Climate Policy Energy 16 September, 2020 2:00 pm   
Paweł Sałek. Fot. Kancelaria Prezydenta
COMMENTS: Paweł Sałek

Sałek: Transition is necessary, but it will take decades to complete (INTERVIEW)

– It is not safe to completely phase-out coal generation. Of course, the transition is necessary, but it will take decades to complete,” Paweł Sałek, the Polish President’s advisor on climate, says in an interview with Is the ETS really to blame for all the problems of our energy and heat generation sectors, as Janusz Kowalski the Deputy Minister of State Assets claims? Do we need a bill on this issue?

Paweł Sałek: The EU ETS is definitely a burden for both of these sectors. There is no doubt about that, as its cost is included even in tariffs. Whereas, the above ideas originated in the government. Since I am not a government member, it is difficult for me to comment on them. The basic question is how far have the EU legislation and formal and legal decisions come, because, after all, we have a functioning directive on ETS and we have a regulation for non-ETS. The last EU summit in July this year approved the proposition to increase the 2030 CO2 reduction target. And when it comes to the quantitative and percentage-based approach, this goal is to be determined by the end of this year.

According to unofficial information, we should expect the target to sit at 55 percent.

In light of what a year ago was said by the then candidate, and today’s EC President, Ursula von der Leyen, we should expect those 55 percent. However, the remaining question is what the Polish delegation will be able to agree on, as this issue will have to be discussed either at the October or December EU summit. At the same time according to the conclusions from the previous meeting, the percentage has to be determined by the end of this year.

Is it possible to achieve the 55 percent?

It is worth setting goals when it comes to climate policy, but they should be achievable. We all vividly remember the climate package from 2008 and the 3×20 declaration, which said that by the end of 2020 at least 20 percent of electricity will be generated by renewable energy sources. I am aware of at least two countries, and I am not talking about Poland, which did not achieve this goal on their own and instead made a statistical transfer by simply purchasing it. So we should stop and think about the honesty and the sense of such decisions. After all, climate policy needs to be driven by reason. And as Poland we need to have an individual path to achieve ambitious goals. What is good for France, Holland or Germany does not have to be good for Poland.

According to the latest version of the Energy Policy by 2040, Poland will phase out coal and decrease its participation in the energy mix from the current 70 percent to even 11 percent in 2040. When I talk to trade union members, they tell me they thought it was just “a fake promise to the EU”.

It’s a government document, it’s official, of course it will be modified, but it should be treated seriously.

An agreement needs to be found with the miners because they are again threatening with protests. Whereas the capacity market, which in Poland is mostly based on coal, will operate until 2040.

The country’s energy security should be based on its own resources. We do not know what will happen in the future, what the geopolitical situation in the region and the world will look like. It is not safe to completely phase-out coal generation. Of course, the transition is necessary, but it will take decades to complete.

Fair enough, but the majority of coal used in Poland is imported, mostly from Russia.

This problem is very complicated, because it is caused by the existing international contracts, as well as processes and costs of preparing walls in our mines. These are not my competencies.

Let’s get back to the energy strategy. Even though what we have is still mostly an outline, we do know that in 20 years the mix will include nuclear energy, offshore wind farms in the Baltic, PV and up to 11 percent of coal.

We will not eliminate thermal coal so quickly. And we cannot do this simply because of our own, national interests. The 11 percent by 2040 is the current proposition, but the plans will be discussed further, with social partners as well.

Interview by Karolina Baca-Pogorzelska