Poland Emissions Reduction Strategy

Poland: Sustainable Energy Plan for Warsaw in the Perspective of 2020 (SEAP)

“There are no effective national policies” currently in place that have any ability to reduce Poland’s greenhouse gas emissions, says Kuba Gogolewski of Development YES–Open Pit Mines–NO (DY–OPMN), an NGO that is looking to stop the country’s continual investment in coal mining and transition Poland to an economy based in renewable energies. “The policies that are most efficient are the regional policies for the development of low emissions strategies and renewables energies, rather than central strategies,” he goes on to say.

The most prime example of this is the country’s capital. With a population of 1.7 million, Warsaw is going down a much cleaner path than the rest of the country. The current ruling conservative right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) has committed the national government to coal for Poland’s energy future. Conversely, Warsaw’s Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a member of the more centrist Civic Platform Party, is an advocate of both sustainable development and climate action. She has also been repeatedly outspoken about Poland’s pro-coal status, and has criticized the “undemocratically” and “unambitious” decisions made by the Polish government concerning decarbonization efforts and clean energy targets.

Since she was first elected into office in 2006, Gronkiewicz-Waltz has made sure her city reflects her beliefs. In 2009, the city became a member of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, a coalition of regional and local European leaders committed to implementing EU standards for climate protection and energy efficiency. Gronkiewicz-Waltz managed to make Warsaw a leader in local renewable energy use through efforts set forth in the Sustainable Energy Action Plan for Warsaw in the Perspective of 2020 (SEAP) (2011).

Though SEAP had the political powerhouse Gronkiewicz-Waltz behind them, it was ultimately the residents of Warsaw that decided to go down this clean path. Much of the EU’s most polluted air is found in Polish cities, turning it into a national health issue. The plan addresses the concerns of residents and provides an outline for air quality improvements.

SEAP is a unique plan that directly lays out what the local government needs and doesn’t need to do, not just make nebulous suggestions like many national policies before it. Based on EU standards, SEAP’s goals aim for Warsaw to cut it dioxide emissions by 20%, reduce energy consumption by 20%, and increase the use of energy from renewable sources by 20%, all by 2020 (compared to the base year of 2007).

With €2 billion of investments, in 2014, Warsaw made its way to the halfway mark of achieving these goals. Transportation, which is responsible for 15% of Warsaw’s total greenhouse gas emissions, has been modernized to not only make it more appealing over private transportation, but to include energy-efficient trains, and electric buses and trams when possible. Public bike stands have been set up to reduce private transport. Hybrid vehicles have replaced usual city vehicles (such as garbage trucks). The housing sector was also made more energy efficient through lighting upgrades, energy efficient appliances, and thermal retrofit (insulation to save on heating). Together this is meant to cut back on heat and electricity which make up 78% of Warsaw’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Lastly, the most important part of these plans is the cultural change Warsaw is promoting. Through education and public awareness (such as educating students on energy issues in the classroom and Warsaw Energy Day), the city is shifting the view citizens have on clean energy and climate change.

Despite Warsaw’s shining example, and similar policies that already exist in Germany and other Nordic countries which could easily apply to Poland’s similar climate (particularly when it comes to their wind energy potential), other regions in Poland haven’t gotten the message. In theory, these policies could be extended to the national level.

However, “there just isn’t the political dynamic for change,” as Kuba Gogolewski puts it. “I don’t think either this election or any election will bring any changes on the central government.” He goes on to describe how there will only be a real change brought about by economic incentive. This could happen in two ways, either clean energy will flood the market with cheap energy, and drive more expensive coal out. Another way could be what is also happening in Warsaw right now, where policies that promote energy efficiency lead to economic outcomes that residents approve of such as a cheaper electric or heating bills.

Because of this and Poland’s status as a post-communist society, measures that would involve every citizen aren’t always warmly welcomed. While Poland’s policies might try to softly incentivize people to participate and attract support through economic breaks, countries without a similar past could probably be more direct when it comes to changes in citizen’s lives that would benefit the clean energy and climate protection sectors.

Lastly, one unique aspect of Poland that might affect how this policy could be adopted in other countries is state-ownership. Public transportation, power plants, even some housing are all state-owned, which can have its benefits and pitfalls. In Warsaw, it allowed for easy transition to make homes more energy efficient, because government officials didn’t have to negotiate with private owners. However, outside of Warsaw, state-owned coal power plants are protected, leading to no true effective national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Poland.

