1.- Comprehensive overview of the project

An state of the art was developed in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the project.

D1.2 Comprehensive overview of the project. State of the art, problem, proposed approach, and outcome

2.- Identifying key variables, overall influence and dependence

Task 2.1 Defining relevant variables

In the first task, the variables that are considered relevant for the proposal were identified, analysed, and reduced according to their representability, before proceeding with the structural analysis. Variables, internal and external, refer to the characterizing of both technical (e.g. water temperature, flying ashes characterisation, waste heaps soil characterisation, etc.), and evaluation criteria (e.g. cost, competitiveness, etc.) related with renewable energy technologies, scale energy storage, assets, resources and circular economy contributions.

An unsorted list of variables is the output of this step. Of course, not all the sources agreed in the importance of the variables or even in identifying what aspects should be formalized as a variable or which should not. Detailed explanation of the variables is provided, allowing a better perception of the relations between these variables further in the analysis.

D2.1 Unsorted list of relevant variables of the system

Lessons learnt within this task were that each partner originally came with its own view, understanding, approach and methodology based on structured expert judgment and multi-criteria analysis. Based on improving information discussion among the project partners (internal stakeholders), it became evident the adoption of a framework to facilitate a common understanding upon the different options and opinions. Pre-defining a common methodology/framework can significantly reduce the time to bring a consensus and free resources for more technical details.

Task 2.2 Specifying the relations between the variables

In the second task, the influence that each variable has over the rest of variables of the system was stated by different groups of experts. The groups of experts provided a n x n integer matrix that states these influences, based on their knowledge and expertise. The entries of the matrix are generally qualitative, adjusting the intensities of the relations among the variables, as in a systemic vision a variable does not exist other than as part of the relational web with the other variables. This phase helps to put for n variables n x n-1 questions (4,692 for 69 variables), by means of direct brainstorming sessions or panel sessions. It was developed with a two-round Delphi-based study. This procedure allows not only avoiding errors, but correcting inconsistencies within the first Delphi round, and giving the opportunity to redefine the variables and thus refine the system’s analysis.

With the information collected and after the two-round Delphi-based study, a Matrix of Direct Influence describing the relation of direct influences between the variables defining the system was then developed.

D2.2 Matrix of Direct Influence

Lessons learnt within this task were that the discrepancies between the responses in the matrix required a second round of Delphi study. The revision of the results showed that in some cases experts were able to evaluate the relation between two variables but without proper identification of the direction of influence, i.e.: Influence of variable no. 69 (Companies manufacturers of goods and/or suppliers of services) on variable no. 58 (Access / proximity to gas pipeline network connections) does not exist, but the opposite one was identified (access / proximity to gas pipeline network connections may affect companies manufacturers of goods and/or suppliers of services). The second round of Delphi study benefited from the knowledge and experience of external experts, who positively influenced the final results.

Task 2.3 Identifying the key variables

During the work developed in this task, structural analyses of mutual influences and relationships between variables were carried out. The MICMAC software was used to analyse direct, indirect and potential influences. The result of the analysis was a structured database of grouped variables.

Two methods were applied: the direct method, which estimates the overall direct influence and direct dependence of a variable in the system directly from the Matrix, and the indirect method, which estimates the overall influence and dependence of a variable through other system variables. The comparison of the results (direct and indirect classification) enables the confirmation of the importance of certain variables and reveals certain variables that, because of their indirect actions, play a dominant role (and which the direct classification did not allow revealing). Therefore, the comparison of the hierarchy of the variables in the various classifications is rich in information, providing the key variables of the system.

D2.3 List of key variables of the system

Two were the main lessons learnt within this task. In the first place, the main problem when performing structural analyses was the wide variety and range of variables. The number and diversity of variables on the one hand accounted for the high content value of the matrix, and on the other hand posed a challenge for the appropriate selection of parameters for the analyses.

The structural analysis performed for all variables clearly indicated that the key variables for the whole system are only those from the “Power plant” group. This was mainly due to the fact that the variables in the “Mining” group referred to both the underground and surface parts of the mine, which meant that most of them did not show any influence/dependence on the others. In contrast, there was a greater number of influences/dependencies between the variables in the “Power plant” group, which consequently caused the variables in this group to ‘dominate’ the results of the analyses. Therefore, it was decided, in addition to the system-wide analysis, to conduct analyses for three groups of variables: “Power plant”, “Surface mining” and “Underground mining” separately. The results obtained from these analyses allowed the identification of key variables in the above areas, which would not have been possible with a holistic analysis.

In the second place, it was observed that in three cases, variables with similar characteristics occupied places close to each other in the system, which allowed them to be combined into one variable without any negative impact on the system.

