Poland unsure about its energy mix

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Speakers at a conference held recently in Warsaw criticised EU energy policies especially those favouring expensive green energy, but also admitted that the country was not sure what kind of energy mix it wants. EURACTIV Poland reports.

The topic of symposium, which took place on 18 March, was “The future of energy production in Polish chemical industry”. It was organised by euractiv.pl in cooperation with the Polish Chamber of Chemical Industry and the Information Office of the European Parliament in Poland.

William Garcia, director of the Energy, HSE and Logistics programme at the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), said that this branch of industry was responsible for 1.1% of European GDP, with 1.2 million people directly employed. Indirectly, this number rises to 4.5 million, he added.

The chemical industry is responsible for 30% of industrial energy consumption, which equals 10% of the total EU consumption, Garcia said. That is why the chemical industry representatives were interested in the steps taken by the European Union in terms of energy and climate legislation.

Garcia expressed his concern about what he called a growing gap in gas prices between the United States and EU countries which causes, among others, the rise in prices of ethylene, widely used in the chemical industry.

EU perspective on energy market

MEP Konrad Szyma?ski (ECR) spoke in favour of gas import diversification and development of shale gas.

Szyma?ski said a “significant change” was needed in the balance between local resources and imports, with unconventional gas should play an important role there. However, he said environmental issues could limit the profitability of these investments.

Another important point which he singled out was the development of liquid natural gas technology.

Szyma?ski called the “tightening” of the climate policy “a sign of disloyalty with the new member states”. He said he believed that actions such as suspension of ETS auctioning will result in the loss of European competitiveness in the face of cheaper energy prices in Russia or the United States. This would lead to the transfer of investment capital away from Europe, he said.

The European Commission positions were presented by Andrzej Rudka from DG Enterprise and Industry. In terms of shale gas policy, Rudka announced that the Commission would unveil its orientations by November. For this purpose, the review of legislation of the eight countries most interested in exploration of shale gas deposits has been commissioned, he said.

Criticism of EU Policy

Krzysztof ?mijewski, secretary-general of the Social Council for the Development of Low-Carbon Economy, criticised the EU what he called his lack of action in terms of building new interconnectors, adding that these weaknesses were used by other players, such as Russia.

Another problem he said was the project of ‘smart grids’, ?mijewski said, adding that their implementation stopped at the stage of automatic meter reading (AMR) system. At this stage “smart grids are not too smart”, he said.

Wojciech Lubiewa-Wiele?y?ski, president of the Polish Chamber of Chemical Industry, regretted what he called the Commission’s unwillingness to implement the proposals of the chemical industry, such as logistical integration and taking the type of fuel into account in case of indirect emissions.

Garcia called “illogical” the fact that companies will have to pay more for energy just because it is ecological. He argued that this would limit the investment potential of the sector, pose a threat in terms of competitiveness and lead to moving production outside the EU.  

“To grow, you need energy – in this case the cheapest energy possible. Energy prices in the EU are expected to grow and this is a threat,” he said.

He was supported by Grzegorz Kozakowski from Polish energy company Orlen, who listed some of what he said were the shortcomings of climate policy, such as biofuels or carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

Andrzej Szcz??niak, expert on fuel market, argued that the EU would not become competitive because, he siad, it does not have the resources. He also advised caution with regard to LNG imports from the United States, saying that the costs of transport could make it less competitive than generally assumed.

Polish case

El?bieta Wróblewska from the Department of Energy of the Ministry of Economy admitted that the aims of the Polish energy policy were not always the same as the European priorities.

“There is no reason to increase the [climate change] reduction target,” she argued, referring to the uncertain international conditions in the perspective of the agreement which is to be adopted in 2015.

Wróblewska presented a long list of problems that the Polish energy sector has to tackle. Among these, she listed the increased import of coal, the lack of perspective for exploring new lignite deposits caused by climate targets and the distant projections of shale gas exploration.

Wojciech St?pniewski, expert of the Climate Coalition, criticised the lack of legal framework. Companies wait and do not invest which is dangerous, he said, bearing in mind that the vision of a power deficit in 2015 looms over the horizon.

To prevent this from happening, energy such as photovoltaic power plants should be promoted, he said.

This view was supported by Marcello Deplano, managing director of Relight CEE. “Investors can leave forever”, he warned.

“Expensive photovoltaic energy is a myth,” said Stanis?aw Pietruszko, head of the Polish Photovoltaic Association. He referred to the report on the development of energy market, published by Shell. In 2040 photovoltaic energy (PV) will become the fourth energy generation source (now it is thirteenth) – behind oil, gas and coal. In 2060 40% of energy will be generated in this way, making PV the biggest source.

Photovoltaic power is expected to increase from 70 GW in 2011 to 20000 GW in 2050.

“We are not sure what energy mix we want”, said Pietruszko, referring to Poland’s indecision over the issue.

?mijewski also expressed his support for PV. He stressed that Poland had the right conditions to develop it and greater potential than Great Britain; however, it is Great Britain that invests more in this technology, he said.

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