1 April 2010: Poland and CCS

This week, I have been to Poland to talk at a Demos Europa conference on CCS in that country. Poland has the ninth largest global coal reserves. In 2006, 93% of its electricity came from coal and 91% of its heat, so 58.5% of total energy was from coal. Its economy is growing, despite the recession, and a significant number of existing coal stations will have to close over the next 15 years. Therefore, it is expected to require 25Gw of new electricity capacity (see Poland – climate and energy statistics).

So Poland is crucial for climate control and for CCS. A post-combustion CCS project in Poland, Belchatow, was awarded €180 million under the European Economic Recovery Plan. However, this grant is unlikely to be enough to get the project constructed, even when the Polish government provides matching funding, as it is required to do. The EU is now promising extra subsidies for CCS, using some money from auctioning of permits in the Emissions Trading Scheme. The Commission cannot say so, as this would contradict its own strict competition policy rules, but it would be logical for the six projects (in Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and UK, as well as Poland) that received subsidy under the Recovery Plan to be given preference for further subsidy. This is because, without additional subsidy, they will probably not be built. CCS is an essential low-carbon bridge technology, and has significant benefits for energy security in many European countries, including Germany, Spain, Poland and the UK. It will almost certainly reduce significantly in price as it is developed and deployed, and using coal with CCS is certainly cheaper than using coal without CCS and paying for the climate consequences. However, that does not mean that it is cheap.

Demos Europa has published a good report why Poland must develop CCS, and the legal framework needed to do so. They are publishing a second report on the financial arrangements needed, which was available at the conference but is not yet on their website. Agata Hinc, author of the reports, spoke at the event and underlined the necessity for fast and constructive action. Most other speakers were also supportive. The exception was a woman from the Polish Energy Department who essentially said that CCS was interesting and worth looking into, but made no commitments. She also said that it is not certain that climate change is human-induced. No, it’s not certain, but according to the IPCC it is more than 90% likely, and anything serious and that likely is worth taking steps to avoid (see Myths about climate change and renewable energy, and how to debunk them). Some members of the audience also questioned any link between coal and climate change.

Poland is not a rich economy compared to western European countries. However, it is the main net recipient of European regional funds – €67 billion have been allocated for the period 2007 to 2013. Yet it actually uses only 19% of these funds. The Polish government should spend these funds – a considerable amount on improving energy efficiency and some on CCS.

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