US commentators even suggested that American gas suppliers could help reduce Poland’s dependence on Russia’s state oil company, Gazprom, which provides 59% of the annual natural gas consumption of the country. The Polish government has stated that it will not renew its contract with Gazprom after it expires in 2022.
Poland’s ambitious plan to become independent in energy is not just about cutting ties with the oil-rich neighbor. The coal that is produced in Silesia accounts for 80% of Poland’s total electricity and 45% of the primary energy needs of the country.
Poland ranks second in coal-fired electricity only behind South Africa. Natural gas, a relatively clean technology, is only used to meet a small portion of Poland’s energy needs, about 14%.
Poland, the seventh-largest economy in the EU, has experienced an unbroken run of economic growth since 2004. This is largely due to the cheap, continuous supply of coal produced domestically. Warsaw, as successive governments made clear, has no intention to abandon this vital energy resource.
Then-deputy premier Janusz Piechocinski told the European Parliament in November 2013, before the current government came to power, that his country would never abandon coal, regardless of the decision made by the European Union about limiting carbon dioxide emissions.
After taking office in August of 2015, Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, used the occasion to remind that 100,000 jobs were dependent on coal. This energy source is ” the basis of Poland’s sovereignty.”
Polish officials only partially welcomed EU emission targets, including the ” Winter package” that was recently announced. They made good use of the treaties, which gave member states the right to choose their fuel mix. Warsaw has seen EU policies as a way to reduce the use of coal in Poland.
They are not wrong. From 1980 to 2005, the European Union was a leader in the world in terms of clean coal technologies. This was in large part due to European Commission leadership.
Environmentalists are not happy with Poland’s dependence on coal. Agencja Gazeta/Reuters
Alternatives to fossil fuels
Poland has tried to complement coal rather than eliminate it. In order to explore alternative energy sources beyond Russia and coal, the government authorized the construction of Swinoujscie’s gas terminal in 2014. This is where Cheniere’s shipment will arrive.
Lithuania is a secondary source of gas. In October 2014, it opened a Liquid Natural Gas Terminal in Klaipeda. It is now receiving European Commission Funding for the construction of the GIPL gas interconnector Poland-Lithuania. This will have a 2.4 cm capacity.
The Baltic-Pipe Poland Denmark gas interconnector is a third option that’s currently being planned. It could bring approximately 10 billion cubic meters of Norwegian gas per year to Poland. However, it is still years away from becoming operational.
The Polish debate on nuclear energy has been ongoing for many years. However, it is unlikely to be a substitute in the near future. Although the Polish government declared in 2005 that it would put its first nuclear power plant into operation “soon thereafter 2020″, these plans have not progressed beyond ” localization studies and environmental studies.”
It is unlikely that Poland will be able to meet its domestic gas needs anytime soon, which are estimated at 15 cm annually.
Collaborative Carbon Capture
There is a way out. Poland can meet its energy requirements while still complying with EU regulations on carbon dioxide by utilizing carbon capture and storage technologies.
In countries like China, India, and Poland, clean coal technologies are being developed and used. The governments of these countries encourage the use and development of technologies to reduce coal pollution, emissions, and other harmful effects.
Piyush Goyal, India’s Energy Minister, is implementing plans to retire old thermal coal plants and replace them with more efficient supercritical plants that are less polluting. Around 3,000 MW of outdated capacity have already been retired. This has helped reduce India’s chronic pollution and encouraged the adoption of modern, more efficient facilities.
India also has smaller-scale carbon capture, storage, and utilization projects, which have the potential to make these technologies economically viable for the very first time.
Carbon capture and storage is an EU priority. As the International Energy Agency modeled in 2015, its widespread adoption will play a critical role in meeting global climate targets as set forth by the Paris Climate Accord.
The Polish government has taken the position that new coal-based energy technologies should be developed in Poland. Krzysztof tchorzewski, Energy Minister of Poland, said that Poland will develop its coal technology for IGCC Projects at the Fourth Power Ring Conference in Warsaw held in December 2016.
Poland could better utilize its resources by working with partners outside the country to develop technologies that reduce coal emissions. Warsaw can preserve its priorities by ensuring its energy security while contributing to the EU climate targets.
The arrival of American liquefied gas in Poland is a positive development, but it will not have a significant impact on Poland’s energy situation.