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What can we expect from Poland’s new Climate and Environment Ministry?

Following last Sunday’s (15 October) parliamentary elections, Poland’s three main opposition formations – Civic Coalition, Third Way and The Left – are set to form the country’s next leadership, as the current ruling party Law and Justice failed to win enough seats to form a government.

Whilst a new government has not yet been confirmed, Poland 2050, a centrist coalition partner of the Third Way, may play a key role in shaping the future administration of the Ministry of Climate and Environment. Without confirming these plans, Mariola Rzepka from the party’s press office tells CEENERGYNEWS that environmental and climate issues have “always been a priority” for the party. “We went into the elections as a party that understands the challenges facing Poland with the climate crisis, water crisis and the crisis of biodiversity.”

As previously established, there appears to be broader support for renewables and nuclear as the two pillars of Poland’s future mix, which is likely to be reflected in the overall approach of the new government. However, aside from solar and wind, the role of other “renewables” and a strategy for the coal phase-out – presents less clarity, particularly when it comes to the latter.

Bioenergy set to take centre-stage in Poland’s new energy policy?

During the campaign, the Third Way coalition limited its scope on support for renewables and prosumers, failing to present a clear role of green hydrogen, bioenergy (biomethane/biogas) or geothermal energy in the coalition’s 12-point policy programme. As Ms Rzepka tells us, Poland 2050 considers the acceleration and investments in bioenergy as the most important area out of the four mentioned sectors.

“Poland’s potential in biogas is optimistically estimated at seven billion cubic metres per year. Our ambition is to reach this level. Above all, adjustments to energy law and simplification of permit acquisition are necessary,” Poland 2050’s press officer tells us.

Geothermal is a potential renewable energy source, Ms Rzepka notes. “Unfortunately, there is still a lack of large projects that are commercially viable at the moment. We need to map the most promising locations and finance several demonstration projects.”

Before making a decision on green hydrogen, an audit of the existing government programmes needs to be conducted, the party’s press officer highlights. At the same time, Ms Rzepka notes that this energy source “will be necessary” for the decarbonisation of certain industrial sectors.

Poland 2050’s vision in these areas does not seem to deviate significantly from the outgoing government’s policies, particularly in biogas and biomethane. Whilst this energy source did not take centre stage in Law & Justice’s campaign manifesto, the government passed a key legislation in August of this year that set out a regulatory framework for biomethane.

Additionally, in the past couple of years, state-owned energy companies like GAZ-SYSTEM and ORELN have signed key agreements related to biogas and biomethane development.

“[Biomethane] is an important element in the energy transition and also it is a solution that can provide new activities locally in some regions that may have traditionally been less prosperous,” Adam Guibourgé-Czetwertyński, Undersecretary of State at the Climate and Environment told CEENERGYNEWS just before the elections. It is also a good solution for providing local heating, the deputy minister notes.

Poland 2050’s strong support for bioenergy, coupled with the legislative progress made by the outgoing government and previously signed deals by state-owned companies, biogas and biomethane may soon be among the biggest beneficiaries of the new ministry.

Addressing the elephant in the room: coal

As Michał Smoleń, Head of the Energy and Climate Research Programme at the non-partisan think-tank Instrat Foundation, told CEENERGYNEWS earlier this month, the opposition had avoided the topic of the coal phase-out throughout the campaign.

Despite its political sensitivity, Poland 2050 makes it clear that moving away from coal ought to happen no later than 2040, achieving climate neutrality no later than 10 years later. This is perhaps the biggest contrast to the Law & Justice government, which sought to achieve climate neutrality by the late 2050s, with the closure of coal mines planned after the commissioning of the country’s first fleet of nuclear power plants.

“The green change must be fair and beneficial to Poles’ wallets. Therefore, we must base it on energy from the Polish wind and the Polish sun, and this process must include protective mechanisms for employees who are currently dependent on the existence of the mining industry,” Ms Rzepka tells CEENERGYNEWS.

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