JUSTEM takes a trip to learn about the Just Transition in Asturias, Spain



Capacity building
Energy poverty
Efficient and resilient energy system


Asturias is still one of the most important coal mining regions in Europe. The just transition process has started to become visible in the region; for example, restorations of coal-mined land are already creating jobs in the southwest coal basin, and licenses for thermal power plant reconversion projects are being released. This is one of the reasons why the JUSTEM consortium decided to come together for its second project meeting in Asturias: to experience the changes taking place and bring these learnings to other just transition regions. 

Coal mining in Asturias 

Asturias is one of the most important mining regions in Europe. It has three coal-mining basins in the valleys of the Caudal and Nalon rivers and the southwest area. The closure of coal mines in Asturias is almost complete. Only one – Pozo San Nicolás – remains open, which is scheduled to close in 2024. The 5 coalfired power plants were in the centre of the region, where 80% of the population and most economic activity are concentrated. Coal-fired power generation capacity is being phased out rapidly. In 2024, there are 3 coal-fired generation units in operation or available for operation. These remaining units are to be closed by 2030, yet earlier closures are possible. 

For more information about coal mining in the region, read our brief on Asturias here or find a factsheet about the region here

The just transition process in Asturias 

The closure of coal mines occurred on December 31, 2018, as a result of Council Decision 2010/787/EU, which forced mining companies to close non-competitive activity or return the aid received. Additionally, the Spanish National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) outlines the closure of all coal-fired electricity generation by 2030. Thus, Asturias, in addition to the closure of mines, is suffering or will need to undergo the closure of four coal-fired thermal power plants by 2025. The objective for 2030 is that the new generation capacity installed will be mainly wind, both on land and offshore, and from other renewables, such as biomass and photovoltaics (FAEN, 2022). 

The green transition must not only guarantee the reduction of carbon emissions but also contribute to alleviating the negative effects of the former activity linked to coal, thermal power plants and associated industries and make these areas pleasant places to live and with possibilities of development of new activities. For this, the territorial Just Transition Plan developed in Asturias aims actions, including but not limited to: 

  • Decontamination projects for degraded spaces and rehabilitation of mining, industrial and energy spaces and associated facilities, respecting the principle of “whoever pollutes pays” and the adaptation for new uses and/or transformations to natural carbon sinks. 
  • Tourist-cultural enhancement of the mining-industrial heritage of the region, supporting initiatives for the adaptation of mining operations, thermal power plants or associated facilities, for their use for new uses: co-working, reactivation and revitalization projects, etc. under the criteria of the New European Bauhaus. 
  • Development of green infrastructures, associated with reactivation projects and sustainable tourism, in those territories most affected by the closure of mining activity and thermal generation. 

The transformation of the economy will demand new professional profiles, which implies the need for requalification and/or training of the people most affected by the closures, especially young people, those over 55 years of age and women. It seeks to promote socially necessary and environmentally acceptable jobs. 

Asturias is one of our JUSTEM pilot regions, in which we work to build capacities and involve citizens in the just transition. 

JUSTEM consortium meets in Asturias 

From the 10-11th of April, the JUSTEM consortium held its second project meeting in Asturias. As project partners, the Fundación Asturiana de la Energía (FAEN) hosted the meeting in Gijón. 

The meeting consisted of many interactive sessions, including a good practice market from our regions and beyond, and working sessions on energy poverty alleviation plans, regional communication strategies and more. During the meeting, Begoña María-Tomé Gil and Patricia Zapico from the Spanish Just Transition Institute joined us and provided inspiring examples from the region. JUSTEM Advisory Board members and the sister projects SITRANSRePower The Regions and CINTRAN also attended the meeting online. 

The JUSTEM partners went on a field trip and witnessed first-hand the transformation taking place in the region. They visited a former coal mine (Barredo coal mine) in Mieres, which has been turned into a geothermal plant for hot water supply to an urban district heating network at Mieres. They also visited an active coal power plant that is planned to undergo a reconversion process to be turned into a biomass-based power plant.  

(Pictures from Mieres, visiting a former coal mine and an active coal power plant)

Three intense days of work to analyse and better understand the vibrant reality and live transformation of the coal basins, their municipalities and people, in Asturias. 


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