The Polish government has a draft energy strategy for the upcoming decades. It remains to be seen how many of its propositions are possible to implement considering the EU’s increasingly ambitious climate policy – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, BiznesAlert.pl’s editor in chief.
The document includes statements on modern coal-fired energy sector, which will be complemented by gas and/or nuclear power. Later on the development of offshore wind energy is also taken into account. The plan includes variants. It will be possible to make it consistent after the climate negotiations with the European Commission are over, those include, among others, the future of the emission trading system, the Modernization Fund and other compensation mechanisms that Poland is interested in. The more the EC will budge, the more coal will stay in the mix. The more firm a stand Brussels will take, the greener the Polish mix will be and the more gas, renewables and atom will it include. The document is in consultation now and if there is no agreement within the government, its publication may be moved from the last quarter of the year to the first in 2018.
First goal: consensus within the government
The problem is that there is no consensus within the government. It is clear the Ministry of Energy is pressing for as green a mix as possible. This has been evidenced by its declarations on removing old power-generation units made at the Economic Forum in Krynica and on supporting the replacement of old stoves promised during a conference on smog at the Ministry of Economic Development on 18 September. The necessity to adopt a conciliatory attitude towards Brussels has been also noticed by the Ministry of Energy which, in line with BiznesAlert.pl’s predictions, announced in Krynica a departure from a coal-fired energy sector after the construction of the Ostrołęka power plant.
A pivot in energy policy has indeed taken place, which has been confirmed by my interlocutors from key decision-making centers. Worth-reading pieces on the subject have been published by dailies Puls Biznesu, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna and Rzeczpospolita. All state-owned companies recognize the necessity to include carbon-free generation in the mix, apart from Tauron which remains dependant on coal assets and Energa whose CEO is fighting for an inquiry committee into renewable energy sources. However, it is the government that lacks a consensus because of the persistent opposition of the Environment Minister who, among others, is blocking a decision on a nuclear power plant. There are rumors that his officials are not following the negotiation instructions of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Morawiecki’s Economic Committee and instead are pursuing their own agenda towards the European Commission.
Still, Jan Szyszko the Environment Minister is an important piece of Poland’s political jigsaw. He is promoting bio-fuels and geothermal energy and thus is pursuing the demands of two groups of the electorate important for the ruling party: farmers and the Radio Maryja community. Additionally, he is supported by the State Forests lobby. The party will need the minister’s strength during the upcoming local elections to help it face the Polish People’s Party. Perhaps this explains Prime Minister Beata Szydło’s indulgency towards his actions on the European arena.
What will Brussels do?
This capricious element may make it harder to achieve a satisfactory consensus between Warsaw and Brussels towards which, despite their differences, the Ministries of Energy and Economic Development are working. It is worth reminding that it was the Environment Ministry’s resistance to follow the negotiation instruction for the talks about the reform of the emissions trading system, that isolated Poland and forced it to accept an offer that was worse than the compromise proposed during the negotiation process by our EU partners.
The status quo and coal mix in its current shape are impossible to sustain in the perspective of the coming decades. Poles started a constructive conversation on the future of Poland’s energy sector with Brussels. Unconstructive attempts at destabilizing the process may leave us in a bad spot. We already know that the European Commission adopted a stricter position on the capacity market whose goal is to finance new power units by the Vistula river. It is possible that, in line with what BiznesAlert.pl wrote previously, Poland will not be allowed to use this support to aid the traditional energy sector. Only dexterous negotiations will make it possible to avoid such a scenario. A tilt at windmills that is principled, but lacks support will not make things easier.