3.- Scenarios planning and assessment in a multi-stakeholder environment

Task 3.1 Constructing exploratory scenarios

In this task, Morphological analysis was used as the methodology to explore possible recombinations of the elements that make up the studied system. This method is used primarily for the construction of scenarios developing business models that rely on renewable energy, contribute to the circular economy or scale energy storage, but is equally well suited for both technological forecasting and creating potentially new products or services through the recombination of technologies. The MORPHOL tool, that was developed by the Institut d’Innovation Informatique pour l’Entreprise 3IE, was used for this purpose.

Apart from the morphological analysis, some scenarios were obtained via ideas from the consultation process, as well as via a brainstorming among the partners, in order not to leave specific combinations of variables that, due to time constraints, did not appear during the analysis.

D3.1 Exploratory scenarios

Lessons learnt within this task were that the process of identifying the final variables was rather complicated, as sometimes several variables could be combined into one, and some of them represented development hypotheses for a certain working horizon of the variable. In other cases, variables were directly related to other variables and were therefore eliminated from the analysis. Also, several variables did not condition the development hypothesis for a given working horizon, so these variables were not taken into account in the analysis. In some cases it was possible to combine several variables into one variable.

After this process, the final number of variables selected from the three groups for the morphological analysis was only ten. However, the combination of the different hypotheses for each variable allows a total of 100,000 possible scenarios to be calculated. Thus, the scenario space was large enough to allow for an extremely deep analysis of the system.

Finally, in some cases it was difficult to decide whether it was a normal scenario or a micro-scenario. However, once any scenario has been selected, it is important to review any additional possibilities that are not incompatible with the main scenario.

Task 3.2 Evaluating business models options by Multicriteria assessment

In this Task, a multi-criteria analysis of the previously developed scenarios was performed using MULTIPOL software.

To achieve this goal, it was first necessary to select representative actions (scenarios) and micro-actions (micro-scenarios) among the previously developed ones. Second, it was required to select several evaluation criteria emanating from the goal and objectives of the study. Defining criteria was the outcome of interaction among researchers, external experts and the stakeholders in a participatory planning process, aiming at grasping priorities and embodying them in the subsequent processes. Third, policies were selected directly relating to one of the Commission priorities for 2019-2024: the European Green Deal.

Once actions/micro-actions, criteria and policies were selected, the evaluation of actions/micro-actions and policies related to criteria was performed. These evaluations were also developed with the participation of project partners and external experts from the countries involved in the project. The result was a rank of actions and micro-actions by policy and a closeness map between actions and micro-actions and policies that can be used to determine which actions are to be chosen whilst taking into consideration policies as well as convergences between policies and given actions. They provide a good starting point for the design of specific business models, which often will be combinations of actions and micro-actions.

D3.2 Scenarios classification map

In evaluating actions concerning the Climate and Growth policies, the highest rank was given to the “Molten salt plant” action. Concerning the People policy, it was given to the “Eco-industrial park” action. The analysis of the sensitivity map shows that the highest mean for the three policies, with the lowest standard deviation, is characterised by the following actions: “Eco-industrial park”, “Small modular reactors”, and “Biofuels processing energy plant”. Closeness map analysis between actions and policies shows that the “Pumped hydroelectric storage at former open-pit coal mines” action is the closest to the Climate policy, while the “Mine gas utilisation for gas-powered CHP power units” action is the closest to the Growth policy and the “Eco-industrial park” action to the People policy.

In the evaluation of micro-actions concerning the policies, the highest rank was given to the “Geothermal energy” action concerning the Climate, Growth and People policies. None of the micro-actions has a high mean and a low standard deviation relative to the three policies. The analysis of the sensitivity map shows that the highest mean for the three policies, with the higher standard deviation, is characterised by the following micro-actions: “Geothermal energy”, “Underground hydro-pumping”, and “Dense fluids”. Closeness map analysis between micro-actions and policies shows that the ” Dense fluids” micro-action is the closest to the Climate policy, the “Geothermal energy” micro-action is the closest to the Growth policy, and the “Forest restoration at former open-pit coal mines” micro-action is the closest to People policy.

4.- Update and re-adoption of territorial just transition plans

Task 4.1 Justifying the business models choice and outlining the transition process

The justification approach was initially based on evaluating actions/micro-actions related to Green Deal policies. However, other aspects were considered: (1) Technical criteria or relevant variables for scenario development; (2) Technology Readiness Level (TRL), to assess the maturity of new technologies; (3) European taxonomy, to establish which economic activities are environmentally sustainable; (4) Synergistic potential, to take advantage of the joint potential of end-of-life mine sites and coal-fired power plants (and related infrastructure), along with closely related neighbouring industries; (5) Circular economy, to enable resources to maintain their highest value for as long as possible; and (6) Sector coupling, to improve the efficiency and flexibility of energy systems and their reliability and adequacy by integrating energy end-use and supply sectors.

