Poland relies almost exclusively on coal to generate its power, but a new study has found diversifying the country’s energy mix might not actually be that hard.
The study, released Friday by several European energy and environmental groups, including Greenpeace, found Poland could cut its coal electricity generation in half, from 120 terawatt hours a year to 60 by 2030. The shift would require a clean energy investment of $264 billion — about double what Poland currently spends on energy production, but an investment that would lead to cheaper energy in the long run, according to the report. It could also create 100,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2030.
“Poland is home to a geriatric energy system, based on coal. Its power plants are old with about 70 percent of them being over 30 years old,” the report said.
Poland’s reliance on coal, with which it uses to generate about 90 percent of its energy supply, has helped it earn the title of second-dirtiest air in Europe, according to the European Environment Agency. In 2011, according to the agency, Polish cities accounted for six out of the 10 most polluted cities in Europe, with Krakow experiencing 150.5 days a year above the EU’s target levels for air pollution. That finding is worrisome for Polish residents — this month, a U.N. agency classified air pollution as a carcinogen for the first time, and air pollution has also been linked to lung cancer, kidney damage, respiratory problems and death.
In a forward to the report, former Polish Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki called Poland’s switch away from coal and toward cleaner energy sources a “feasible, realistic scenario.” But historically, Poland has appeared set on keeping coal a major part of their energy mix. Warsaw is hosting this year’s U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference, but at the same time will be hosting the World Coal Association’s International Coal & Climate Summit. The country is trying to build two new coal-fired power plants that won’t be assessed for carbon capture and storage (CCS) readiness, a project that, if completed, would be in violation of EU regulations. Poland is also known for repeatedly blocking EU attempts to implement more aggressive climate change policies.
“The Polish government has been instrumental in blocking attempts to ensure there is a price on carbon,” Chris Davies, team leader of the European Parliament’s European Parliament’s Environment Committee, told RTCC. “They give every impression of having a very large coal industry that wants to change as little as possible.”