Learn More

Read more about SEAP at: http://mycovenant.eumayors.eu/docs/seap/19658_1432717790.pdf

Read more about what the Mayor of Warsaw has to say about “Financing Sustainable Global Cities of the Future” http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/03/financing-sustainable-global-cities-of-the-future/

Read more about Warsaw’s leading sustainable energy policies are an inspiration for LED

Poland Energy Production Trends

How the Energy System is Structured

The Ministry of Economy is responsible for formulating energy policy in Poland. It recently released its energy policy for 2030 which states that Poland is oriented to the fulfillment of  EU-climate energy policy. Its top priority is energy efficiency improvement. It seeks to “achieve further development of the Polish economy without an increase in primary energy density and a decrease in the energy intensity of the economy to the level of EU-15.”

As energy security is a high policy priority, Poland is enhancing gas supply security by building an LNG terminal, expanding underground storage capacity, and increasing domestic gas production. Polish plans for developing electricity and gas cross-border links will also contribute to the regional security of supply. In addition, the government has announced an ambitious nuclear programme by 2030, envisaging the first unit to enter operation by 2022. Other goals include an increased share of renewables and a stronger focus on energy research and development (R&D).

In 2015, the  ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party announced a new Law on Renewable Energy Sources (“RES Law”), and have repeatedly released revisions. The most recent version from earlier this year, signed by President Andrzej Duda, imposes additional requirements that limit the available space that can be used for wind farms. These new regulations now limit where new wind turbines can be built (specific distances away from national parks and residential areas), and now require certain permits that have to be regularly renewed. This is just another case of the PiS’s preferential treatment toward the coal industry, through attempts at limiting their clean competition and hindering their ability to fully commit to clean energy and the Paris Agreement.
Sources of Energy

Poland  sources around 90% of its electricity from fossil fuels. The country’s energy sector is responsible for the vast majority of GHG emissions. Of the electricity Poland used in 2013, coal was used to make up a 55% majority, followed by oil (26%), natural gas (15%), and finally  biomass and other renewable energy sources (4%).

Profiles of  Leading Energy Companies

Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE): The Polish Energy Group (Polska Grupa Energetyczna, PGE) is one of the largest power companies in Poland. The company is state-owned, with the its biggest shareholder being the Polish State Treasury, which controls almost 60% of the company (58.39% to be exact). PGE produces, sells, and delivers almost 40% of the electricity on the Polish market through a vast vertical network that includes coal mines for fuel resources, power-generating plants, and distribution networks. In 2015, they supplied 55.58 TWh of electricity to an estimated 5.26 million consumers through 49.40 million tons of lignite alone. Hard coal, in addition to lignite, makes up 91% of PGE’s fuel to generate its electricity, while gas makes up 4% and renewables make up 5%.

Since the early 2000s, many of Poland’s coal-powered power plants have incorporated “renewable energy” practices into their coal usage through biomass co-firing. This is the method of incorporating biomass, usually in the form of imported wood, straw, and peanut shells, to burn with coal, making the process “greener”. Biomass is (as of 2014) the dominate renewable energy source in Poland, with 85% of electricity generated by renewable sources coming from it (compared to the EU’s 43.8% average). PGE has stated that they are open to the potential growth this method has, if there are renewable energy source support systems to help encourage it.

PGE’s practices’ projected impact on greenhouse gas emissions is dependent on government legislation. Currently, the government is investing into coal industries to revamp and modernize Soviet-era power plants.  Beyond 2020, PGE will be implementing a new investment program, dependent on selected strategic options (developing modern coal-fired power generation, off-shore wind farms or a nuclear power plant). The choice will be determined by the external factors, among others: European Union’s climate and energy policy, the power system’s needs, or market model.

That being said, it is clear that PGE is waiting for the political seas to calm before they announce official plans for future investment, or a decision to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Any future investment will follow the new Law and Justice Party’s (PiS) right-wing agenda and government funding, which, as of now, is going into coal and co-firing subsidies. It is also worth noting that PGE’s mission statement guarantees energy security, a sentiment that has been repeatedly mirrored by President Andrzej Duda (PiS), among other government officials, as a priority for the country.

PGE’s practices’ projected impact, if it continues down this energy path, will be detrimental to Poland’s natural resources and the environment. Mining companies have been accused of polluting or draining lakes and wetlands, resulting in major problems for the local citizens and the country’s strong agricultural industries. Additionally, the World Health Organization estimates that of the EU’s  50 most-polluted cities, two-thirds of them are in Poland, largely thanks to the country’s coal industry.