A second step was to analyse the phases of the coal sector transition and the timeline for ceasing or scaling down these activities. The World Bank and the Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) were used as references for this analysis.

Finally, an outline of the expected transition process towards the Union’s 2030 targets for energy and climate and a climate-neutral economy of the Union by 2050, in line with the objectives of the integrated national energy and climate plans and other existing transition plans, was developed. The outline was based on the Regulation of the EU on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action, which applies to the five dimensions of the Energy Union, which are closely related and mutually reinforcing, that each Member State should set out in its integrated national energy and climate plans.

D4.1 Business models choices justification

Lessons learnt within this task were that eco-industrial parks (with virtual power plant) are the most appropriate and exciting business model choice for the considered areas, as they have the second mean in the evaluation of actions, high TRLs of the technologies involved (photovoltaic/wind and geothermal), no problematic requirements regarding the European taxonomy, an exciting contribution to the circular economy and a high level of sector coupling. They may be complemented with a green hydrogen plant and even with a molten salt plant to undergo energy storage.

Eco-industrial parks for the POTENTIALS project can be defined as:

Eco-industrial parks (with virtual power plant) as an integrated alternative to be developed within coupled end-of-life coal mine sites and coal-fired power plants along with surrounding residential/industrial areas for sustainable renewable energy generation (geothermal and photovoltaic/wind), storage technologies, circular economy
contributions and synergies for reducing waste and pollution by promoting short-distance transport and optimising the park’s material, resource, and energy flows,
producing the goods needed for the industrial transition in Europe and cooperating to its achievement.

Eco-industrial parks should be based on district networks that allow multiple energy sources to be connected to various energy consumption points, helping to increase
photovoltaic deployment by transforming heat and power energy customers into prosumers or customers with excess electricity from solar panels on their roofs. Eco-industrial
parks should be supported by pursuing financial privileges and other benefits to boost and diversify the area’s economy, attracting external investment: tax exemptions for industries, access to preferential credits from National authorities, European Investment Bank, and others.

Task 4.2 Assessing the economic, social, and territorial impact

This task undergoes impact assessments of the before selected and developed business models, all of them based on Eco-industrial parks with a virtual power plant: an economic impact assessment to determine the economic diversification potential, the likely commercial viability, and the added value of the proposed business models; a social impact assessment analysing the expected job losses and requalification needs; and a territorial impact assessment to analyse the potential territorial impact of the business model proposals.

The essential aim of these assessments has been to support the update and re-adoption of territorial just transitions plans to avoid inflicting a substantial economic upheaval in the coal regions in transition identified by the European Commission under its Coal Regions in Transition initiative, and to limit the risk of causing an unbalanced territorial or spatial distribution of costs and benefits for different regions.

D4.2 Economic, social, and territorial impact assessment

The lessons relevant to POTENTIALS from the economic impact assessment can be summarised as follows:

The financial outcomes of the virtual power plant are good, with an IRR of 16%, and the sensitivity and uncertainty analysis demonstrate that the estimated figures are robust. The financial outcomes of the geothermal energy deployment are also positive. However, the IRR reduces to 13%. The financial outcomes for a green hydrogen plant are adverse, and the investment is not feasible unless a specific subvention is obtained for its development. A 50% subvention aligning with Big Ticket projects within the Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) changes the green hydrogen plant into a desirable investment. The financial outcomes from the molten salt plant align with the geothermal energy deployment, although obtaining accurate economic data for this type of installation is extremely difficult.

The lessons relevant to POTENTIALS from the social impact assessment can be summarised as follows:

It is estimated that a total of 160,000 coal related jobs are expected to be lost by 2030, due to closure of coal mines and coal power plants. With Poland, Germany, Spain and Greece being some of the countries in Europe with a high number of direct jobs in the coal sector and thus among the most vulnerable countries in Europe addressing job losses in the coal sector. For the effective employment of eco-industrial park scenarios, it is important to consider the option of reskilling employees previously occupied in the coal mining and energy production sector. The necessary skills include general qualifications both coal miners and renewable energy sources workers should acquire, that can be modified or used as a leverage for the effective reskilling of the workforce. The construction, manufacturing and energy sectors are considered the most suitable for replacing mining jobs, as the salaries offered are similar to those in the mining industry and there is no need for the development of additional skills.

