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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » June 17, 2010
Energy Security Conference
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National Energy Security Based on Coal
June 17, 2010   
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Despite the growing importance of renewable energy, coal will remain the main source of energy in Poland in the years to come.

Poland’s energy security is based on its vast deposits of coal. Hard coal accounts for 48 percent of the country’s primary energy consumption, and lignite, or brown coal, accounts for a further 12 percent. The rest comes from crude oil and natural gas, 23 and 12 percent respectively, while renewable energy accounts for a mere 5 percent for the time being. The prevalence of hard coal and lignite in the power industry is overwhelming, with over 95 percent of all electricity generated from coal. The proportions will change in the coming years, though the Polish economy will continue to rely heavily on coal. Hard coal extraction in Poland keeps declining and lignite extraction has remained steady for several years. At the same time, Poland has been extracting more oil, but that only satisfies a fraction of what the economy needs. Natural gas consumption is on the rise as well, but domestic resources account for only a third of Poland’s total demand for natural gas. The country has limited capacity to produce renewable energy and does not make much use of what is there and so the use of renewable energy in Poland is far below the EU average. In the near future, Poland plans to radically increase imports of energy sources, including liquefied natural gas, by sea.

Studies by the economy ministry show that while hard coal will continue to play a key role in electricity generation, the importance of natural gas and renewable energy will grow. Coal-based electricity generation has its upsides when oil prices are soaring, but it also has harmful effects on the environment such as excessive greenhouse gas emissions, which can only be curbed by high financial outlays on protective installations.

The energy future of Poland has been outlined in the Energy Policy of Poland Until 2030 paper which the government adopted in November last year. Compiled by the economy ministry, the document sets out a long-term development strategy for the energy sector, contains forecasts for fuel and energy consumption and delivers a schedule of action to be taken. The new policy radically changes the country’s approach to the use of domestic energy resources, coal in particular, which are supposed to become the foundation of Poland’s energy security. That way, the production of electricity and, to a large extent, heat can become independent of external supplies.

As far as oil, liquid fuels and natural gas are concerned, the government’s plan calls for a diversification of technology as well as sources of deliveries. This a departure from an earlier strategy that only sought to diversify energy suppliers. “For that reason, we will support the development of technology to obtain liquid and gaseous fuels from national deposits,” said Waldemar Pawlak, the deputy prime minister and economy minister.

Forecasts for future demand for electricity show that it is necessary to enhance the country’s electricity generation capacity, experts say. The obligation to curb greenhouse gas emissions, in turn, forces Poland to seek low-emission technology in energy production. This explains why the economy ministry plans to support the use of available technology to produce energy from coal while curbing air pollution and radically reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The economy ministry strategy has laid the foundations for a national nuclear power program. The strategy identifies efforts that need to be undertaken in the coming years so that Poland can launch its first nuclear power plant. Pursuing the goal, the government is supposed to draft legislation, create an organizational environment and ensure the right conditions to build and launch nuclear power plants based on well-tested and safe technology.

The new energy policy also aims to stimulate the use of renewable energy in Poland. The primary objective is to make sure that renewable energy accounts for at least 15 percent of total energy consumption by 2020, while biofuels are supposed to account for 10 percent of all fuel used for transportation. Poland will also aim to increase its use of second-generation biofuels.

The government will work to stimulate the development of biogas plants and wind farms on land and sea. New renewable energy units and installations to link them to the national power grid can obtain direct support from EU funds and the environmental protection fund.

One of the priorities for Polish and European energy policy makers is to foster clean energy technology. The term refers to energy obtained from fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewable energy sources. In 10 years, EU expenditure on clean energy technology may reach around 50 billion euros, according to Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament. “That is more or less the amount which has been allocated to research as part of EU programs so far.” According to Buzek, Poland will succeed only if it gets to use all three types of energy sources: fossil fuels, renewable energy, and nuclear power. Even if renewable energy and nuclear power each account for 15 percent of the national energy balance, the remaining part of energy will have to be produced from coal, Buzek said. “Since demand for electricity is expected to grow by 30-40 percent, Poland will have to produce more or less the same amount of energy from coal as it produces today,” Buzek said. “This makes the use of clean coal technology all the more important.”

It is also vital for Poland to take part in EU research programs and carry out pilot projects, officials say. For example, Polish institutions and companies will work on clean coal technology as part of the European Institute of Technology. Pilot projects include a new power unit with a carbon capture and storage installation at the Bełchatów Power Plant, which may receive up to 180 million euros in EU co-financing.
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