Rhein on Energy and Climate

Coal is the most polluting fossil energy. It emits roughly twice as much CO2 as gas. From a climate point of view mankind should therefore urgently get rid of coal. This will not be easy as coal is the cheapest fossil energy, which reflects its ample resources in major coal producing countries like Australia, South Africa, Russia, India,USA and Indonesia.

In the EU, Poland remains the single biggest coal producer, followed by Germany which is set to close its last coal mines by 2018, but still leaving it with highly polluting lignite.

For Poland closure of its coal plants, which still employ some 50,000 people, is not only a climate necessity but also an economic one, as most mines need to be subsidised by the government.

The new government has started a clean-up process by closing the biggest loss makers and combining the profitable mines in a single state-owned company. As the recent strikes have shown this requires political courage.

Still, Poland has an economic and ecological interest in closing all mines in the next 20 years and replacing them by wind energy and imported gas.

Considering its substantial wind power potential this should be doable. Poland will also be able to import wind power from other member states, especially through the future Baltic grid and rely on LNG imports from third countries, as the three Baltic countries have decided to do.

This energy mix will be cheaper and much more climate-friendly than the present one depending overwhelmingly on coal.

The price of coal-fired power is bound to rise in the EU, while technical progress will reduce the cost of wind power below that of coal.

Through such a long-term strategy Poland will be able to reduce its C02 emissions by 40% until 2030, as it will to have to in conformity with the EU energy and climate policy.

In the present political situation in Poland with a powerful coal lobby this scenario appears revolutionary. But by 2035 such an energy transformation should be quite realistic. In order to throw more light on the long-term energy perspectives, the Polish government should produce a “Green Book on Polish Energy Supply and Demand by 2035”.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 28/02/2015

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