Recently, our government presented the concept of Ukraine as an energy hub in Europe. It stipulates that by 2050 Ukraine will have made not only an “economic” but also an “energy miracle”. The plan is very ambitious. But a significant part of it can be realistically achieved if we have a realistic plan, political will and a qualified team of managers and specialists. But we need to start with an adequate strategy and plan. And here we can look at how our successful neighbours, the Poles, do it.
Poland can serve as a model of transformation for Ukraine in many ways. This also applies to energy development. It should be understood that Poland had less favourable starting conditions than Ukraine. In 1991, the Poles did not have nuclear power, and almost all energy was generated by thermal power plants. And Poland’s energy security depended on oil and gas imports, as well as coal production in the Silesian industrial region. This is very similar to our Donbas or Dnipro industrial region.
But Poland has managed to take advantage of both the benefits of European integration and the general trend towards a green transition that we have been seeing in the world for the past 15-20 years.
Poland’s Energy Strategy, adopted in 2021 and adjusted in March 2022, after the start of Russian aggression against Ukraine, provides for:
- Ensuring energy security and energy independence of Poland.
- Promoting economic development and competitiveness.
- Adaptation of the energy and economy of the Republic to the new standards of the European Union and the needs of protecting the “green course”.
In general, the key thing that can be seen in this Strategy is an understanding of what to do, how to do it, where to get the money for all this, what needs to be changed in the legislation, what is needed to attract investment, train specialists, develop the field of research, etc.
How are the Poles going to act? Through a system of balanced and consistent policies.
By 2040, a large number of coal-fired capacities will be decommissioned from the power system. Regions that refuse to produce coal receive additional investments and tax benefits. To effectively transform their economies, we are talking about PLN 60 billion. In addition to the regional approach, the transition is expected to involve individual energy consumers, who will be protected from rising energy prices on the one hand and encouraged to actively participate in the energy market on the other. This will ensure a fair transition of energy resources and the possibility of participation of all – even small households.
To compensate for the loss of thermal generation, Poland will build nuclear power plants with a high degree of localisation. In 2033, the first nuclear power unit with a capacity of 1-1.6 GW will be commissioned, and subsequent units will be launched every 2-3 years – the entire nuclear power programme envisages the construction of 6 units by 2043. This will allow Poles to safely and cheaply provide 12 to 18% of industrial electricity production. In addition to the construction of large power plants with powerful units, Poland is exploring the possibility of building small modular reactors. This will ensure the energy autonomy of various regions, especially industrially important cities, which will increase the overall level of energy security for Poles and the Polish economy.
Sociology is also on the side of the peaceful atom: 57% of Poles support the construction of nuclear power plants. Moreover, in the regions that could be chosen as the site of the first nuclear power plant, the level of support is even higher – 71%. This, by the way, was made possible not only because of the rationality of Poles, but also thanks to the Government’s information and education programme. This is very important, because even before the invasion of Ukraine, the Russians worked very hard in the Polish information field to discredit nuclear energy and maintain Poland’s dependence on Russian energy resources. But, as we can see, they failed.
Reducing emissions and decarbonising the energy sector will be ensured by a comprehensive programme: construction of nuclear power plants, wind farms, liquefied natural gas import terminals, and stimulating local generation by households and businesses. This will also create new opportunities for development and launch entire new sectors of the economy. It is expected to create up to 300,000 new jobs in industries related to nuclear power, electric transport, renewable energy, network infrastructure, digitalisation, heat supply, modernisation of industrial and residential buildings, etc.
The main environmental result of the changes will be clean air for every Pole. Implementation of the Strategy will reduce air pollutant emissions by 60-90% for every gigacalorie of energy and heat produced. This will be achieved by investing in:
- decentralisation of heating;
- electrification of public and private transport;
- promotion of passive and zero-emission buildings using local energy sources (this practice was actively introduced in Sweden at the end of the last century).
The formation of diverse sources of generation will also ensure Poland’s energy independence, as there is no reason to rely on energy supplies from Russia after 24.02.2022.
Separate sections of the strategy are also dedicated to this:
- Specialised education in the energy sector, training of engineers, funding of scientific research in the nuclear sector and other energy and energy saving sectors. No strategy can be implemented without qualified specialists.
- The issue of negotiations and harmonisation with the energy policy of the entire European Union. The authors of the document insist on the need for tough negotiations with the EU so that Poland can implement its strategy by increasing generation. This contradicts certain EU directives. As we can see, the union is the union, and its own national interests are the priority.
As you can see, the approach is comprehensive and quite realistic. We cannot “copy and paste” the Polish experience and the Polish strategy. But we can learn how to plan, adapt and consistently implement the policies on which the country’s survival and success depend.
Businessman and public figure Alexander Katsuba
You may also like: Here’s How Businesses Are Solving Renewable Energy Recruitment Challenges
Image source: Alexander Katsuba