Poland bucks EU anti-coal pledge

13 April 2017, Week 14 Issue 855

Coal-dependent Poland has rejected a commitment made by fellow EU members to refrain from constructing new coal-fired power plants on the continent after 2020.

EU electricity association Eurelectric announced on April 5 that utilities from all 28 EU member states except for Poland and Greece had agreed to the pledge last month. The commitment is part of the Clean Energy Package spearheaded by Eurelectric, which represents 3,500 companies across the EU with an aggregate turnover of 200 billion euros (US$211.9 billion).

“History will judge this message we are bringing here today,” said Kristian Ruby, Eurelectric’s secretary-general, in a statement last week. “It is a clear message that speaks for itself, and should be seen in close relation to the Paris agreement and our commitment to provide 100% carbon-neutral electricity by 2050,” he added.

Poland is heavily dependent on coal-fired plants, which provide around 90% of the country’s electricity. The government in Warsaw remains staunchly pro-coal despite the EU's drive to replace coal-derived electricity production with energy from renewable sources. Polish officials have instead reduced subsidies for wind and solar power, favouring investment in new, cleaner coal plants. “Our Polish member association said that lignite and coal remain a strategic domestic resource for them,” Ruby said.

The country intends to bring online the 1-GW Ostroleka C coal-fired plant in Mazowieskie by 2023, which will be owned and operated by Polish firms Energa and Enea. Electricity generation at Polska Grupa Energetyczna’s 3-GW lignite plant in Gubin is also expected to start in 2030.

The pledge by the 26 EU states, which was voted on late last month, is in line with agreements made by nearly 200 countries at climate talks in Paris in 2015. The accords, which came into force in November last year, are aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions derived from fossil fuels such as coal to prevent climate change exceeding 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Drawing Poland away from coal-fired plants would depend on promoting investment and favourable legal conditions for alternative energy sources such as wind. In May last year, however, the current administration imposed strict new rules governing the construction of wind farms, banning facilities located up to 2 km from housing. The new regulation also included higher property taxes for wind farm owners, further stifling construction.

Joseph Murphy

Edited by

Joseph Murphy

Editor

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