Energy Summit 2019 on “the conditions for a sustainable energy transition” took place in Warsaw on 1-2 October 2019, organised by the Polish Ministry of Energy, EURACOAL and the Polish Mining Group (PGG). Coal industry leaders from across Europe participated to discuss topics of importance. The summit was opened by Mr. Tomasz Rogala, President of EURACOAL and Chairman of the Board at PGG – the biggest hard-coal producer in Europe.
The Polish government was well represented by Mr. Krzysztof Tchórzewski, Minister for Energy, Mr. Adam Gawęda, Secretary of State and Government Plenipotentiary for the Restructuring of Coal Mining as well as Mr. Gawęda’s predecessor, MEP Grzegorz Tobiszowski, who now sits in the European Parliament where he is a member of the influential industry committee (ITRE). For family reasons, the Polish Prime Minister, Mr. Mateusz Morawiecki, had suspended his pubic duties at the time of the summit, but sent a letter of support.
The discussions were divided into four thematic panels:
- natural environment and climate change,
- security of raw materials supplies,
- society and human capital, and
- industry expectations for the energy transition.
These allowed those present to give their views of the measures needed for a safe and secure energy transition. Two views were repeated often.
Firstly, a call for some kind of protectionist measures to guard against carbon leakage, perhaps in the form of a carbon-border tax to create a level playing field for those European industries which must complete on the global market. If EU companies continue to pay ever-increasing fees related to environmental and climate policies, then their competitiveness will be lost. To survive, companies will be forced to move their production out of the EU which will then become more dependent on imported products, often made with little concern for the environment or climate. Such an outcome would not only undermine EU standards and policies at home, but also hamper their contribution to global objectives.
The second important view expressed by participants was that the energy transition needs to be a just transition. This means that it must take into account:
- the different starting points of each EU member state, based on their particular histories and legacy infrastructure;
- the magnitude of the efforts needed to transform the energy sector;
- the time that the sometimes massive social changes will take; and
- the financial support needed for investments in diversified energy sources, smart grids and energy efficiency.
This social dimension of the energy transition was highlighted by both industry representatives and trade unionists. All agreed that change should be achieved without pushing up electricity prices as this would damage industrial competitiveness and add to the existing problem of energy poverty. This point resonated with colleagues from Germany who face a coal phase-out by 2038 and its replacement with renewable energy sources. The latter have proven costly in countries such as Denmark where electricity prices are more than double those in Poland, according to Mr. Piotr Woźniak, President of the Polish gas company PGNiG.
In the closing session, the EURACOAL President, Mr. Tomasz Rogala, presented the meeting’s declaration which sets out the conditions for a sustainable energy transition. It is available here in Polish and English.