Repurposing coal assets, ICSC/328

UNESCO Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen
UNESCO Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen © Stiftung Zollverein


The energy transition has already led to many coal mine and power station closures. The USA and Europe have witnessed the most rapid change over the last decade and this trend is set to continue. Clearance of these sites is one option, but this study explores beneficial options for both mines and power plants that seek to turn disused sites into attractive projects that support the energy transition.

Coal mines

Deep shafts and underground passages which could be formed into a closed system could be the basis of a range of energy schemes, especially energy storage designed to balance variable renewable energy (VRE) generation. The technologies reviewed cover: closed loop pumped underground hydroelectric storage (PUSH); compressed air storage; thermal heat storage; gravitational energy storage; and hydrogen storage with electrolysis. Mine water – heat pump systems may replace district heating schemes formerly supplied by power plants.

Coal power plants

Coal power station sites can provide scrap and recycled equipment, switch to residential and office use or be locations for a suite of energy-based options: renewable electricity generation; industrial battery installations; thermal energy storage; flywheels; chemicals production; and nuclear power plants. Molten salt energy storage reuses the largest portion of a coal power plant, while industrial batteries may just use a high-voltage connection.
The report reviews the advantages and barriers to upgrading coal mine and power plant sites highlighting those solutions already technically proven and adopted and describes progress in the ecological restoration of former coal mines and stations.


Repurposing coal assets

Report Author(s)

Dr Ian Reid

Report Number




Publication date

3 October 2023