Coal Energy 17 July, 2019 10:00 am   

It is time for the Coal Round Table

Politicians are increasingly calling for a departure from coal, by bidding who will bring it out of the energy sector faster. The discussion on this subject, however, ends with declarations and general plans that do not solve the problem. It is time for a serious debate and a coal round table – writes Piotr Stępiński, journalist of

Unexpectedly, energy and the fight for clean air have become one of the main elements of political party programs, which close the ranks before the autumn parliamentary elections. Last week, in the flashlights, Civic Coalition (KO), which includes the Civic Platform and Nowoczesna, presented a long-awaited idea for the energy sector. They announced that by 2040 they want Poland to quit coal. Thus, they joined the political auction, who is able to do it faster, but they do not mean that they are leading in it.

Partia Razem (“Together” Party), Greens and Wiosna (Spring) want to quit coal at the earliest – in 2035. In turn, according to the Democratic Left Alliance, about 20 years are needed for coal divorce, so the last clod of coal would be burned around 2039. On the other hand, Nowoczesna and PSL are the most moderate in the declarations – they want to extract coal from the power plant in 2050. Interestingly, only two parties did not declare this date, these are Law and Justice (PiS) and Kukiz’15. While the representatives of PiS argue that after 2040 coal will be the basis of Polish energy system, Kukiz’15 continues to negate the climate policy of the European Union by criticizing the parties announcing the abandonment of coal and liquidation of mines. Regardless of the fact that the Opole mining industry has problems with the efficiency and implementation of mining plans, as a country we are forced to import coal from abroad, mainly from Russia.

What would replace coal in this system, including the imported one, and how much would it cost? Here the answers are also different, and in some cases they are missing, especially regarding the financing of energy transformation. The Civic Coalition announced that it wants to invest, among others, in prosumer energy, in which up to 15 GW is to be installed, so that it would be responsible for 14 percent of energy generated in Poland. However, already in this assumption you can see a certain inaccuracy. If we accept the data presented by the KO politicians, more than 107 GW of power should be installed in the Polish power system. This is more than twice as many as at present, because according to the data of PSE, polish TSO, on 31 December 2018, 45 939 GW of power was installed in the National Energy System. Where did such a jump rise and what sources would satisfy it? The KO politicians do not explain this only when talking about renewable energy and distributed energy, which are dependent on the weather. They forget, however, that such sources need stable powers that will ensure the safe operation of the system. One of the solutions could be nuclear power, but according to prof. Jerzy Buzek is too late to create a nuclear power plant in Poland. Earlier, politicians of the Civic Platform did not rule out the construction of a nuclear power plant.

This is not the only case when politicians change their mind about energy. Before the European elections, the leader of Wiosna Robert Biedroń announced that the departure from coal should take place in 2035. Later, he softened the position, stating that he meant closing the mines. Nowoczesna changed its mind as well. During the last week’s convention of the Civic Coalition, this party’s MP Monika Rosa stated that, contrary to earlier program provisions, Poland would abandon coal in 2040. It is not known what caused such acceleration. It is possible that it may be an element of political calculation and a desire to fit in to the trend of discussions on climate and energy policy. It is interesting that one of the elements that would help to reduce the emission of the Polish energy industry would be the construction of a nuclear power plant, but the programs of PSL, SLD, Greens, Kukiz’15 or Nowoczesna are silent about it. In fact, the only group that talks about the need to build an atom is PiS and… a left-wing party Razem. The common postulate of all parties is the departure from coal, but only two have given the transformation costs – Law and Justice (about PLN 400 billion) and SLD (about PLN 500 billion). The others leave the curtain of silence over this topic.

Political parties are also silent around the draft energy strategy until 2040, the final version of which, according to the announcements of the Ministry of Energy, the government was to adopt in July. However, despite the fact it is already half of this month, we still do not know whether our energy mix will look like a project in which the nuclear plays a key role. Such an important branch of economy, faces a lack of political consensus, which may be dangerous to it. The necessity of discontinuing old coal units and the lack of a final idea on what will replace them may jeopardize the stability of the power system operation.

The time has come for a round coal table, something like the coal commission in Germany, composed of experts and representatives of various political parties. A joint effort established that by 2038 Germany would give up coal. Can Polish politicians talk in a similar way about the future of energy? I believe that they can. Politicians, however, have to remember that it will not be able to close all coal-fired power plants and mines overnight. This process requires time and support for all political environments that will take into account not only party interest, but also social interest. Declarations are made easily, but when the time comes, it turns out that the king is naked.