Climate Policy Energy 10 September, 2020 12:00 pm   

Interesting and difficult – the truth about Poland’s energy strategy

Poland’s Minister of Climate, Michał Kurtyka, will upset everybody because he is telling the truth about Poland’s energy mix in the latest draft of the energy strategy – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor in chief at

Nuclear and renewable energy instead of coal

A new draft of Poland’s Energy Policy by 2040 (PEP 2040, energy strategy) proposes a quicker drop of coal participation in energy generation. The mineworkers trade unions will learn about it at a meeting with the government on the 10 of September, and they may not like it. The draft also proposes the development of large-scale nuclear energy projects, a move that will be criticized by the supporters of a an energy mix based on gas and renewables. However, as Kurtyka’s supporters claim there is no use in arguing against physics.

The minister stressed that the new energy system had to be superimposed on the old one, which runs on coal-fired power plants whose lifespan is known. “The capacity of the coal-generation system will be a lot bigger than it would stem from its participation in the energy mix,” the minister admitted during his presentation about the PEP 2040. It will be supplemented by the growing participation of gas generation. But that’s not it. “I have been participating in the global discussion on zero emission energy sources. It is hard to imagine how the world, or larger economic blocs like the European Union, could achieve climate neutrality without a scalable, readily available and stable energy source like nuclear energy,” Kurtyka argued, referring to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which maintains that decarbonization would not be possible without nuclear energy.

The Ministry of Climate conducted a simulation of a power system in 2030, which included wind and solar data. They used the climate data from January 2015 and discovered that an electricity supply gap would appear in uncontrollable units, such as renewable energy sources (PV, offshore and onshore). According to the simulation, for almost 10 days only a small portion of capacity generated by renewables would be available in January. That gap would have to be covered by the conventional and controllable energy sources, i.e. nuclear power.

A similar occurrence took place in June 2019, when the due to the issues plaguing Poland’s coal generation, it was necessary to import energy to balance the supply. The events in 2020 in California where another lesson. The Golden State cannot import energy and because of that it faced issues with power supply during extreme weather conditions. Poles want to take such risk into consideration. Minister Kurtyka reminded that in the previous decade, similar issues in California were dealt with with less effort, because they had taken place before nuclear energy was shut down in that state. Poland’s conclusion is to invest in nuclear energy.

The growing role of renewables and nuclear energy in Poland’s energy mix will result in a quicker phase-out of coal generation than it had been indicated in earlier plans. The Ministry of Climate expects that in 2030 the participation of coal in energy generation will not exceed 56 percent. “If the price of CO2 emission allowances goes up, the participation may drop even below 37.5 percent,” the authors predict in the document. The ministry proposed two scenarios on how the situation will develop. The participation of coal in energy generation will reach 37-56 percent in 2030 and 11-28 in 2040, depending on the pace according to which the emission allowances prices will grow. One could expect that the EU proposal to accelerate climate policy changes, e.g. by increasing the CO2 emissions reduction target by 2030 from 40 to 50-55 percent, will facilitate quicker changes and lower values in the above estimates.

However, the transition in Poland is to be cushioned by a social package. A just energy transition is to be bankrolled by the government to the tune of PLN 60 bn from various sources (national and from the EU), which will provide up to 300 thousand new jobs in the renewables sector, nuclear energy, e-mobility, grid infrastructure, digitalization, energy renovation of buildings, etc. “This ia a huge opportunity and responsibility. By the end of this year we need to present a strategy, and at the beginning of the next one we need to present projects, which will lend credence to the claim that those proposals are able to limit the social costs of the transition and give our country a chance to grow,” minister Kurtyka determined when commenting on the EU’s Just Transition Fund. The transition’s end goal is to decrease energy poverty in Poland by 30 percent by 2030. “We will discuss this subject (PEP 2040 – ed.) with social partners. The participation of both kinds of coal will be important,” Kurtyka admitted when referring to the fact that the latest PEP 2040 is to be presented at a meeting with miners on 10 September. The latest strategy proposes a quicker phase out of coal, which means a faster reduction of output at mines, which will cause them to shut down quicker and at a larger scale. This truth is difficult to accept and difficult to argue with.

There is no use in arguing against physics

The latest draft of Poland’s Energy Policy by 2040 will have to face criticism from the government and miners’ trade unions on the one hand, and the supporters of the energy transition without nuclear energy on the other. One can question the arguments of the Climate Ministry, but not physics, which on the one hand wants decarbonization, but on the other wants investments in stable energy sources.