German energy expert talks coal in Eastern Kentucky

Published: Jul. 18, 2017 at 11:58 PM EDT
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Community members and leaders came together Tuesday in Whitesburg to attend a round table discussion with a German energy expert.

German energy officials talked about how German coal communities have survived following massive job losses in that industry.

Officials from the Wuppertal Institute of Berlin said the goal of the meeting Tuesday was to share ideas of how communities in both Germany and Eastern Kentucky have survived economic downturns in the coal industry.

One of the topics discussed was renewable energy.

"What we expect in renewables in Germany as a whole, in the growth of jobs in the renewables sector, is bigger than what we currently have in the coal mining sector in all of Germany", said German energy expert, Timon Wehnert.

Wehnert believes that investing in the future begins with investing in the people.

"I think one of the key strategies in the rural area dating back since the 60's, 70's, is to massively increase education for the region", said Wehnert.

Letcher County leaders attended the meeting because they said they can see a day without coal.

"I don't want it to, but I could see that happening", said Letcher County Judge Executive Jim Ward. "Even with the coal market picking up a little bit right now, it's really not helped our county."

One solution shared by ward during the discussion was faster internet.

"I have a lady that works in my office. She cannot get fast enough internet that she can take her classes", said Ward. So she stays after work to take her classes at my office where she can use the wifi."

Jim Ward said faster internet can help Eastern Kentucky businesses sell their products to places across the country and even across the world. He believes that faster internet can also help businesses advertise and bring more tourism to the area.