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The Warsaw Voice » Other » March 4, 2009
Energy Security & Environment
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Power Priorities
March 4, 2009   
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Waldemar Pawlak, Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister, talks to Andrzej Jonas and Andrzej Ratajczyk.

The Ministry of the Economy has prepared a new draft "Energy Policy for Poland up to 2030" defining the key development directions for the energy sector. What are the main guidelines and priorities of this new energy policy?
First of all, the energy policy has to consider Poland's economic reality. And the reality is that coal accounts for over 60 percent of Poland's energy balance; 20 percent is oil, 12 percent is gas; and 8 percent is biofuels and renewable fuels.

Taking into account these circumstances, we propose simple and clear priorities. First: energy efficiency, which means energy conservation. That's the cheapest energy, after all. Second: clean coal technology. Today the production of gas and gasification of coal means we can obtain cheaper fuel, including synthetic gas and gas to propel cars. Third: less oil and natural gas. Fourth: much more energy from renewable sources, because this is cheap and inexhaustible energy.

Turning to nuclear energy is also a possibility, but not earlier than 2020-2030.

Nuclear power causes heated debate and fears in society. What are the chances for starting a nuclear program in the coming years?
Before this type of power plant can be built in Poland, comprehensive system solutions have to be prepared with regard to safety, and the staff that Poland lacks has to be trained. Specialists say that from 3,000 to 5,000 engineers and technicians are needed for a nuclear power plant to operate safely. Today the most sensible option would be to join existing nuclear projects under way near Poland-in Ukraine, Lithuania or the Czech Republic. Building the infrastructure necessary for nuclear power engineering in Poland, we want to take advantage of the experience of countries like France, the United States, Canada, and Japan.

Energy conservation is one of the priorities of the energy policy. Do you expect that energy consumption in the Polish economy, which is still very high, will decrease? Could Polish science contribute to this?
Interestingly, the Polish economy is growing faster than the country's energy consumption. Though higher energy consumption in Polish industry is often being pointed out, we need to remember at the same time that per capita consumption is smaller. This in no way exempts us from the need to increase efficiency and seek advanced solutions. Polish scientists are looking for such solutions. One example are experiments involving coal fuel cells. It's hard to say today what will come of this, but history shows us that surprising solutions are often possible. Cell phone batteries are a good example-initially the size of a brick, today they are smaller than a match box. The progress in this area within just 15 years should stimulate people's imagination in other fields as well.

At this point it's worth mentioning the example of Polish engineer Ludwik Mękarski who applied pneumatic motors running on compressed air to power streetcars in Paris in the late 19th century. Those streetcars transported over 12 million people. Today French engineers are again looking into this idea, building a compressed-air motor for the Indian corporation Tata Motors and the city cars it manufactures. Compressed air is a better source of energy than hydrogen and simpler than electric batteries. These examples show that sometimes development can take an unexpected direction.

Under an agreement approved by the Council of Europe in December last year, Polish companies producing electricity will buy only some of the carbon dioxide emission rights at auctions in 2013-2019. The energy and climate package earlier proposed by the European Commission and covering issues such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, reducing energy consumption by 20 percent, and increasing the use of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2020, has not met with the Polish government's approval. Why is the indicator-auction system proposed by Poland-for assigning carbon dioxide emission rights-better than the solutions proposed by the European Commission?
The idea put forward by Poland promotes the use of state-of-the-art and low-emission technology. In this system a business operating with the help of the best technology in the field available in the EU, for example the most efficient coal-fired power plant, would receive the right to 100 emission units for free. Power plants based on less efficient technologies, for example producing 10 units of carbon dioxide more than the most efficient power plant, would have to buy the right to emit those extra units at an auction.

The difference between the two proposals is very clear. With the European Commission's proposal, the business in question will have to pay for 100 percent of its emissions regardless of the technology it uses. Under our idea, companies emitting 10 percent more than a specified indicator of the lowest emission would pay much less than those which exceed the permissible limit by 20 percent. In the European Commission's proposal, the differences in the costs incurred by power plants will be negligible.

The idea proposed by Poland promotes the use of state-of-the-art, low-emission systems. That would encourage companies to seek the best technologies, reduce emissions and refrain from burdening consumers with administrative costs involved in the emissions allocation system.

It would be absurd if solutions adopted by the EU were to force countries to turn away from their own natural resources and buy gas instead, for example. These measures shouldn't be aimed at "finishing off" coal-based industry but at reducing emissions. That is exactly what our proposal is about. Interestingly, in Poland the greatest reduction in carbon dioxide emissions was reported in the 1980s, not because of a climate package but due to a recession. If the present financial crisis causes a slowdown in the economy or even a recession, a reduction of emissions will take place regardless of the climate package.
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