We facilitated a public forum on the transformation of the Mátra Power Plant
The Mátra Power Plant will phase out lignite by 2025 and will use environmentally friendly, carbon-emission-free technology. This is good news for the environment, but why are we writing about it? In cooperation with the Energy Club and the Association of Community Developers, we have held public and stakeholder forums in Gyöngyös and Karácsond on what people think, how this decision will affect the economy of the region, what they think will [...]
The Mátra Power Plant will phase out lignite by 2025 and will use environmentally friendly, carbon-emission-free technology. This is good news for the environment, but why are we writing about it?
In cooperation with the Energy Club and the Association of Community Developers, we held public and stakeholder forums in Gyöngyös and Karácsond on:
- how people think the decision will affect the economy of the region;
- what they think will happen to miners; and who they would expect to provide them with the information they need to feel well informed as citizens in the area.
On both occasions, a diverse group of people came together, with good discussions, innovative solutions and many new perspectives. Read a summary of the forums here:
We held public forums on the transformation of the Mátra Power Plant
We reached an important milestone of our COAL-OUT project at the end of November: we held two public forums in Gyöngyös and Karácsond, on the transformation of the Mátra Power Plant. The main purpose of the forums, apart from presenting the research results of the project, was to give the participants the opportunity to express their opinions, fears and expectations about the future of the Mátra Power Plant, which still defines the identity of the area. The opinions expressed at the forums will form an important part of the study being prepared for the project, which is expected to be published in February 2022 under the title "What will happen to the area after the lignite era?"
The Mátra Power Plant, which from this year will be known as MVM Mátra Energia, plans to permanently shut down its lignite blocks after 2025, but instead of closing the plant the maintenance of energy production capacity is expected to be replaced by new technologies. The COAL-OUT project will assess the impact of the transformation on the neighbourhood through research and consultations with residents. The research, which was completed in autumn this year, included an online questionnaire asking residents - mainly in the vicinity of the power plant - what they thought about the conversion. How do they feel they have enough information about the process? What opportunities and threats do they see in the transformation? What will happen to workers who are in some way linked to the power plant?
The research was followed by face-to-face consultations with residents, and the related public forums were held in Gyöngyös on 11.29 and Karácsond on 12.30, in cooperation with Energiaklub, the Association of Community Developers and Partners Hungary Foundation. The working method of the consultation was developed by Partners Hungary Foundation, and the consultation was jointly led by Kata Győri (Energiaklub) and Éva Deák (Partners).
The events were open to local residents, people interested in the topic and stakeholders directly related to the Power Plant. Because of the sensitivity of the subject and the involvement of the participants, the consultations were held behind closed doors (excluding the press), and the participants were assured that the comments made during the forum would not be anonymised in any way, but that their needs, suggestions and ideas would be summarised and forwarded to the relevant authorities, and the study would be sent to them
The participants in the forums were very diverse in terms of their involvement, including civic residents, retired miners - who worked at the Power Plant for 30 years - trade unionists, members of parliament, deputy mayors, mayors, local councillors, researchers, Power Plant employees and local NGO leaders.
In the first part of the public forums, Kata Győri, Energy Club expert and COAL-OUT project leader, presented the results of the project's questionnaire survey, which collected 422 responses, in three main topics:
What do the public think?
- How will the power plant transform the economy and society of the area?
- What will happen to the Power Plant workers?
- How satisfied are the public with the information they have received about the transformation?
The presentation served as a discussion starter for the second part of the event, when the forum turned into a workshop. In the hour and a half following the presentation, participants were divided into 3 groups and used the World Cafe method to collectively seek answers to questions on each of the three themes (economy, workers, information). Each topic had a table host who collected the insights of the small group of 3 rounds on flipchart paper and presented them to the group after the joint work.
The participants recognised that the forum was a platform where they could express their views on the issue without any consequences and were keen to participate as actively as possible in the groups from the very beginning. Some of the results of the joint group work:
- Many questions have been raised by the public about the power plant's RDF waste incineration boiler.
- Participants would expect regular and transparent information from the Power Plant on the transformation.
- Local residents have recognised the air quality benefits of lignite leaching, but still fear an economic downturn in the area.
- The uncertainty surrounding the future of the workers should be addressed by the Power Plant as soon as possible, communicating who and how they can continue to be employed, because for the workers who are also tied to the Power Plant in their identity, the restructuring will basically mean a great psychological burden at the end of the lignit era.
We see one of the greatest values of the forum in the fact that both events provided an opportunity to exchange ideas between the different stakeholders and to discuss the future of the Mátra Power Plant, which is crucial for the fate of the region. We hope that the two events were just the beginning of a process of public dialogue on this issue, which will form an integral part of the future transformation of the Power Plant.
The next milestone of the project will be the publication of a synthesis paper in February, which will include the results of the research and the detailed outcome of the group work of the forums. The Energy Club will seek to disseminate the study as widely as possible, and to send it beyond the press to the bodies primarily responsible for the transformation, namely the power plant and the responsible ministry, with the message that dialogue with the public is essential on such an important issue for the fate of the area.