IEA urges Poland to clean up its energy sector

25 January 2017

Poland's new energy strategy should put the country on a pathway towards a cleaner energy system while strengthening energy security, says the International Energy Agency in its latest review of the country's energy policies. The forthcoming energy strategy is likely to prioritise long-term energy security, placing a strong emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, increasing energy efficiency and decarbonising the transport system.
But it will require significant investments to reduce the share of carbon-intensive power plants and increase the share of low-carbon energy, including nuclear energy and renewables, said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director, at the launch in Warsaw of Energy Policies of IEA Countries: Poland 2016 Review.
The review notes the Polish government’s assumption, despite its planned investment in nuclear capacity, that coal will remain the cornerstone of the energy system for the long term. The mining sector is a major source of employment and policies affecting the sector have a great social and regional impact. Dr Birol said that the new energy strategy must include a determination of the long-term role of coal in the economy.
Coal combustion remains the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution in Poland. Many of its coal-fired power plants are old and inefficient: the replacement of these plants by plants with the newest technology represents an economic challenge for the sector, but at the same time offers an opportunity to reduce GHG emissions, air pollution and the carbon footprint from power generation. Coal use in household heating, together with waste burning, is a major source of local air pollution and "the government must ensure that less-well-off households are provided with the means to switch to cleaner solutions, such as natural gas or district heating where available," said Dr Birol.
Poland's energy efficiency policies have been strengthened by the adoption of measures such as the white certificate scheme, and have incentivised industry to increase energy savings. These measures represent a solid starting point, but the government needs to broaden the scheme while at the same time developing and implementing new measures targeted at the buildings sector. In the electricity sector, Poland must step up investment in new generation and strengthen interconnections with neighbouring countries if the country is to satisfy future demand for electricity.
Dr Birol also highlighted recent changes in siting regulations and reductions in the support mechanisms for renewable energy which have created uncertainty, and have had negative implications for investor confidence. "The future of renewable energy in Poland looks uncertain" Dr Birol added. On the other hand, Dr. Birol welcomed the country's decision to pursue nuclear energy as a means to reduce emissions and strengthen energy security while highlighting the importance of making the correct technology and choice of partner.


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