PIPC chief: EU regulations punish Polish industry

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The lack of liberalisation of the energy and low-carbon energy market is one of the factors contributing to the lack of investment in Poland's chemical industry, says Wojciech Lubiewa-Wieleżyński.

Wojciech Lubiewa-Wieleżyński is chairman of the Polish Chamber of Chemical Industry. He spoke to EurActiv Poland's Maria Graczyk. Excerpts of the interview follow; the original text can be found here.

Recently, the European Commission has adopted a more critical attitude towards Gazprom. How would you evaluate this approach to the Russian monopolist?

Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, keeps saying that the politics of Gazprom have to change. The company cannot give selective treatment to different European countries. For one thousand cubic metres of gas Poland pays $550, while Germany - $432. Even after the announced reduction, the initial Polish price will be higher than the German one.

What are the greatest ills of the chemical industry at present?

… Everyone running a business needs information about the applicable rules. However, while the next phase of emission trading scheme may start already in a month’s time, the price of the carbon dioxide emissions is still unknown and the amount of emission allowances remains undisclosed given that the EC is preparing to withdraw some of them.

The Commission fears that the surplus of allowances resulting from the economic slowdown and poorer investment will discourage further reductions. In the meantime, the sectors covered by the European Emission Trading Scheme [ETS] have made an enormous effort and reduced the emissions by approximately 12% till 2011 [out of the planned 21%]. Nevertheless, the Commission still wants to punish us, while ignoring the emissions outside the ETS, which dropped by only 4%.

Add to that other cost-generating legislation, such as the directive on industrial emissions. It involves a serious danger when it comes to responsibilities for the past. Even more so, when we realise that damage does not result exclusively from the actions by Polish companies after the World War II.

It is hard to justify that a company that is operating now should pay millions for the decontamination of the areas contaminated before 1945. Such controversial provisions do not apply in other regions. Because of this law, the leading companies worldwide are reluctant to invest in Polish industrial areas. For instance, Carbochem plant’s investor got cold feet after the cost estimation. The plant collapsed, people lost jobs, while environmental problems remained.

When we look at some companies operating in Poland, we see that they build on “green grass”, on pristine meadows. The lack of liberalisation of the energy market and low-carbon energy market is one of the factors contributing to the lack of investment in the chemical industry.

What are the chances for the green energy?

As exemplified by Germany and the Czech Republic, green energy is not profitable without subsidies. Nobody seems to ponder over the fact that when it comes to solar technology, there exists a problem of disposing of photovoltaic cells. That is why we cannot call it “clean energy” but only “cleaner energy”.

The Commission is also giving up on many ideas, such as the production of bio fuels. From the scientific point of view, biodiesel is not really viable. It is much better to use biomass for energy production. Then, the indicators yield best results.

In Poland, the areas that can be used in the sector of renewable energy are mainly in the northern part of the country, where the strong winds blow. Nevertheless, wind power, especially the sea wind power, is the most expensive of all. What is more, in the north, where the wind power is to develop and in the east where a lot of biomass is available, there is little infrastructure, no transmission grid, no power plants. We would have to build them all, so reaching the required stage would take both time and money. We cannot treat renewable energy sources as a refuge for Polish energy sector.

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