Senvion: Although biomass is the leading RES, wind power is the fastest growing. Statistics from 2014 show that it generates just over 8% of Poland’s clean energy, up from 6.3% the year before. Senvion, a German-based, international manufacturing company, is taking advantage of the growing interest in wind energy. As a global leader in wind turbines, they pride themselves on being involved in every step of the process from planning, to installation, to future maintenance. An early version of their company even installed Poland’s first wind farm, and now has starting construction on one of Poland’s biggest wind farms, which has the capacity to generate 73.1 MW, enough to power over 92,000 Polish homes. Overall, Senvion Polska Sp. (Senvion’s current Poland-specific branch) installed almost 200 turbines, enough to generate 350 MW of electricity for Poland, and has cited independent reports, such as International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) 2015 report, REmap 2030 Renewable Energy Prospects for Poland, that estimate that Poland’s clean energy sector has the potential to power more than one-fourth of Poland’s total energy usage by 2030, given the right investment. IRENA’s report also goes on to state that a reducing fossil fuel dependence would save the country $2 billion each year in costs associated with the environment and health benefits.

Unfortunately, this continual growth isn’t guaranteed and these figures haven’t caught up to the recent political shift that has happened in the country since the PiS Party came into power. Like many other companies that make up Poland’s renewable energy industry, Senvion is a German company controlled by foreign capital, with the majority of shares held by an American-based private investment firm. Poland has had other foreign wind energy companies, such as Danish DONG Energy and Spanish Iberdrola Renewables, withdraw from Poland, and sell off their assets in the country because of the unpredictable legal environment that threatens RES investment.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Kathleen Gorman

Poland Emission Reduction Challenges

Leading Emission Reduction Challenges: (a) Dependence on fossil fuels as energy sources, especially coal; (b) Political opposition to climate change legislation


Current Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels

A perfect storm of conservative political figures, and an addiction to coal threatens Poland’s ability to honor its pledge in the Paris Agreement. Between 2008 and 2012, the EU’s top producer and consumer of coal had a total GHG emission of 367.25 MtCO₂e, coming mainly from the country’s energy industries (electricity and heating), followed by transportation, and then agriculture. When it comes to fossil fuel dependency, 91% of Poland’s energy supply is based in fossil fuel consumption (compared to the 73% EU average). Nevertheless, in the grand, global scheme of things, Poland is responsible for about 1% of global GHG emissions.


Emission Reduction Challenges

Regardless of their small global impact, Poland still has one of the most carbon-intensive economies of the EU. The country is full of Soviet era coal infrastructure that has continued its coal addiction, even as its neighboring countries, such as Germany, shift to cleaner energy sources. About 70% of this Soviet-era infrastructure is 30+ years old and, even more unfortunate, the government is devoting resources to renewing these plants instead of cleaner alternatives. Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski’s sees “building more efficient coal power plants will get us better results in cutting CO2 emissions than building renewable energy sources like wind or solar.” Poland is sticking to what it knows to grow – coal.

Many politicians from the current political party in charge, the conservative, Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party (PiS), share similar views to the Energy Minister. The country’s Minister of Environment, Jan Szyszko, also of the PiS, even has nonchalantly referred to EU proposed greenhouse gas emission targets as an “inconvenience.”  In addition to using coal as a way to grow their economy, they also cite the resource as the foundation of energy security, an idea that Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, a coal miner’s daughter, and other members of government have repeatedly emphasized.

Poland’s Deputy Energy Minister Andrzej Piotrowski has stated that “wind generation is not a reliably stable source of electricity” and has not only taken actions accordingly to undercut the clean energy industry, but done little to explore these alternatives.  As Poland is stuck with aging infrastructure in a changing climate where international investors are looking to finance clean energy sources, during a time when coal has been at record low prices, the PiS controlled parliament passed a bill that imposes greater restrictions on wind turbine construction (further limiting where they could be built) as a way to curtail the fledging industry so that the focus remains on coal.

This sentiment exists even at the highest level, where President Andrzej Duda (PiS) has called for more research into clean energy sources, to provide established proof they could provide a viable alternative.  “Binding Poland to an international agreement affecting the economy and with associated social costs should be preceded by a detailed analysis of the legal and economic impact…. These effects have not been sufficiently explained.” Despite his skepticism, the government hasn’t announced any plans to fund future research.

