Poland has been urged to clean up its energy sector in a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
In a review of Poland’s energy policies released this week, IEA Director Fatih Birol said that while the nation's forthcoming energy strategy is expected to focus on long-term energy security, emissions reduction and increased energy efficiency, achieving these objectives “will require significant investments” in a shift towards low-carbon energy sources such as nuclear and renewables.
The biggest issue for Poland is its high share of coal-fired power, with coal representing 51 per cent of the nation’s energy supply in 2015. While coal is currently “the backbone of the nation’s energy system”, the IEA said, its long-term sustainability “must be addressed”.
The agency’s recommendations include closing older, high-emission coal-fired plants and building new supercritical plants, but it warned that this “represents an economic challenge for the sector”.
In terms of emissions, the report noted that coal-based home heating is a major source of air pollution and recommended that the government "ensure that less-well-off households are provided with the means to switch to cleaner solutions", such as gas-fired power or district heating.
The share of renewables in Poland’s power mix grew fourfold between 2005 and 2015, but changes to the support mechanisms, which were designed to reduce costs, have created market uncertainty, reduced investor confidence and “are likely to stall growth” according to the report, leaving the future of renewables in the nation “uncertain”.
More promising is Poland’s nuclear power programme, adopted in 2014. But while it aims deploy nuclear capacity by 2024, its timeline, technology choices and partners are still to be finalized. The IEA said the nation must focus on developing both a skilled workforce and the mechanisms for financing new nuclear construction and operation as soon as possible so that the industry can make investment decisions.
Overall, the IEA said Poland must take steps to balance its energy security, environmental and economic needs through the new energy strategy.