Miłosz Motyka. Fot. Ministerstwo klimatu i środowiska.
COMMENTS: Miłosz Motyka

Motyka: More dialogue on Poland’s energy policy (INTERVIEW)

Milosz-Motyka Miłosz Motyka. Picture by Ministry of Climate and Environment.

“As of now there will be more dialogue, because we have a common goal. We are able to create a good program for the energy sector and the catalyst will be successful cooperation in the Climate Ministry, where all political parties are represented,” says Deputy Minister of Climate and Environment Miłosz Motyka in an interview with What will the new government continue and what will it revolutionalize when it comes to energy policy?

Miłosz Motyka: Since the beginning of the Ministry’s work, we have been analyzing the Energy Policy of Poland Until 2040 and the National Plan for Energy and Climate (KPEiK). These documents are delayed and need to be changed. KPEiK has not been presented to the Commission and we are at the end of the EU queue. There is no excuse for this state of affairs. The previous government was afraid to tell the citizens the truth about the necessary energy transition and the truth that the move away from coal is already underway: for the past eight years, we have seen a decline in the extraction and efficiency of energy production from this fuel. We need quick action and we are moving forward. The management of the Ministry has started with the PEP2040 update, KPEiK and a long-term strategy. PEP2040 is a starting point that needs to be changed, but it also needs to be fixed.

At what stage are the works?

We have been working on the energy strategy since the beginning of our work in the Climate and Environment Department. We have a consensus at the level of the leadership of our Ministry. This topic also requires consultation with other ministries and representatives of the social side and non-governmental organizations. We’ll make up for lost time!

How much coal will there be in the new strategy?

This figure will be made more realistic to take into account the current situation. The previous government’s plan was in many instances wishful thinking. EU regulations adopted over the past eight years have pointed to the need for a gradual shift away from coal with an adequate level of energy security. The government agreed to these regulations, although it did not communicate this to the public.

Will the social contract with the miners be honored?

We will continue the strategy in its current form. There is a clear assurance from the Prime Minister’s expose and subsequent statements and from the entire 15 October coalition that there will be no radical changes to the economy at the expense of Polish mining and the energy transition must be fair. We will gradually move away from coal, as the coal units themselves are becoming less efficient, but we must balance all viewpoints, because a large part of the economy is still dependent on this fuel. In Europe we are starting from different levels, although the goal is the same. Our economy’s dependence on coal is different than that of France or Italy, and Brussels is aware of this. There is no need to declare a position on a radical reduction in CO2 emissions.

Was Deputy Minister Urszula Zielińska’s declaration, as quoted by the media in Brussels, correct?

I think the Minister was exercising wishful thinking, and Poland cannot fulfill these wishes without putting a huge burden on the economy, jobs and industry. The CO2 reduction targets that are already on the table must be implemented. Only after they are met will we consider new ones. The position of the Scientific Council at the European Commission is not binding, and the Polish government has a more realistic approach based on economic data. Protecting jobs and ensuring stability for the Polish economy is our priority, which at the same time can go hand in hand with the energy transition.

What is the future of coal assets?

We had the National Energy Security Agency on the agenda. Various concepts are being considered, including that the new agency will handle more assets than just coal. One option is an agency that will generate power from various sources. We will be able to say more once the Ministry of Industry is established.

If not coal, what will generate power in Poland?

We want to free up renewable energy with new regulations. We will also analyze the relevance of PEP2040 in relation to the atom, as well as the Polish Nuclear Energy Program. We will present clear cut data on how and when Poland can actually use nuclear power, because there are many myths about this. There are different voices among local governments on nuclear power plants, especially in Pomerania. I am in favor of continuing this project once the quick review ordered by the Prime Minister is done. The analysis will not reboot the permit procedure that fortunately is already behind us. The data is clear: if we start to change the location of the nuclear power plant again, we will lose time and money. In my view, this investment should continue as scheduled.

Will all nuclear projects continue?

I am in favor of a gradual move away from coal, with nuclear power as base load, but the financing needs to be guaranteed and all decisions need to reviewed, so that there are no doubts. The PEJ project has the best chance and it is a priority, but there are other ideas as well. The case of Orlen and Synthos is the subject of a dialogue between the Ministry of Climate and Environment and the Internal Security Agency. We look forward to more information from the intelligence services. Talks about various SMR technologies are ongoing, as well as about the big atom with the Koreans. We will start by assessing the possibility of financing these projects, as their future hinges on the analysis of their profitability.

There is also speculation about locations in Bełchatów and Żarnowiec and France’s EDF getting involved.

There has also been speculation about Pątnów. According to many experts, the location in Bełchatów is available for use, but there are no ready-made analyses on this topic. The technologies presented today are different and there is a long way to go to decide on this.

Will there be a plenipotentiary for nuclear, strategic energy infrastructure?

The ideas on how to approach this are still in the making and it is possible that some of these competences will stay in the Climate Ministry. The Ministry of Industry, as we can see, deals mainly with fossil fuels. The Ministry will start work from the first of March and by then all decisions will have been made.

Another megaproject is a floating gas port – FSRU – waiting for a decision on the supplier of the vessel. When can we expect a decision on this matter?

I think a decision will be made before the end of January. I know that the Minister of Climate and Environment spoke on this issue, and in the future this topic will be the responsibility of the plenipotentiary. We will write analyses on the use of natural gas in the economy. Poland may become the largest LNG importer in the region and a hub for its neighbors. Talks with neighbors to the south and west, especially the Czech Republic, will be crucial. LNG can stabilize our region in the face of a completely unpredictable aggressor in the east, which will constantly destabilize the situation. We can expect everything from Russia-unfortunately, everything that is bad. The LNG from Poland can be part of the answer to this challenge. Poland can be an ambassador for such an approach. There are countries that go their own way, like Hungary, but economic dependence on Russia is unacceptable.

