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Brief description:

The energy and climate policy in Poland is heavily dominated by the fact that Poland is a coal-based economy. Poland is the largest producer of hard coal in the EU and the second largest in Europe, following the Russian Federation. This makes coal a hugely strategic asset for a country without nuclear power or sizeable amounts of renewables at its disposal. At the same time, being in line with the European Union and its environmental ambitions is a key political issue.

Energy production

Coal has provided Poland a cheap domestic source of energy and hard coal and lignite accounts for nearly 95% of its energy output. At the end of 2005, proved coal reserves in Poland were 14 billion tonnes. Poland also produces small quantities of oil and natural gas, while renewable sources account for a 5% of total domestic production.

Electricity generation

Electricity generation in Poland is based almost exclusively on domestic coal. The share of coal in electricity generation (92% in 2004) is the highest among the EU Member States.
The share of natural gas in electricity generation has been increasing, although it is still very low. A small percentage of electricity also comes from oil and renewable sources.
Electricity generation has been increasing in recent years.
The Polish government-approved energy programme through 2030 openly states that coal will remain a pillar of the sector, but calls for its modernization and the application of environmental-friendly technologies. Implementation of Clean Coal Technologies is hence a priority for Poland.

Emissions trends and climate policy

Polands total GHG emissions in 2009 was 395 Mt CO2-eq. With a population counting 38 million people, this makes the per capita emission 10,3 t CO2-eq. In relation to its GDP, Polands emission level is very high, compared to other European countries.
The use of renewable energies in the industrial sector is not explicitly addressed by support policies. Also, energy efficiency in industry is not targeted by specific support measures, but an energy efficiency act is currently under consideration and there are plans to introduce white certificates as an incentive for energy efficiency. The Polish transport sector is not addressed by many policies in order to make it more carbon efficient. There are no plans for electric mobility and CO2 limits for new cars do not go beyond EU legislation. Further, there is no sufficient investment budgeted for a future low-carbon infrastructure.

The Polish centre-right government has adopted a programme for Polish energy politics until 2030, including efforts to support energy efficiency, clean coal technologies and a nuclear programme. According to the plan, Poland's coal deposits will continue to form the backbone of the energy supply, but steps will be taken in various directions to diversify energy sources. It is not predicted that demand for coal in Poland will increase in future but its position in the energy balance will still be basic.

More than for other countries, the technology of Carbon Capture and Storage could hence be pivotal. The Polish government, who seeks to secure funding for test facilities at Polish plants, welcomes European investments in CCS research. The Ministry of the Environment stresses that CCS is one of many Clean Coal Technologies to be explored. The current research phase would also have to be completed, before a broader debate and a possible commercial scale introduction could take place. Recently, the European Commission acquired control over the allocation of CCS research support, which is yet to be done. The ambition is to spread the funds over a wide array of European test sites.

Regulatory developments

Between 2011 and 2012, Poland has been working to transpose the EU CO2 Storage Directive. Amendments to its Geological and Mining Law have been adopted by the Council of Ministers, though these relate only to demonstration of CCS up until 2026. A first draft of the Act has been prepared, but final wording needs to be agreed. It will then move to stakeholder consultation, before being adopted by government, but will still need to be analysed by the Lower and Upper houses.

Test site in Poland

The largest single CO2 emitter in Europe, the Bełchatów lignite-fired plant, was cancelled in April 2013. The overall cost of the project is to be €625m. Belchatow is the world's second largest fossil fuel fired power plant with total installed power capacity of 4,440 megawatts. Another CCS system in Poland is a zero-emissions project in Kedzierzyn, where both underground gasification of coal and CCS is to be used for the electricity-generating plant. Kedzierzyn got a favourable rating from Commission experts during a demonstration project in 2009.


Among the largest challenges for deployment of CCS in Poland are the same as for many other European countries: the costs and public acceptance. The Polish Ministry of Economy estimates that the capture of one tonne of carbon could cost €60 and the cost of the production of 1 megawatt/hour may hence increase by 20%.
I addition to this, scepticism about whether climate change is caused by human activities is also more widespread in the polish community than in other major EU countries. This is illustrated by the Geological Science Committee of the Polish Academy of Science, which is calling for more research to determine the cause of global warming.  
Furthermore, there are environmental groups that are overall sceptical towards CCS based on the common arguments against CCS. For example, the Green Party doubts whether it will be ready soon enough to contribute in the mitigation of climate change. Its representatives argue that instead of CCS, which causes a decrease in efficiency, one should replace ageing plants and structures and expand cogeneration (CHP). The Gaia Club, another environmental organisation, points at the need for a fundamental change in lifestyle, and argues that CCS has not yet been subject to a broad debate in the society.
Professor Marek Jarosiński, director of the Department of Geological Mapping at the Polish Geological Institute, says many in the geological community in Poland see CCS as a profitable object for research. Himself, he would like to see investments in other clean carbon technologies, as well as in nuclear power, smaller bio gas and wind power plants. Also natural coal sequestration sites such as forests and wetlands should be protected and accounted for in the CO2 balance of the country.

Storage capacity

According to the Tarowski (2008) the Mesozoic brine aquifers of Polish Lowlands have a total capacity of storing 22 342 Mt CO2. The defined capacity equals Poland’s carbon dioxide emission for 70 years.
The Polish Geological Institute, which deals with the CO2 storage issue, also states that the geological conditions of storage in Poland are good enough. The Department coordinates the first stage of demonstration project by the Bełchatów Power plant, and acts a leader of the consortium for assessment of formations and structures for safe CO2 geological storage, including monitoring.

Economy, security - and sustainability

The politics and policy seem on the governing side to be directed by the economical reality of coal dependency on the one side, and the importance of international relations on the other. CCS is envisioned as a way to make coal - still an economic and strategic must for many years to come - acceptable. On the other hand, Poland's low energy efficiency opens the field for other solutions, attractive to price conscious, climate-sceptic Conservatives and zero-emission striving ecologists alike. Energy efficiency is brought to the fore both by Greens and economical interests, with important differences in end goals. Coal power needs to get more efficient to stay cheap, but energy efficiency is also the easiest and most attractive way to lower emissions. Apart from economy and control of emissions, energy security is and remains a key point for Poland. Coal is an ingenious energy source, and given the Polish history this is a stronger point than for many other European countries. A more diverse supply of power is essential, but an increased dependence on Russian gas is not an option. Coal will still be a strategic asset, even if carbon capture will make it more expensive.

The progress of CCS research will be closely monitored, but the problem remains to fit the process with the time frames of emission cuts as well as with the economic realities. Beside the points made earlier: If coal is no longer cheap - why use it at all, one might ask? On the other hand, grounds for optimism lie in the scale of coal-fired power production, as the Bełchatów plant now developing CCS capability delivers up to 20% of the Polish energy output. Still, apart from the opinions of professionals and politicians, a general debate about localisation and possible side effects of large-scale CCS implementation has yet to surface.


Stille, G.: The politics and policy of carbon capture and storage

Ministry of Economy, 2009

European Commision 2007,

Tarkowski: CO2 storage capacity of geological structures located within Polish Lowlands’ Mesozoic formations

Projects in Poland: