Home / Commodities / Commodity News / Poland defies big polluter expectations with coal use cuts: Maguire

Poland defies big polluter expectations with coal use cuts: Maguire

Poland is expected to soon surpass Germany as Europe’s top power polluter due to aggressive planned reductions in fossil fuel use across Germany and assumptions that Poland will have no choice but remain Europe’s most coal-reliant nation for years to come.

But so far in 2023 Poland has defied expectations by cutting coal use and pollution to the lowest since at least 2014, and by raising clean power output to record highs just as Germany cut its clean generation by shutting nuclear reactors.

So instead of emerging as a climate laggard compared to wealthier European peers, Poland is keeping pace with the cuts to coal use and power emissions seen elsewhere, and may soon force emissions forecasters to trim their future pollution projections across the region.

Emissions forecasters using planned power generation data from major economies estimate that Europe’s total carbon dioxide emissions will drop by 47% from 2022’s total by 2030, largely due to planned steep cuts to coal use in Germany.

Germany, currently Europe’s top overall CO2 emitter, is seen cutting CO2 discharge by nearly 70% by 2030 from over 200 million tonnes in 2022 to less than 65 million tonnes, data compiled by Refinitiv shows.

All major European economies are also expected to notch up double-digit declines in CO2 pollution, but Germany’s cuts are expected to be by far the steepest, and will help push Germany to second in Europe’s pollution rankings behind Poland by 2028.

However, those future pollution tables are based on assumptions that Poland will be far slower than other countries in reducing coal emissions, as Poland is not expected to be able to afford the extensive energy system upgrades that are planned in wealthier Western Europe.

Poland’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is roughly 35% of Germany’s, and less than half of the average for the European Union, according to data from the World Bank.

That places the country’s government, utilities and businesses at a significant disadvantage to peers when it comes to marshalling the funds and subsidies needed to pay for power system upgrades and overhauls.

The heavy manufacturing bias to Poland’s economy also makes it the most energy intensive country in Europe, according to Ember, which means it can ill afford any drops to energy supplies or jumps in power costs that may undermine economic activity.

Nonetheless, Poland has managed to boost clean electricity supply capacity by 156% since 2018, which in percentage terms is nearly seven times more than Europe’s average over the same period, and four times more than the global average, Ember data shows.

A nearly 4,000% jump in solar power generation in January to May 2023 from the same period in 2018, along with an 80% increase in wind power, have been the drivers of Poland’s clean power advances.

Over the same time frame, Poland’s electricity generation from coal has dropped by roughly 20%, resulting in an equal magnitude drop in coal-fired emissions.

So far in 2023, Poland’s total emissions from electricity generation have dropped to new lows, falling even below the diminished levels of mid-2020 when Poland’s economy was stalled by COVID-19 lockdowns.

Patchy global demand for some of the goods produced in Poland – led by motor vehicles, electric batteries, furniture and electronics – have also resulted in a slight slowdown in factory production and energy demand in recent months.

However, Poland’s peak period for air conditioner use – which is a key source of electricity demand in every country – looms over the coming months, and should result in a rise in overall power demand through September.

Going forward, a key factor that will drive Poland’s overall electricity demand will be the price of it.

In 2022, Poland’s heavy reliance on its own coal supplies shielded the country from the worst effects of the cut-off of Russian natural gas to Europe, which sent power costs across the continent to record highs.

However, so far this year Poland’s wholesale electricity prices have climbed above those of Germany, France, The Netherlands and Spain as natural gas prices have declined by more than international coal prices.

If coal prices remain stubbornly strong relative to gas, then Poland’s power producers may find themselves in the unenviable position of potentially ranking among the highest cost electricity generators in Europe.

But such a scenario would likely underscore the attractiveness of further increasing renewable energy supplies, which in most countries are already cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives.

In any event, previous commitments to invest more than $100 billion in grid upgrades and expansions to renewable power supplies should sustain Poland’s clean power momentum, and put the country in a strong position to continue exceeding emissions reduction expectations.

Europe’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are on track to drop by 47% by 2030, driven by steep expected drops in Germany & Poland.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Gavin Maguire; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Recent Videos

Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide Online Daily Newspaper on Hellenic and International Shipping