The lessons relevant to POTENTIALS from the territorial impact assessment can be summarised as follows:

A modified Territorial Efficiency, Quality and Identity Layer Assessment (TEQUILA) approach was highlighted as the most adequate to address the different challenges and solutions for territorial impact assessment related to comprehensiveness, participatory approaches, data challenges and time perspectives within POTENTIALS. An extensive list of 17 “direct result indicators” for the relevant scenario outputs that was developed by the experts of the POTENTIALS project, has been condensed to the measurable sub‐criteria of the TEQUILA approach and affiliated sub‐weights by expert judgements. The positive territorial impact and therefore the contribution to territorial cohesion is considerably higher in an Eco‐industrial Park with Green H2 plant, with a total value score 3.42, than in an Eco‐industrial Park with Biofuels production, with a total value score 2.85. The difference of 0,39 score points in this TEQUILA model is composed by varying differences of the three dimensions what can be shown by direct comparison in each macro‐criteria.

Task 4.3 Specifying scenario outputs and result indicators

In this task, business model outputs and result indicators for the most suitable and exciting business model choice, which is Eco-industrial parks (with virtual power plant), are estimated. As Eco-industrial parks (with virtual power plant) may be complemented with green hydrogen plants, molten salt plants, batteries and biofuels production or combustion, all these options were considered in the analysis.

The direct result indicators were selected considering the targets set by the European Green Deal and related taxonomy and the Regional Policy indicators for the Just Transition Fund, resulting in a total of 17 direct result indicators which impact was evaluated by means of a Delphi experts survey.

The developed methodology is an important tool for assessing the potential of specific decommissioned mining plants or power plants. Each of the parameters of the analysed system is of significant importance and may influence the final results of the study and, above all, the selection of the most optimal technology.

D4.3 Business models outputs and result indicators

Lessons learnt within this task were that the final scores obtained for the direct result indicators showed an advantage for the scenario involving an Eco-industrial park (with virtual power plant) + a green hydrogen plant. The other scenarios received similar scores and should therefore be considered as a complementary range of solutions for further analysis. While considering a portfolio of solutions (business models), and although the results obtained are different for individual technologies, none of them should be rejected. The site specific requirements may differ due to the “weighting” of technology for individual locations.

To select the scenario outputs and result indicators, the targets set by the European Green Deal and related taxonomy and the Regional Policy indicators for the Just Transition Fund were considered, together with the eleven thematic objectives defined according to European Union (EU) Regulations 1300/2013, 1301/2013 and 1303/2013. Also, the study “”Development of a system of common indicators for European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund interventions after 2020” that was also focused on the eleven thematic objectives was of a big help to achieve the goals of this task.

5.- Roadmap for updating Territorial just transition plans

This task presents roadmaps for updating territorial just transition plans, recognizing the importance of keeping these plans up to date in alignment with National Energy and Climate Plans and the mid-term review of programs supported by the Just Transition Fund, which offers in 2025 an opportunity for resource reallocation and funding allocation for 2026 and 2027.
They overview the Spanish Just Transition Territorial Plan, focusing on the Asturias region; the Silesia Just Transition Territorial Plan; the Greek Just Transition Development Plan; and the German Territorial Just Transition Plan. These plans outline strategic frameworks, transition strategies, and operational activities to achieve a sustainable and equitable transition in their regions. Regular updates to these plans are crucial to address evolving challenges and maintain their effectiveness in guiding the just transition process.
A possible and feasible update is presented for each region, trying to complement or correct the different operations envisaged to propose initiatives that stimulate the regional economy, making it easier to maintain employment.

D5.1 Roadmap for updating Territorial Just transition plans

Lessons learnt within this task were that promoting individual projects within planned concentrating activities has a small effect on economic reactivation and population fixing. Innovation poles have a higher contribution to economic reactivation and population fixing than individual projects, due to the synergies they can achieve. However, they are challenging to implement due to their specificity.

The initiatives that can genuinely stimulate the regional economy, making it easier to maintain employment, are Eco-industrial parks with Virtual Power Plants, an integrated alternative for sustainable renewable energy generation, storage technologies, energy vectors, circular economy contributions, and synergies for reducing waste and pollution. Eco-industrial parks with Virtual Power Plants have as a counterpart the need to be supported with financial privileges and other benefits to boost and diversify the area’s economy and employment, attracting external investment. But is that not the aim of the Just Transition Fund?

When developing a roadmap for updating JTPs, it is necessary to determine the future approach to emerging areas after phasing out mining and power plant activities. If these areas are to be developed according to business models, pre-investment preparations should be carried out. Specifically, a feasibility study and preliminary implementation plan should be developed for each business model.