Energy Renewables 15 July, 2020 12:00 pm   
COMMENTS: Ireneusz Zyska

Zyska: Dynamic development of RES will influence the final shape of the energy strategy (INTERVIEW)

– Poland is in favour of the European Commission’s goal that Europe should become the first climate neutral continent. At the same time, we are of the opinion that the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 should refer to the EU as a whole, and in relation to Poland it should take into account its special situation, which was included in the Conclusions of the European Council of 12 December 2019- says Ireneusz Zyska Government Plenipotentiary for Renewable Energy Sources and Deputy Minister of Climate in an interview for Polish Energy Brief quarterly.

Polish Energy Brief: Will the new European Green Deal determine changes in Poland’s Energy Policy until 2040 in the context of increasing RES capacity?

Ireneusz Zyska: Poland is in favour of the European Commission’s goal that Europe should become the first climate neutral continent. At the same time, we are of the opinion that the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 should refer to the EU as a whole, and in relation to Poland it should take into account its special situation, which was included in the Conclusions of the European Council of 12 December 2019. That is not to say Poland will not undertake actions aimed at low-emission transformation. As a party to the Paris Agreement, we have pledged to go carbon neutral in the second half of the 21st century. We will reach neutrality at our own pace, in a safe and responsible manner, taking into account national social and economic conditions.

Reducing the share of coal in our energy mix and the simultaneous development of renewable energy is a huge technical and socio-economic challenge. It is a time- and capital-consuming process. The goal of energy transformation should be to increase the competitiveness of the Polish economy, but also to ensure energy security. At the same time, it is necessary to fill the gap in the labour market, adjust qualifications in the conditions of energy transformation (especially in mining regions), as well as educate staff for building and servicing new energy sources.

The development of renewable energy sources, in addition to nuclear energy, and in the transition period based on gas, will play a key role in Poland’s energy transformation. The goal of increasing their share in final gross energy consumption to a level of 21-23% in 2030 is realistic, and can be even exceeded, taking into account the current rate of RES growth in Poland, e.g. over 1600% in PV technology in the last 4 years. The implementation of the set goal consists of increases in the use of RES in all three energy consumption sub-sectors – power engineering, heating (and cooling) and transport. We predict that the RES share in electricity generation will be at least 32% in 2030, and that will be due to the development of large-scale sources, i.e. offshore wind energy and large photovoltaic installations, as well as small-scale projects. By 2040, around 10 GW of wind farm power may work in the Polish economic zone. In the case of photovoltaics, the total installed capacity may amount to about 16 GW in 2040. The key aspect in this area is the construction of distributed energy based on prosumers, energy cooperatives and energy clusters, as well as the greening of dedicated household heating.

Within only the last year, we observed a multi-fold increase of installed capacity in prosumer installations. We are very pleased with such a large public response to the need for energy transformation. We can clearly see the effectiveness of the “My Electricity” program, and we receive feedback from the market about a huge interest in using heat pumps. That means that the financial support and education we have offered result in an increased sense of social responsibility regarding the need for low-emission transformation. This way, we are perfectly consistent with the idea of the European Green Deal.

I believe that the transformation of the domestic energy sector and investments in renewable energy sources can become an important factor in economic recovery, and thereby powering the flywheel of the economy. This is extremely important now, when we are struggling to overcome the crisis caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. At the same time, I hope that, while achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal, technological neutrality and the right of Member States to decide on their own path to achieve climate neutrality will be maintained, in accordance with what is guaranteed in the Treaty as the freedom of shaping their own energy mix.

The draft act on supporting offshore wind energy is still at the stage of public consultations. Is the Ministry of Climate currently analysing submitted observations? What stage currently is the project at?

The draft law on the promotion of electricity generation in offshore wind farms is absolutely a priority for the Ministry of Climate. Numerous observations were submitted to the project as part of public consultations, arrangements and opinions. Aiming to adopt a regulation that will promote the creation of generation sources providing end users with clean, but also cheap energy, while responding to the needs of investors, it is necessary to analyse the submitted observations and suggestions thoroughly. Since the end of the consultation process, several dozen working meetings have taken place, which have allowed the regulations to be adjusted to the submitted observations. The new version of the project will be published within two weeks.

Development of the RES sector at the time of coronavirus. Many economists say that printing empty money will be useless if we can’t use it wisely. Can RES investments be a flywheel towards the transformation of the Polish energy sector?

Despite the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting slowdown or even stopping of the production and supply chain of many elements needed for the construction of RES installations, the development of the industry is not slowing down. The global use of RES increased in the first quarter of 2020 by 1.5% compared to the first quarter of 2019. According to the International Energy Agency, the rate of growth of the number of RES installations in the world may be lower than in 2019, but the increase will remain positive. According to IEA, renewable sources are one of the energy generation methods that are most resistant to pandemic limitations and restrictions.

Investment budgets for renewable energy technologies make up an increasing proportion of expenditure of energy companies and enterprises, as well as individual households. In the latter case, it is worth mentioning the “My Electricity” program implemented by us in cooperation with the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, which offers cash incentives to new PV installations of 2-10 kW. The call for applications in the second edition of the program began in January 2020 and is enjoying unflagging popularity. It is estimated that around 200,000 beneficiaries will take advantage of the support.

For larger installations, investors have the option of joining auctions for electricity generated in renewable energy sources with their projects. As a result of the RES auction for 2019, 91 TWh (out of 185 TWh offered) of electricity with the total value of approx. PLN 20.5 billion (out of PLN 69.9 billion offered) was sold. Most were contracted by new installations, mainly photovoltaic (total 0.9 GW of installed capacity) and onshore wind installations (approx. 2.2 GW). 75.295 TWh of electricity with the total value of PLN 27.4 billion is planned for all RES auctions in 2020.

Polish energy and fuel companies announce investments in the development of hydrogen projects in the field of hydrogen production and transmission. Meanwhile, in the draft of the Polish Energy Policy until 2040 little is said about hydrogen. Is the Ministry of Climate planning any changes in the PEP in the context of hydrogen?

PEP2040 shows that the market will develop towards the use of fuels other than traditional refinery products – i.e. alternative fuels (including hydrogen, gas in the form of LNG and CNG and synthetic fuels), biofuels and electricity for transport purposes. Hydrogen and e-mobility expansion not only reduce the demand for conventional fuels, but contribute greatly to the importance of improving air quality. This is particularly critical in urban areas where transport is one of the main causes of air pollution.

The development of energy storage technologies, including the use of hydrogen, will be of paramount importance in changing the shape of the energy market. Unlike electricity, it can be stored in large quantities and for a long time. Hydrogen acts as a buffer that increases the flexibility of the system based increasingly on renewable energy sources. Thus, it makes renewable energy implementation and green energy storage possible.

It is worth emphasizing that “Polish Energy Policy until 2040” is a project and works are still underway while the dynamic development of RES and breakthrough technologies will affect its final shape.

We would like the project to be adopted by the Council of Ministers as an official document in the second half of the year. In addition, the PEP2040 will be supplemented and extended with the strategic document on hydrogen economy in Poland, currently being developed at the Ministry of Climate, which I believe will be adopted by the Council of Ministers also in the second half of this year.

Interview by Justyna Moskwik, editor of Polish Energy Brief.