Poland, like many East European nations, relies heavily on coal. Approximately 90 percent of the country’s electricity comes from coal. Worse yet, over two thirds of Poland’s coal-fired plants are over 30 years old and thus highly inefficient.
This means Polish citizens breathe the second dirtiest air in the European Union. A recent study from the European Environment Agency noted that six of the ten most polluted cities in Europe are in the Poland.
It is no surprise that local populations want to change that. As Greenpeace reported recently, a recent poll showed that 89% of Polish citizens are in favor of increasing renewable energy production in the country and that as many as 73% want their government to be active in preventing dangerous climate change.
The New York Times recently reported that hundreds of people recently protested the dreadful air pollution in Krakow, the second largest city in Poland, whose air is the third most polluted in Europe (see study mentioned above).
Politicians however aren’t so willing to change all that.
As Julia Michalak from Climate Action Network Europe explains, “The Polish government is not listening to the Polish society. Politicians are determined to maintain Poland’s outdated coal-dominated energy model. They’re defending the interests of those benefiting from centralized energy system with state-owned large utilities controlling the market. The government is ignoring clean energy investment opportunities.”
But a breath of fresher and cleaner air could soon arrive.
A report carried out by several institutions including the European Renewable Energy Council, Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council, shows that Poland could halve the quantity of electricity it generates from coal by investing massively into energy efficiency and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass.
Coal could thus account for 60 TWh in 2030, compared to 120 TWh currently. Renewable energy sources accounted in 2010 for 7.8 percent of Poland’s total primary energy demand. This proportion could rise to 26.8 percent by 2030.
Such a move would cost $264 billion (191 billion euros), or twice the money currently spent each year but would create 100,000 jobs in the next two decades and alleviate air pollution. In the long term, the country would also save money as wind and solar, once installed, are free.
Poland recently hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw. It also recently hosted the International Coal Summit.