10 theses about CO2 emissions

06.08.2017 | By Paweł Musiałek

The issue of CO2 emissions in Poland has such an effect on Poles like a red rag on a bull. It is commonly believed that it is the limitation of carbon dioxide emissions that is at the root of all the evil that affects Polish power industry and even the entire Polish economy. Such opinions are not groundless. The low carbon economy actually costs the EU a lot, and Poland, in particular, as a the result of the carbon monoculture of our energy system. Nevertheless, a lot of myths and half-truths have arisen around this theme, which only gives rise to frustrations and a victim syndrome, instead of helping to find constructive solutions. Below you may find 10 theses which should be borne in mind when talking about EU climate policy.

1. Poland must counteract its false image of the “brakeman” in the process of reducing CO2 emissions. Poland is the country which reduced CO2 emissions by around 30% between 1988 and 2012, despite the fact that the Kyoto Protocol obliged us to reduce CO2 emission by as little as 6%. This is one of the record results. It is definitely something that we should be proud of, especially that many countries that criticize us for being overly defensive towards EU climate policy have achieved much less reduction in emissions in the same period of time.

2. It must be borne in mind that the funds proceeding from companies which buy CO2 allowances remain in the country. They replenish the budget of the Ministry of the Environment;they stay in the Polish economy and because of that they can be used to modernize the infrastructure.

3. The inclusion of forests in the calculation of CO2 emissions, which the Minister of the Environment Jan Szyszko is trying to do, is a good way to reduce the cost of low carbon emissions. As a country rich in forests (30% of the country’s area), we should promote their inclusion in the carbon balance under the “carbon-yes, emissions-no” concept. After all, the EU declares that decarbonisation is “technologically” neutral.

4. We will have to bear the cost of exchanging old coal-fired power units for new ones because it is required by the energy system. New blocks will not only increase the efficiency of coal-fired power plants from 30% to 45%, but will also reduce CO2 emissions.

5. Poland has a great potential for expanding cogeneration. Generating electricity and heat in a heat and power plant can bring significant energy savings. For this purpose, in all Polish cities boiler houses producing only heat should be replaced with electrical power and heating plants, which will result both in savings and in technical modernization.

6.The burning of coal should be eliminated in those Polish cities where there is a problem with air quality. This requires the expansion of the heating network which will translate into large savings in coal consumption and therefore a reduction in CO2 emissions.

7. The development of RES which supports decarbonisation in Poland should not be treated as something negative. In the next few years, apart from the power blocks in Opole, Kozienice, Jaworzno which are being constructed at the moment, there will be no new installations because they require many years of preparation and construction. Newly constructed wind farm installations are probably the only chance to fill the gaps in the system caused by the need to close old blocks and the planned comissioning of newly built blocks after 2020.

8. The impact of RES on energy prices in Poland is not unequivocally favorable, as the cost of subsidies for green energy (about PLN 4 billion per year) is offset by a reduction in the stock price thanks to increasing the power system capacity in the Polish power system. Over the past five years, the prices have fallen from almost PLN 210 / MWh to PLN 170-180 / MWh, ie by almost 15%. This year is likely to bring further decrease. The main beneficiary of this situation is the energy-intensive industry. It should also be stressed that the cost of RES subsidies paid by electricity generators has also fallen, even though the obligation to buy green certificates has increased over the five years to 10.4% to 14% of energy production, as they have significantly lowered the price of mandatory green certificates ( Confirm the production of RES energy). Today they can be bought for just over 100 zł / MWh, whereas in early 2012 they cost 280 PLN / MWh. Over the past five years, the total cost of energy purchases and subsidies to renewable energy borne by the most energy-intensive industries has fallen by about a quarter.

9. The prices of CO2 emission allowances remain low, which, to a limited extent, affects the competitiveness of power plants.

10. The problems with the sale of Polish coal are not due to EU climate policy, but to the bad sector management by the state. The key to reaching the profitability of the mines lies in Upper Silesia and not in Brussels.

So far, national policy has focused on obtaining transitional periods for energy and slowing the course towards low carbon energy. There have been too few constructive solutions. Instead of complaining, politicians should get down to work to make use of the climate policy to modernize the entire energy system. Now it is time to finish trying to reach “a draw” and to “take the offensive”. The earlier it will happen, the greater the chance of gaining benefits or at least of minimizing costs.

International_Visegrad_Fund,_emblemo_bluaThis text was created thanks to support of International Visegrad Found.

Photo: public domain (https://pl.wikipedia.org)