During the European Economic Congress in Katowice a Polish ministry exchanged its ideas about the compromise on the common energy and climate policy with the European Commission. The discussion included proposals of solidarity mechanisms, but also poplars, volcanoes and Soviet Russia.
Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of Energy Union gave a speech during the panel titled “The energy industry in Europe – the most important questions”. Before the Congress, he ensured he came to Poland to find a compromise solution to transform the energy industry in Poland, while respecting its idiosyncrasy.
“What we are really proposing in the winter package is the biggest reform of the energy industry since the fossil fuels – based, centralized system was created a century ago,” Šefčovič explained. “Half of the concrete and steel foundations for off-shore wind are ‘Made in Poland’. Polish companies are excelling in energy efficiency products for passive energy houses, such as windows, insulation material, ventilation systems.”
“Poland is on track to meet its 2020 CO2 emissions target. But much more needs to be done. I know the question of air quality is of major concern in this country. We received a lot of complaints from citizens across Europe. This is one of the most society-mobilizing issues that needs to be treated seriously,” assessed Šefčovič.
“The transition will be difficult. Yet we can make it socially fair. The Commission is highly committed to assist and support this transition. I will hold a series of meetings with business and social partners, as well as mining trade unions. I will be asking how the Commission can help to make sure we are acting together and nobody is left behind,” assured the Vice-President.
“The solidarity mechanisms under the EU Emission Trading System will help te EU countries weather this transition. Poland will benefit greatly from this solidarity mechanism and from the European Fund for Strategic Investments. These tools will help to achieve the objectives of the Energy Union. We want to make sure that Poles have a stable and affordable energy supply,” he said.
“EUR 19 billion will be invested in projects contributing to the Energy Union. We will also provide a great level of technical assistance, creating synergies and spill over of best practices across Europe and the rest of the world.”
“Let us plan together this major transition and modernisation. The plans will give much more transparency, clarity and certainty to investors without whom we will not be able to shoulder the transition. We need to spell out our vision for the energy mix, what mix we want to achieve by 2040 to reduce emissions. These are our common commitments included in the Paris Agreement,” encouraged the Commissioner.
“My conversations with minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski and minister Piotr Naimski have been encouraging. Soon we will have energy development plans for 28 member states, which will allow us to create an Energy Union that will benefit Europeans. A united approach to achieve this is very important,” explained Šefčovič.
The Polish Energy Minister’s response was firm.
“The target that by 2050 Europe’s energy industry will be carbon free cannot be achieved in Poland at all,” said Krzysztof Tchórzewski, Polish Energy Minister. “With great effort and a cost at PLN 200 billion we may be able to reduce carbon participation in energy production to 50%,” he added.
The minister explained that trees, e.g. poplars, needed carbon dioxide to breathe and that the gas was produced by natural sources, e.g. volcanoes. The minister encouraged Maroš Šefčovič to consider this to gain some perspective when assessing global emissions.
“It was Soviet Russia who made decisions about Polish energy. It’s Moscow’s fault that we were developing the coal energy industry while nuclear energy sprouted elsewhere. We did not make decisions about the industry, it was Soviet Russia and the West is to blame for that,” accused the minister in Katowice.
“The 550 gr/CO2 kWH requirement included in the winter package will be applicable to Poland only,” he reminded. He also reiterated that coal could not be removed from Europe’s energy mix.
“We’ve made a decision to build the Ostrołęka Power Plant. Mr. Vice-President said that the EU would decrease energy consumption by 8% by 2030. However, to enjoy prosperity just like any other European country, Poland has to increase its energy consumption by 23-25%. Today we are using half of the amount of energy consumed in western Europe. Despite the fact that we are making progress when it comes to energy intensity, Poland will be using up more energy. In 2016 energy consumption grew by 2.3%.”
The minister also explained that we should not go from one extreme to the other, and that it was impossible to get rid of pollution entirely.
The discussion was complemented by remarks made by the CEO of the Polish grid operator, Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne. “You cannot decide where electricity should flow. This is governed by Kirchhoff’s circuit laws, which probably come from the God Almighty himself,” said the manager. This was a response to what former Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, said earlier when he claimed that as a Catholic he did not need to believe in climate change, which is why he rejected the EC’s winter package, the Third Energy Package and the emissions trading system.
“In every state, the government is reluctant to change the law on entrepreneurship too quickly. This pertains to energy companies as well. Most of them are on the stock exchange. Changing how they function can significantly interfere with the interests of the consumer, i.e. the stockholder. In such a situation the state abuses the stockholder’s trust,” said the Polish Minister of Energy.
“This is about the stability of the law, and about informing about changes in advance, giving time to prepare for the new reality,” continued Tchórzewski. “We will fight for this in different institutions, and I want the Vice-President to know we will do this,” Tchórzewski addressed Maroš Šefčovič
“The Commission represents us and should work to take care of our interests,” added Šefčovič. “I did not say that by 2050 there should be no coal in Poland. I was talking about carbon neutrality”.
The Commissioner explained that he was hopeful about the technology that captures and stores CO2 and uses it to gasify coal. He wanted to talk about this with Poles during his visit in Katowice.