It is necessary to promote intelligent weatherizing of houses, so that Poles can keep money in their wallets and conserve the evironment. Investment in energy efficiency at the government level can bring another significant benefit to society, i.e. reducing energy poverty among Poles, who are affected by this problem, even if they are not income poor – writes Maria Andrzejewska, editor at BiznesAlert.pl.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU created the REPowerEU program to tackle the fossil fuel dependence on the aggressor. Among other things, its goal is to make long-term investments in energy efficiency and increasing the target from 9 to 13 percent, which was previously defined in the “Fit for 55” package.
First steps towards effective change
On Thursday, September 15, the Sejm adopted an amendment to the Law on Energy Efficiency of Buildings and the Construction Law Act, which was directly related to the rules imposed by the European Union. – The aim of the changes is to construct buildings in Poland with the highest possible thermal parameters, with modern, good quality ecological solutions-said Deputy Minister of Development and Technology Piotr Uściński. The amendments introduce, among other things, the need to draw up energy performance certificates for each residential, single-family or multi-family building and monitoring of air conditioning and heating above 70kW.
Another project dedicated to efficiency is the “Clean Air” program, i.e. a system of subsidies for thermal modernization and replacement of heat sources. The amount of funds allocated depends on the applicant’s earnings and to date (i.e. 22 September) more than 450 thousand applications have been submitted. Poles are therefore interested in changes, but the government still boldly allocates about PLN 11.5 million in high-carbon coal, instead of announcing financing for the replacement of windows.
Energy poor Poland
At the beginning of 2022, the report of the project “EDINA – Development of Energy Efficiency in Special Regeneration Zones and Urban Areas” revealed that 34 million Europeans cannot afford to heat their homes. In the face of the energy crisis and record high energy prices, the number of people who cannot afford the coming winter has increased significantly.
Energy poverty is defined as a situation in which a household cannot provide itself with sufficient heat, cold and electricity to power its appliances and lighting.
In 2016, 12.2 percent of the Polish population faced energy poverty, and the group identified as most in need of attention were pensioners. Among the energy-poor, it was noted that the majority uses coal to heat the house, firewood came in second. Since then, the rate of people and households struggling to pay their energy bills has increased and will continue to climb. The data comes from a study by the Institute for Structural Studies, which highlighted the problem of energy poverty in 2018. The report shows that 4.6 million people were struggling to pay their bills and highlights the fact that 2.1 million of them were not income poor. “Report on Energy-Poor Households” from 2021, prepared by experts from the University of Economics in Kraków, says that energy poverty affects between 22 and 33 percent for households, according to various estimates.
Although coal and natural gas are high-emission fuels, they remain the highest in the ranking of the government and Polish households. Another report by the Energy Market Information Centre shows that gas is the most popular in the Poznań agglomeration, while coal dominates in Toruń, Bydgoszcz and Łódź. The data collected by CIRE illustrate the dependence on these two raw materials, and despite the energy crisis, 19 percent of respondents do not see the need to upgrade energy or heat collection facilities.
Energy deadlock and energy sluggishness
On 21 September, the government announced it paid out to Voivoship Offices the first tranche of money for the coal allowance. People who use coal to heat their houses will receive PLN 3 thousand.
– Unfortunately, we are too late as a country to move away from coal. Therefore, when it comes to the coming winter, coal allowances are simply a necessity. Due to constraints on time, availability of specialized companies and materials for the winter, we will not have time to weatherize many buildings and replace a sufficient number of heat sources, no matter if we did everything that is in our power. The problem lies in the fact that the supplement itself can do little to help if there isn’t enough coal, and unfortunately this is the case, ” said Maciej Konieczny, a member of the Together party.
Despite the signs from the environment and hard data straight from reports and studies, the reality is that harmful fossil fuels cannot simply be cut off. However, confusion is caused by the observation that Polish policy is slow to support the energy efficiency of buildings, which the European Union has been talking about for more than a decade.
According to the report of a think tank “Poland’s Investment Needs in Order to Become Independent from the Import of Raw Materials from Russia. Green Strategic Autonomy”, the energy transition should be based on the development of zero-emission technologies and energy efficiency.
The EDINA report states that residential buildings account for about 40% of energy consumption in Europe, and every year only a percentage is weatherized. The European Commission aims to double the rate of building renovation in the next ten years. According EC plans from 2021, 35 million buildings can be renovated by 2030. In Poland, many blocks, townhouses or single-family houses were built before 1970. They are poorly weatherized and correspond to the realities from the previous century. They over-consume energy and heat, and because these buildings are old generation, it impossible to use the potential of either. Almost half, because 47.5 percent of Poles live in such buildings.
How much heat is escaping?
A low house loses 35 percent via its ventilation, 15 percent escapes through the roof, about 20 through the window and 25 through outer walls. These data hold for longer, when it turns out that according to estimates, a person spends about 80 percent of the time in a residential building, called a house.
Poles increasingly believe in energy efficiency and want lower and lower energy bills. On the roofs of houses in small towns you can see the most PV panels in the whole of Poland. To create an attractive mix, one also needs an intelligent weatherizing of houses, then the Poles will live save money in their wallets and conserve the environment. Investment in energy efficiency at the government level can also bring another significant benefit to society, i.e. reducing energy poverty among Poles, who are affected by this problem, even if they are not low on income.