Sokolovská uhelná a.s. (SUAS) says it will shut down its compressed gas plant in Vřesová in August. After failing to reach an agreement with the government to allow its continued operation. Up to one thousand employees could lose their jobs due to the plant’s closure.
The closure of the gas plant, which processed brown coal, is the result of pressure to stop using coal and soaring prices of emission allowances, according to Sokolovská uhelná. In June, SUAS began negotiations with the government and offered to extend the operation if it found a way to relieve the mining company of the costs of emission allowances.
The closure of the pressurized gas plant will mean the loss of up to thousands of jobs. However, SUAS says it will try to transfer employees to its subsidiaries. The company says it strives to create job opportunities outside the Sokolovská uhelná group.
In the Karlovy Vary region, unemployment has risen sharply due to the coronavirus epidemic’s effects on spas and tourism. Dismissal from Sokolovská uhelná could mean a significant increase in the number of unemployed people. The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT) says that Sokolovská uhelná’s employees may qualify for government support related to mitigating social impacts associated with restructuring or downsizing mining companies.
“This is a quick and, above all, targeted assistance to specific people who will lose their jobs as part of the decline in coal mining and processing,” MIT Deputy Eduard Muřický said today. If the government accepts the proposal, Sokolovská uhelná’s employees will receive state aid of up to CZK 5,300 per month for up to 60 months.
Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček says, however, this is not possible. “The state cannot sponsor any company because of emission allowances. Because that would be a chain reaction, and we would have to treat all companies the same. We do not like the price of emission allowances, and we do not like the tool at all. It is a fierce tool of the European Commission.” Havlíček says.
However, he said that Sokolovská uhelná employees who lose their jobs due to the downturn should receive state support.
The coal company has acquired technology for the transition to gas. The steam-gas power plant in Vřesová is now able to switch to natural gas. The company also built two gas boilers at the power plant in Tisová.