This week in Poland, Katowice hosts the XI European Economic Congress, the largest such event in Central Europe.
The first day included an interesting debate on “Power and power generation – revolution, regulations and market”. Panellists, including the EURACOAL President and Chairman of the Board of the Polish Mining Group (PGG), Mr. Tomasz Rogala, expressed their views on rising energy prices, the roll out of renewable energy sources (RES) and power-sector investments, as well as on the overall security of Europe’s energy system. Other speakers included Mr. Žygimantas Vaičiūnas, the Lithuanian Minister of Energy, Mr. Krzysztof Tchórzewski, the Minister of Energy in Poland, and not forgetting Mr. Dominique Ristori, the Director-General for Energy at the European Commission.
Mr. Vaičiūnas spoke on Lithuania’s similarities with Poland as the country diversifies energy supply with new interconnectors between Lithuania and Poland, a LNG regasification terminal and innovative projects on the use of LNG in industry and transport. Mr. Tchórzewski emphasised that Poland was in a difficult situation due to the its dependence on coal, linked as it is to past decisions on the development of the Polish energy sector. He explained that Poland, unlike Hungary, Lithuania and Czechoslovakia, never developed nuclear power. In 1990, when Poland regained its independence, 99.5% of the country’s electricity came from coal. Since then, Poland has led Europe to reduce CO2 emissions, but remains in a transition that will take time – by 2040 coal’s share might still be 30%, according to the government’s strategy. Mr. Ristori responded that the Commission recognises Poland’s different situation, noting the importance of helping Poland with renewables and a “just transformation”, especially in Silesia as mines close. He underscored the importance of a long-term, decarbonisation strategy in order to push forward competitive European technologies.
EURACOAL President Rogala raised several issues:
- Changes in Europe that reminded him more of political revolution then evolution. He noted that coal production in the EU had fallen by 65% since 1990 (on an energy basis). He stressed that the ongoing political revolution meant far-reaching pressures on the indigenous coal industry, resulting in coal imports growing to 166 million tonnes in 2018 and coal mining jobs leaking out of Europe. “This builds up some kind of distrust towards state authorities and EU bodies that manage the policy”, he lamented.
- Referring to the huge use of coal globally, the EU’s negative trade balance with China and generally weak climate and environmental laws outside the EU, he was concerned about European industrial competitiveness. As a country at the EU’s border, he remarked that Poland was acutely aware of these issues. He called for some kind of border tax on products from countries with less strict climate mitigation measures.
- On clean coal technologies, the efficiency and performance of modern coal power plants was impressive, he continued. Yet, an energy transformation was in progress, so he confirmed that PGG was on track with two exciting, new projects already submitted to the European Commission for support under the Coal Regions in Transition Platform initiative.
Mr. Rogala concluded with an appeal for a balanced, cautious approach to the transformation: a transfer of value into the EU and not the transfer of companies and jobs out of the EU.