Can liberate Poland from the coal?


Poland is the host of the climate conference in Katowice, but traditional coal country. Can it overcome its dependence on Fossil fuels and to embrace Renewables?

The relationship between Poland and its coal is very narrow and very old. At the beginning of industrialization coal was the preferred energy, it was dismantled on the spot and was cheap, the environment had only a very low importance.

But things change slowly

In 1989, the Iron curtain, and Poland fell coal-fired power plants covered nearly 100 percent of the electricity demand. Almost 40 years later, in 2017, the share of coal-fired power at 78 percent. Especially the wind power grew significantly and is currently at nine percent.

According to the government plan, the share of coal in the electricity mix will continue to decline, to 60 percent in 2030. For Poland, so far, the coal looked at as the backbone of its economy, this means a dramatic change.

Environmentalists see this goal, however, is critical. Since the coal reserves are in the Polish mines already in short supply and most of the coal-fired power plants are on the grounds of Age, before the shutdown, reflect Adherence to it is merely the unhealthy relationship to coal.

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Support for an ailing industry

Coal-fired power plants in Poland will have been subsidized for a long time. According to the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISSD) result in the inferior quality of the coal, and the average age of the power plant parks of 30 years cut to the industry can only be achieved with state aid profits.

A Report by the Warsaw-based think-tank WiseEuropa shows that Poland has paid between 1990 and 2016, each year, around two billion euros for the support of the coal sector. As a result of air pollution in addition to health and climate costs, added up the additional costs due to the coal-fired power generation to around 450 euros per citizen per year.

Under pressure from the coal power unit is now also the CO2-price in the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS). Over the years, the price for the pollution rights in the EU, at five euros per Tonne of hovering around, in the last year, he has tripled.

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Advertising for the transition to green energy in Katowice (Poland)

Pressure for changes
The Protest in Poland against dirty air, and climate-damaging coal has changed the perspective. Also, customers increasingly want clean energy, says Monika Morawiecka, head of the Department of Strategic planning at Poland’s largest energy supplier PGE.

She gave the example of an energy exporter, “He said: ‘you Know, the customers are polite. But in a few years they will then ask how high the CO2-footprint. And if this is not good, then they will not buy of me.”

The energy supplier to provide, for economic reasons, to a cleaner energy supply. And the EU is stepping up the pressure on Poland to do more to combat air pollution and climate goals. Yet according to estimates of environmentalists, the Polish government is not nearly enough.

“In practice, the Polish government supported mainly by coal,” says Anna Ogniewska, of Greenpeace in Poland. “Compared to the EU, in Brussels, making Poland a great fuss: ‘Yes, we rely on green energy.’ But if you are back home, then plan new coal mines and coal-fired power plants and do not nearly enough to promote the growth of Renewable energies”, stresses Ogniewska compared to the DW.

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A lasting farewell

Poland could already be forced to separate from the coal. It is expected that the lignite in the existing mines up to 2030 to tilt. Also the coal is not more rich for much longer.

In Polish society there are already signs of a rethink. “Coal mining is no longer as popular as it used to,” says Patryk Bialas, energy Advisor in the technology Park Euro-Centrum in Katowice. Polish young people prefer now to work in the field of renewable energies.

Since the carbon is less, and Poland’s energy needs per year, rising to 1.2 percent, is the use of clean energy is inevitable. The country needs to plan accordingly.

In 2017, the supply with natural Gas increased compared with the previous year by 20 percent, and between 2013 and 2017, has doubled the power with wind energy.

Poland’s draft energy policy provides that the demand for energy for electricity, transport, heating and industry is set to double from renewable sources by 2030, compared to today’s 21 percent. The government wants to promote to achieve this goal, the Expansion of wind power on Land are so strong, keep environmentalists for a wrong decision.

The search for Alternatives

Gas is cleaner and more flexible than coal and is therefore a better Partner for fluctuating renewable energies. Since, however, imports most of its Gas from Russia, is the origin of the gas is “critical,” says Michal Kurtyka – President of the world conference on climate change COP24 and Secretary of the Polish Ministry of the environment.

“That’s why Poland is cooperating with Norway and Denmark,” says Kurtyka. The project of a gas pipeline with the Baltic States, enabling the Transport of Gas from Norway to the Polish markets.

The wind energy in the sea for Poland’s government is also an important building block for the energy supply of the future. PGE, is also the largest wind investor in Poland, is developing three Offshore wind projects, the first of which is scheduled to be completed by 2025.

According to a Report from the Foundation for sustainable energy in Poland installed Offshore could reach wind power capacity by 2030, four gigawatts (GW) by 2035, eight of the GW. Still relatively new to the solar energy in Poland.

For Poland’s government, the transition to renewable energy is a politically sensitive one. The government fears that they will lose votes from the mining region of Silesia. As a further element in the future energy mix, the government also has nuclear power in the plans – but so far only on paper. If ever a nuclear power plant in Poland will be created, experts have reasons, mainly due to cost doubt.

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