November 19, 2018 / 4:05 PM / a month ago

Slovakia to pull plug on coal subsidies from 2023 - minister

BRATISLAVA, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Slovakia will phase out subsidies for coal mines supplying one of the country’s most polluting power plants from 2023, sooner than expected, Economy Minister Peter Ziga said on Monday.

The Slovak government subsidises mining at the country’s only coal company, privately owned Hornonitrianske Bane Prievidza (HBP), paying around 100 million euros ($114 million) a year, which helps maintain thousands of jobs.

The company produced 1.8 million tonnes of brown coal last year, supplying the Novaky power plant in central Slovakia. The facility is operated by Slovenske Elektrarne, a utility co-owned by the state, Italy’s Enel and Czech energy group EPH.

Slovenske Elektrarne said this year that extending the life of the 266-megawatt Novaky plant beyond 2023 would require significant investment.

The Environment Ministry says the plant is the second-biggest carbon emitter in the country.

Closing the mines has long been contentious as they employ around 4,000 people directly and 11,000 indirectly. Slovakia’s car industry is booming, though, potentially giving retrained workers the chance to secure another job.

“We will soon unveil an action plan and announce the year 2023 as the end of subsidies for the coal mines,” Ziga told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Bratislava.

“It does not mean they would have to close immediately. We have to work with the European Commission to show people alternatives,” he added. ($1 = 0.8747 euros) (Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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