Poland’s Ministry of the Environment’s 2003 report “Poland’s Climate Policy: The strategies for greenhouse gas emission reductions in Poland until 2020” has suggested a laundry list of climate policy recommendations to help move Poland into a greener society. This report also includes encouraging research and monitoring Poland’s possible climate changes or possible scenarios that might result from those changes, as President Duda had suggested (even though the report is from before his time), but again makes no plans on how to turn that suggestion into action.

The Ministry of the Environment has reported on the scarcity of environmental education, news coverage, and overall knowledge about all things environmental or sustainable, and the need to change this. The report suggests a range of changes from logistical to cultural. They include teaching environmental protection and sustainable development in all levels of education, and starting recycling programs. (There is also a small part devoted to forestry, which the Poles were so passionate about during the Paris Agreement)

Though the Ministry of the Environment’s report provides recommendations, they are vague and hallow: they are listed as “specific objectives” with little guidance on how to turn them into action. The report also suggests that all change should happen through the “correct functioning of market mechanisms,” reiterating Poland’s emphasis on its economy. It is also of note that this report was published in 2003 (before Poland even joined the EU) and hasn’t been updated since.

Investment in clean energy is needed to undermine the Polish coal addiction. Numerous reports state the renewable energy sector holds the potential for hundreds of thousands of new jobs over the next two decades, which would create the prefect opportunities for those individuals whose livelihoods depends on coal mining and other high-carbon industries. There seems to be many different, greener paths ahead of Poland, if only the country would take them on, instead of focusing on its coal past.

–Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Kathleen Gorman


Useful Resources

CAIT Climate Data Explorer – Poland

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Poland 2015

Poland’s Climate Policy: The strategies for greenhouse gas emission reductions in Poland until 2020

 2015 Country-Specific Recommendations in Support of the European Semester Process

Poland Ratification Status

Possibility of Ratification by 2018: Low

To date, Poland has not ratified the Paris Agreement.

In 1989, Communism collapsed in Poland and the country shifted to democracy. This democratic nation now has a President, a Prime Minister, and a Parliament. The Constitution, established in 1997, assigns power to separate parts of the government so they can balance each other. Executive power is assigned to the President, or the Head of State, and the Council of Ministers. Judicial power lies in the courts and tribunals. Legislative power is given to the Parliament, headed by the Prime Minister. This part consists of the upper house, called the Senate or Senat (with 260 Deputies), and a lower house, called the Sejm (with 100 Senators). Both parts contain Deputies or Senators who serve for 4 years.

Democratic elections are held, and the D’Hondt method is used, where seats in either part of the Parliament are allocated to political parties based on the proportion of votes they received. The top 5 political parties with control of the Parliament currently are the Law and Justice Party (Pis), Civic Platform (PO) Kukiz’15 (K’15), Modern (.M), and the Polish People’s Party (PSL). The majority of these parties, as and such the majority of the Parliament, have right-wing nationalistic and Eurosceptic leanings, which isn’t a good playing field for the Paris Agreement. The majority are very protective of Poland’s coal industry, and the vast number of voters they employ, as well as very focused on strengthening the Polish economy. Politicians are reluctant to agree to a treaty that would limit an industry their economy is based on, and make Poland less competitive in the global market.

Late last year, Poland had a democratic election that resulted in the conservative Eurosceptic PiS winning both the majority vote and the majority of Parliament, starting the first time a single party held a majority party since the fall of Communism. PiS currently has 235 of the 460 seats in Sejm, and 61 of the 100 seats in Senate.

This victory marked a strong shift to the right, and set Poland down a nationalistic and authoritarian path. After their recent election, the party implemented stricter laws and more controls on civil service, courts, and media. So strict, in fact, that the EU threatened them with sanctions for going against the Council of Europe’s Standards.

One of these changes to the courts involves rearranging certain procedures so that a 2/3 majority is required, contrasting the previous 1/3 majority previously needed.

Also after the election, President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydło, both of the PiS, were put into their respective offices.

In April 2016, Polish Prime Minister Szydło signed the Paris Agreement after the COP 21 United Nations Climate Change Conference that took place in Paris in December 2015. As an international agreement, it is up to the Polish President Duda to approve the agreement and Poland’s part in it, and ratify it. Alternatively, if the President vetoes the agreement, the Parliament can override his veto through the new three fifth majority (which would be highly unlikely, considering their political leanings). Unfortunately, however, there haven’t even been talks to start the ratification process.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Kathleen Gorman

Learn more: