Coal mining in the Czech Republic is an important branch of industry. The country is highly dependent on lignite, which is the main source of electricity. In 2014, 43% of electricity was produced from it. Hard coal has a smaller importance; its share in electricity production is 7%. Coal reserves in the Czech Republic are estimated at approximately 10 billion tons, of which 63% is lignite and 37% is hard coal.
Other sources of energy are: nuclear power which supplies 35% of electricity, renewable energy which supplies 11% of electricity, and other sources – gas and waste incineration plants – about 5%.
Coal mining in the Czech Republic is carried out in three basins: the Most and Sokolov lignite basins in Northern Bohemia and the Silesia hard coal basin. There are plans to expand production in the Most basin.
In 1991, the Czech government introduced limits on mining extraction in three lignite mines in the Ustecky Region. These limits separate mining zones from areas with deposits.
However, in 2015, the Czech government announced the abolition of limits in the Bilina opencast lignite mine in the northern part of the country. The legitimacy of limits was questioned by mining companies, mining trade unions and the CEZ company, which dominates the Czech electricity market. Many politicians opted for the extension of the mining area, including the president Milos Zeman. The main argument was to ensure sufficient quantities of coal for heating plants and households. Based on the ČEZ company’s analyses, the amount of coal for individual clients and heating plants could already be insufficient in 2022.
At the same time, the Czech government adopted an interesting strategy in 2015. According to the State energy strategy – SEC (Státní energetické koncepce) – in 2040, half of the electricity will come from nuclear power plants and around 23% from renewable sources, while lignite will provide only 15% of energy and hard coal about 2%. It is estimated that the development of nuclear power will reduce the demand of lignite by 10 to 13 million tons. The reduction of coal consumption will also be caused by cessation of activity of many coal-fired power plants. New nuclear units are expected to be finished (after 2030) when the Dukovany Nuclear Power Station will be reaching the end of its production life. The Czech government also plans to privatize the energy industry. The SEC, however, is only a strategic document and most NGOs and citizens view it skeptically.
Renewable energy (RES)
Renewable energy in the Czech Republic has significantly developed in recent years. In 2010, the government introduced extremely generous subsidies for energy production in solar PV installations. In 2011-2014, these payments were estimated at 5.5 billion USD. In 2014, Czechs acquired 13.8% of their electricity from renewable energy. Thus, they exceeded their goal for 2020 (by almost 1.5%). The fast development of RES is the result of, paradoxically, limitations of subsidies for renewable energy in 2014. In 2013, many entrepreneurs started as many investments as possible in order to get the last subsidies. Because of this, the capacity of renewable energy has grown rapidly – mostly from photovoltaic installations.
In 2040, the country will probably reach its maximum potential of renewable energy, estimated at about 21%. The State energy strategy (SEC) anticipates that money from fees for fossil fuel emissions will be used for subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Opencast lignite mines and power plants
In the Czech Republic, there are five active opencast lignite mines. Most lignite mining takes place in the northern part of the Czech Republic. There are plans to expand the activities of two opencast mines in this area – the CSA and Bilina. The expansion of the CSA mine would destroy the town of Horni Jiretin and the Černice village. More than 2, 000 residents living in the area near the mine would have to be resettled. More than 27, 000 people living in the town of Litvinov would experience the negative impacts of an operating opencast mine, which would be situated just 500 meters away from inhabited areas. Also, there would be significant damage in the tourist area of the Ore Mountains.
After the abolition of limits on coal mining, grassroots citizens’ movements and NGOs are struggling to prevent the exploitation of this area.