Conflict Complicates Energy Policy Shift in Eastern Europe

BUCHAREST, Romania—Schools shut down and residents froze in Deva, Romania, for the second winter in a row this year after the town’s coal-dependent energy system stopped working. The nearby Mintia power plant closed in 2021, leaving dozens of public buildings and around 4,000 homes without heat as temperatures reached minus 6 degrees Celsius. When Petronela Luncan, an elementary school teacher in Deva, saw children trying to keep warm during online instruction, she said, “I felt a lump in my throat.”

Romania is phasing away from coal. By 2030, it plans to close all bituminous coal mines in the Jiu Valley region in southwestern Transylvania, but it doesn’t yet have the infrastructure to replace their output. Locals in Deva and other towns suffering from a lack of heating have begun purchasing gas boilers for the winters, with municipalities subsidizing them for low-income families and investing in gas-based heating for schools. “Any other option would have taken too much [time],” said Gabriel Ilies, Deva’s deputy mayor.

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