COMMENTS: Henryk Borczyk

Borczyk: Upper Silesia wants to foster social acceptance for nuclear power (INTERVIEW)

Henryk-Borczak-GZM-2048×1365 photo: Dariusz Iwanski phone: 0048 601 362 305

 “We want to foster social acceptance for nuclear power,” says Henryk Borczyk, Vice-Chairman of the Board of the Metropolis GZM in an interview with

How is the energy transformation doing in the Metropolis GZM (an association of 41 cities and communes in Upper Silesia – ed.)?

Coal remains the main source of power and heat generation in our country, and Silesia consumes the most coal among all voivodeships. CO2 emissions from particularly burdensome power plants in the Metropolis GZM amounted to 18.6 million tons in 2020. In addition, the share of renewable energy sources in the production of energy and heat in the Silesian Voivodeship, including GZM, is small and for several years has been among the lowest in the country.

It is clear that we must do everything we can to change the status quo. Our objectives for the energy transition and adapting to climate change were set out in the 2022-2027 GZM Development Strategy adopted a year ago, with a view to 2035. These include supporting the energy transition, supporting the reduction of low emissions and improving the energy efficiency of buildings, including the uptake of renewable energy and system heat, and supporting the reduction of transport emissions. We believe that the energy transition should also take place through the dissemination of knowledge about climate change and sustainable development.

Do you have specific plans for 2030 and 2050?

One of the priorities is to reduce low emissions from non-ecological individual heating and passenger transport. We can achieve this through the widespread use of solutions that increase energy saving and energy efficiency of buildings, as well as the further development of gas and heating networks. On the other hand, it is important to reduce car traffic, promote low-and zero-emission vehicles and support comprehensive actions to reduce transport emissions and develop clean transport zones.

In 2020, we created the Low Emission Reduction Programme aimed at our member municipalities, thanks to which local governments could apply for grants from the GZM budget for investments related to improving air quality. We are talking about the construction of infrastructure for energy from renewable sources, energy modernization of buildings or the replacement of individual heating sources. Municipalities received a total of more than PLN 100 million for the implementation of this type of investments.

In addition, it is important for us to advocate for the implementation of systemic actions in the field of the environment, at any scale-from global to local, e.g. campaigns, meetings, events.

In the future, we want to promote renewable energy sources by creating conditions for the development of RES in municipalities, e.g. by designating areas for the development of RES in local planning documents, as well as the use of RES in buildings, especially in municipal resources – as exemplary solutions.

What are your preferred sources of energy and heat?

One of our key actions is to support the reduction of low emissions and improve the energy efficiency of buildings, including the dissemination of renewable energy and district heating. Programs such as the government’s STOP SMOG, which aims to improve air quality in the Metropolis GZM, serve this purpose. It is worth mentioning that we submitted the application to the program as the first collective entity in Poland, acting on behalf of 11 municipalities. The program will include the implementation of 210 low-carbon projects. In December of this year, we chose the operator of the program. At the same time, we participate in the European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) program, which aims to improve the energy efficiency of multi-family buildings.

Of course, with regard to energy sources, nuclear energy is also a very important issue, but it still sparks a lot of questions and doubts in Poland. We are of the opinion that the energy transition without the atom will not be possible. Nuclear energy creates environmental and safety concerns. Experts agree that investments in nuclear energy are crucial for Poland, and local governments also play an important role in this process. As a metropolis, for the second time we organized the conference “Atom for local governments. Nuclear Energy is an Opportunity for the Energy Transformation of Silesia and Zagłębie,” which was attended by representatives from the academia, industry and administration at local and central levels. We want to foster social acceptance for the atom. This is also facilitated by the GZM Energy Days, which are periodically organized to disseminate knowledge about green energy, also among younger residents of our cities and municipalities.

Can you count on EU, national and local support?

Within the framework of the ELENA project, up to 90 percent of the grant comes from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and concerns the preparation of technical documentation for 180 multi-family communal buildings in 16 GZM municipalities. The total value of the project is EUR 2.1 million, and the amount of co-financing is EUR 1.9 million.

As part of the government’s STOP SMOG in the GZM, we signed an agreement with the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management (NFOŚiGW) to co-finance low-carbon projects from the Thermal Modernization and Renovation Fund. The total funding level is 70%, which that is PLN 7.8 million.

In addition, in order to prevent energy poverty among the final beneficiaries, i.e. first of all owners of single-family houses, GZM provided additional financial resources for the implementation of the project up to approx. PLN 7 million. These measures will make it possible to increase the scope of work in buildings, so that after they are carried out, the costs of heating the house will be lower or at least comparable to those before the renovation.

In addition, we implement a number of investments aimed at improving the quality of public transport, replacing the rolling stock with low-carbon options. Within the framework of the “We Are Going Electric” program, we received a subsidy from the Regional Operational Program of the Silesian Voivodeship for the purchase of 32 electric buses and charging infrastructure in the amount of PLN 75 million.

We are also implementing the Hydrogen GZM project, which provides for the purchase of electric and hydrogen buses – the NFOŚiGW co-financing amounts to PLN 81 million. In addition, we are implementing two editions of the “Green Transport GZM” initiative, within which we will purchase 55 electric buses and chargers in total. Co-financing is also provided by NFOŚiGW – PLN 90 million in the first edition and PLN 74 million in the second.

Interview by Wojciech Jakóbik