Poland could halve its demand for coal by 2030, according to a report recently published by Greenpeace. The view is in clear opposition to what the Polish government has been saying for months, pledging instead to refocus on coal as an energy source.
The Bełchatów plant in central Poland in one of the biggest emitters of CO2 in Europe
Poland’s energy infrastructure is extremely outdated – that fact no one is disputing. Most of Poland’s power plants are decades old and in desperate need of modernization. Instead of spending money on updating existing coal-powered plants and building new ones, the money could be better spent on investment in renewable resources, according to Greenpeace.
“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to move beyond coal,” said the report, arguing that with the shift from coal to green energy, 100,000 jobs could be created by 2030.
The cost of such a switch would be steep. It would require an investment of some $264 billion, instead of the $132 billion needed to sustain the current energy mix. Still, free renewable energies would be cheaper in the long run by eliminating costs of fuel to generate electricity, said the report. Overall, if Poland were to make the switch, it could increase the role of renewables in its energy mix to 26.8 percent in 2030 compared to the current 7.8 percent.
“It’s science fiction,” said Piotr Maciążek, an energy expert from the Energy for Europe Foundation, a conservative think tank. “Poland is still an industrial country, and as such needs a source of constant energy supplies,” he explained, arguing that since wind farms and solar panels cannot provide a constant supply of energy, they could never power Poland’s factories.
Citing economic factors, Mr Maciążek argued that Poland should continue to rely on coal and expand its coal-powered power plants – he favors the government’s initiative to expand a huge coal-fired power plant in Opole, in southern Poland.
“Unlike Germany, Poland can’t afford to switch to renewables,” he added.
One issue on which Mr Maciążek agreed with Greenpeace was that Poland must create a comprehensive energy strategy soon. Poland’s Economy Ministry has said that by 2016-2017 the country could experience blackouts, as its energy needs continue to rise, aging infrastructure strains under growing demand and older plants are shut down.
According to the ministry, Poland will need 1,100 MW more than it will produce by 2017.
“There obviously is a place for renewables in our energy mix, but I don’t think it should be more than 15 percent,” Mr Maciążek said, adding that the government couldn’t take much more time in adopting a new energy policy.
Poland’s energy mix is a hot topic of late, as the UN climate summit to be held in Warsaw is drawing near. The timing of the release of the Greenpeace report is not coincidental. During the summit, officials will work on a global deal to curb CO2 emissions, which could be signed during the next summit, to be held in 2015. So far Poland has resisted deeper emissions cuts and anything else that could drive up carbon prices, or make it more expensive to burn coal.
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