhabitants (2011 official census). This indicator is slowly declining (25 % since the ‘90) mainly due to the acceleration of the de-industrialization process, emigration to West Europe, low natality rate and ageing.

3. Economic activities and employment

The West Region is the second representative region of Romania, with a GDP per capita 4-6 % higher than the national average in the years 2016-2017, but with discrepancies between the four component counties, Timis County being the leader of the region and Hunedoara on 3rd place out of 4 component counties. West Region has seen wage growth faster than the other regions, but the existing spatial inequalities in the region have increased considerably. The current economic engines of West Region are activities in the small and medium technologic industry. Against 20 or even 10 years ago, the great transformation and challenge in this region is the transition from mining and heavy metals to light industry. Textiles, agro-food industry, ICT (including hardware, software and services) and the furniture industry, as well as car manufacturing industry (spare parts) have seen a marked upward trend, coal exploitation and use still being an important economic sector in the region, both in terms of electricity supply safety and workforce employer. Agriculture has also seen an increase due to the Banat plain’s potential. Instead, the services sector recorded small increases in RDI and management consulting. Investment in RDI, as share of 2011 GDP was 0.5% at national level, and 0.23% in West Region. According to RIS3 (September 2016), drawn up by the West Regional Development Agency, the economic sectors identified as having a future smart specialisation potential are: Automotive industry; ICT; Textile industry; Agro-food; Construction and Tourism.

In Jiu Valley micro-region, according to R. Săgeată in Urban Geography, as natural resources are exhausted or diminished, cities are either devolved or pass through reconversion – functional change. The progressive closure of the hard coal exploitations has resulted in unemployment, and local communities are looking for new development alternatives such as tourism heritage (recreational, sporting, environmental or industrial). Currently, major active employers in the micro-region are the industry (mining, electricity and heat, textile and car spare parts manufacturing, water-sewage infrastructure), education and health sectors.

The average number of employees has an increase of 3% (2016-2017) in West Region, mainly due to agriculture, construction, ICT and various other services (ex. tourism). In contrast, the industry is declining in terms of the number of employees, both at regional, county and local level. In Hunedoara County the number of employees falls in the mining and energy industries, even if the average wages in these sectors are higher than the national and West Region average. Slightly positive developments in terms of both the number of employees and the average gross salary are observed in agriculture, construction, tourism and services were observed at regional level and Jiu Valley. In the period 1990 – 2018 the employees in the hard coal mining industry, in Jiu Valley micro-region, decreased from 55,000 to less than 5,000 and the contribution to the local budget – from 76% to 2%. The unemployment rate in Jiu Valley had, in the past, the highest share per country (25-30%), a value that does not appear in the declared statistics. There are people who cannot find a job, but who represent a large potential of labour force, including both unqualified and qualified.

4. Stakeholders interested for the transition of West Region (mainly Jiu Valley) to a post-hard coal era

The West Regional Development Agency is constantly involved in industrial restructuring and job creation, and the performance of regional strategies and action plans since 1999, being the first conceiver and promoter of a Regional Strategy for Smart Specialisation in Romania.

A very important stakeholder group is constituted by the unemployed former miners, who are directly interested in the coal transition process. Special concern is to ensure that their rights are respected in a transparent and understandable transition process, including any compensation measures. Other groups in the communities (e.g. minority ethnic groups, religious groups, elderly, youth, etc), might be affected by the transition process.

Research and academia, including 11 universities and around 30 RDI institutes, will have to play a crucial role in this process, working closely with the business sector, investors, technologies developers and clusters (energy and coal mining industry, manufacturing, metallurgy, extractive, gas and water, automotive, ICT etc.).

The County Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture are not so actively involved, but the civil society representatives are becoming more and more present in the daily life of the community – NGO’s (environmental groups, conservation groups); Professional, business (e.g. Jiu Valley Initiative Committee) and RDI associations; Labour Unions (e.g. CNSLR Frăţia – Hunedoara County Union; Muntele Union in Jiu Valley); community interest groups / citizen groups and Mass-media (local/regional press).

Regional and local public administration authorities, as mayoralties, local and county councils, are also interested in terms of economic and social development in a smart and environmental friendly manner. Recently (1-16 July 2019) a MoU was established and signed, called “Jiu Valley Partnership for a Just Transition”, including commitment and pro-active involvement of all 6 local councils in Jiu Valley, aiming to support: governance development; transition process planning and implementation; projects identification and adequate financial mechanism and funds for deployment; co-creation of a roadmap to pave the way to a sustainable energy transition and socio-economic development in the benefit of their citizens.

Last but not least are the governmental officials and policy makers, with the ability and necessary capabilities to influence decisions at regional / local level, as: Ministries of European Funds; Energy; Labour and Social Justice; Research and Innovation; Regional Development and Public Administration; Romanian Parliament – Deputy Chamber “Committee on Industries and Services”; National Regulatory Authorities for Mineral Resources; JIU VALLEY National Society for Mine Closure – SNIMVJ; Economic and Social Development Agency at county level; National and local Agency for Employment (ANOFM); National and local Agency for Environmental Protection; “Romanian Waters” National Administration.