What about biogas?

When we started working at the Climate Ministry, we talked to experts and social partners about biogas. Part of the competences lie in the Ministry of Agriculture and I am convinced of good cooperation between our ministries. The use of biogas in Germany shows that we can also develop biogas plants in agricultural areas in Poland. There are analyses of the University of Poznań and the Ministry of Agriculture on the use of digestate in the economy. We cannot afford not to use biogas in order to reduce emissions in farms, develop a circular economy, build energy clusters.

What about alternative fuels?

As a country, we are obliged by the AFIR regulation to prepare an appropriate charging infrastructure for electric cars. The plan for charging stations is already on the Ministry’s website, but when it comes to fuel prices specifically, we will be analyzing the prices. The situation on the fuel market seems to be stable, but further diversification will be possible. We will analyze deliveries from Saudi Aramco in terms of delivery price. Decisions will be market-based, not ideological, and we will look for suppliers that guarantee a good price.

What will be the future of the Gdańsk refinery with Aramco shares?

The matter of the merger of Orlen and Lotos and Saudi Aramco’s participation in this process should, in my opinion, be investigated by the intelligence services. We want to present to the public the results of the audit on this issue. Poland needs full transparency. Every aspect of the merger process must be thoroughly analyzed. It is clear that giving part of the refinery to the Saudis was unprofitable. It is one of the most modern plants of this type in Europe, which should remain in Polish hands.

Can this process be reversed?

There were various ideas about retaking or buying back this part of the refinery. The audit on this issue will be completed in the coming months. The intelligence and the Ministry will have a lot of work, but I would like to see these proposals in the first half of the year.

The previous government wanted Germany to derusify its Schwedt refinery. Will you continue to support this demand?

The condition for cooperation between Poland and Germany in the Schwedt refinery is derusification, which is right for reasons of security, but also humanity, in the face of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. We will expect the German side to take legal action to ensure security. We hope that Germany’s political class will want to change. I hope that the tendency to forget the Russia’s attempts to escalate in the region has finally ended in Berlin. What happened on February 24, 2022 and continues to this day, the terror of Russia built, among other things, on the wealth from the sale of gas and oil, should make the whole of Europe aware of the threat we face. This is not only a threat to economic interests from the east. We are facing a civilization of death that does not rest. We must take all measures to derusify the European economy.

Can the Poles replace the Russians in Schwedt?

Such ideas are circulating and they are worth considering. This is an opportunity to develop the market and closer energy cooperation between Poland and Germany, as well as to show good European cooperation. This is a way to stabilize the region’s energy, and I hope that the public and politicians in Germany feel that there is no return to business as usual with Russia or a rotten compromise on the front line that turns into an energy compromise with the Russians. Russia has shown that it will not back out. It is an aggressor that understands only the arguments of strength and European solidarity. Without these, we will not stop it.

Will the Pomeranian Oil Pipeline be built? Will the expansion of the Naftoport continue?

The Naftoport is a kind of a window to the world for our country and our entire region, which functions efficiently. Its expansion depends on market demand. The decision on the Pomeranian oil pipeline will be taken after an audit of the investment.

Does Poland have security of supply?

The problem with the level of fuel reserves was signaled by the European side. Analyses of the fuel level and decisions on it are ongoing. The public will be widely informed on this issue within a few weeks. This is a very important topic, because it concerns fuel reserves, which must be ready to make up for possible shortages in the face of the war in the East.

Has anyone tapped into too many reserves?

There may have been policy decisions reducing strategic fuel stocks, but the audit will show that.

Will the onshore wind farm bill return before the local elections?

We have already taken up this topic in the Ministry. We immediately addressed this issue, which was raised before the formation of the government coalition. It affected how the Ministry was shaped, but we are determined to work quickly. We are collecting public, business and industry opinions. We are convinced that after the consultations the issue of wind turbines and prosumers will end with a bill. I do not know if this will happen before the local elections, but I would not like wind turbines to be used in the election campaign. Harmonizing these regulations and creating good rules for onshore wind energy is crucial from the point of view of energy security of the state and entrepreneurs who expect a stable law. I would not like to make amendments every now and then or suspend decisions for fear of political recriminations. Until now, there has been no coherent energy strategy from which specific laws would result. The PEP2040 presentation will show that the onshore wind industry should be relied upon regardless of the accusations of those who have made water, wind and sun a political enemy. However, we need consultations with local authorities, local communities and businesses. We want it to be a good law. There will certainly not be a situation in which hard-won government regulations will be blown up by one amendment like when Marek Suski blew up the compromise by writing 700 m on a piece of paper. We want to create a law for years that will never block wind turbines again.

Some have claimed that the MP bill you proposed included amendments made by lobbyists.

That’s absurd. A large part of the provisions of this draft comes from the proposal of the previous Sejm. In some parts of the bill one could recognize fragments that were included in previous years, for instance bits about small wind turbines. The allegations are political, although it must be admitted that a better communication policy could have been taken care of this matter.

What will Poland’s energy policy be like now?

It will be consistent, unambiguous. Our communication will unite the coalition, and no member will tear it apart, as it was in the disputes between Law and Justice and United Poland, whether on wind turbines or electromobility. We witnessed the government and Prime Minister being held hostage by a smaller coalition member that was hitting the breaks.

Won’t the fact that your coalition has more members increase the number of disputes?

There will be more dialogue, because we have the same goal. We are able to create a good program for the energy sector and the catalyst will be successful cooperation in the climate sector, where all political parties are represented.

Interview by Wojciech Jakóbik