Climate Policy Energy 23 May, 2019 6:00 pm   

Different faces of the energy transition at the Power Summit 19 (REPORT)

Energy sector decarbonisation may be different in different parts of Europe. This was the topic of discussion among the participants of the panel on this issue during the Power Summit 2019 organised by the organisation associating the European energy producers – Eurelectric.

“This year we are predicting a 110 percent increase of 17 GW of solar power. This is an era of double-digit results” – said Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe. According to her, the costs of this technology will keep falling and the share of all renewable sources in the energy mix, according to optimistic forecasts, may exceed 60 percent by 2040.

“We cannot use renewable sources for everything. Even the most recent developments in this industry will not lead us to the achievement of the zero-emissions plan in 2050. We need more forests, transition in the fuels sector, we need carbon dioxide storage technologies” – pointed out Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group, which converted four coal-fired power stations to biomass. “If we ensure friendly market conditions, we can support planting trees” – he assured. “Then the trees can be used for producing energy from biomass”.

“We are facing the carbon dioxide storage challenges, as it is economically doubtful. Replacing the carbon-fired units with biomass is an attractive idea on the condition of the emergence of favourable economic conditions” – admitted the Chairman of the Management Board of the Polish Electricity Association and the CEO of Polska Grupa Energetyczna PGE, Henryk Baranowski. “The majority of our generating capacity will be decommissioned over the next decade. We are facing the challenge of replacing them to ensure the security of supply to our customers. We will use other technologies to that end”.

“We are primarily betting on offshore. We want to have around 3 GW in offshore wind farms by 2030. The other technology we are considering is that of gas-fired power plants. We are commencing a new project with two 700 MW units each in the north of Poland (Elektrownia Dolna Odra – editor). We also have an interesting circular economy project of reusing the products of combustion, we might be able to tell more about it at the next conference” – hinted the CEO.

“Decommissioning of old units involves a public debate. It’s about the future of thousands of jobs in mining and related sectors. We are trying to have a discussion about it with the trade unions. Our goal is to replace one technology with another. This is why I mentioned the replacement of a coal power plant with a gas plant in Dolna Odra (and the offshore – editor). We also want to build several nuclear power units in Poland. Perhaps some of them will be located where a coal power plant is in operation now” – admitted the guest of the Florence conference.

The panel also included the representative of our neighbour – Germany. “Everybody knows that Germany is a densely populated country. We will need dozens of new-build renewables to achieve our 2030 targets. We need higher efficiency. The energy demand in Germany is flat” – pointed out Stefan Kapferer, CEO of BDEW. In his opinion, a 100% renewables’ share energy mix by the end of the next decade is “unrealistic”. Thus, other sources are needed, for instance gas-fired.

“Germany is still contemplating whether to keep producing all the energy domestically or to import it from abroad. We can achieve our goals by using the cross-border sources” – he said. “We have an extensive gas infrastructure, including gas storage facilities. Thus, we can use green gas to decarbonise the energy sector”.

The CEO of ENEL Green Power Antonio Cammisecra argued that in 2030, 50 to 60 percent of energy will be coming from conventional sources. In his opinion, the general public should be convinced to invest in renewable sources. “We need to start the transition now to get ready for the possible problems with the RES in the future” – he admitted.

“The most important is the stability of legal framework that has to cater for the ongoing growth of the power sector to ensure the services to our customers” – argued Henryk Baranowski, CEO of PGE. “How can we talk about stability in times of energy transformation and growth of the RES? It is beyond our dreams in the perspective of 60, 70 or even 100 percent share of renewable sources in the energy mix” – replied Antonio Cammisecra. “We must be ready for the change, perhaps pushing it in the right direction, but stability and simplicity is history. Now the sector will be complicated and difficult to manage” – he added.