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    Poland's future energy mix: clean coal, nuclear power and offshore windfarms

    The annual UN Climate Change conference is currently taking place in Katowice Poland. Environmental activists are criticizing the Polish government for basing the country’s energy production on coal-based power plants. The Polish side argues that there is currently no feasible renewable energy source available as neither solar nor wind power is economically viable in Poland at the moment.

    However, the future could lie in clean nuclear power but it will be a while before the reactors are up and running. In connection with the Climate Change conference, Polish President Andrzej Duda has vowed that he won’t let anyone murder the Polish mining sector.

    Poland still has significant reserves of coal and intends to use them in the dozen years or so before Polish nuclear reactors will become operational. The Polish company JSW, the EU’s largest coking coal producer, has announced that it plans to increase output by 2,5 to 3 million tonnes a year.

    Environmental activists present at the UN Climate Talks in Katowice are critical of the company’s plans, saying that there is no such thing as clean coal. Corrine Le Quere, a co-author of the Global Carbon Project Report, stated at the conference in Katowice that there is cleaner and dirtier coal but in the end, greenhouse gas emissions are unavoidable as long coal will be used on an industrial scale. In her opinion, the resource which in Poland is known as “the black gold” must replaced by wind and solar energy if the world is to be able to tackle climate change and deal with air pollution. 

    Representatives from JSW argue that renewable energy sources cannot be used to replace coking coal with today’s technology and  that decades will pass before an alternative to coking coal could be developed for the blast furnaces needed in crude steel production. The company also points to the fact that despite this state of affairs, they are pulling their load to decrease emissions by investing in solar panels for other purposes and by converting methane gas into energy.

    The CEO of JSW, Daniel Ozon, emphasizes that coking coal is distinct from thermal coal for power generation, has a long future as well as being is on an EU list of strategic minerals.

    He maintains that there is simply no available technology that would be economically feasible for substituting coal in blast furnaces where crude steel is produced. Ozon is convinced that it will be another two or three decades until there is a good substitute that is economically feasible.

    The Polish Minister of Energy, Krzysztof Tchórzewski, announced in November that nuclear power will be used to decrease carbon gas emissions in Poland and that he believes that nuclear energy will provide Poland with 10 gigawatts a year by 2040.

    Another source of energy to be pursued by the ministry is offshore wind farms.The Polish state-owned power company PGE is planning to build wind parks with a capacity of 2.5 gigawatts per year. According to the plans, the wind farms will be completed after 2025.

    The farms will be built 30 kilometers north of the Polish coast, as that specific location is the only place in Poland where winds are strong enough for wind power to be economically viable. A diverse energy basket including coal-based power plants, off-shore wind farms and nuclear power is envisioned in the governments energy strategy recently published in a document titled “Poland Energy Policy 2040”.







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