by EVA KONZETT *
Coal is the Polish treasure, at least according to the German government. However, the mining industry is outdated and, additionally, the coal is imported from Russia.
When it comes to the European climate protection policy, Poland acts as a troublemaker that defeats the ready to be signed agreements for CO2 reduction. This is not surprising especially when we consider the Polish energy mix: 80 percent of the Polish electricity is produced from fossil fuels; two thirds of the total energy provision is guaranteed by coal. 17 billion tons of coal are hidden under the Polish soil.
In light of recent events in Ukraine – that sparked the debates about Europe’s energy supply, the Polish government claims that keeping Poland linked to coal is in its national interest.
Import from Russia
However, critical voices are opposing this apparently dangerous situation caused by domestic energy supply and Polish politics. “Everyone refuses to understand that Poland imports coal. Namely, from Russia and USA”, says Andrzej Ancygier, scientist from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Annually, Poland consumes around 80 Million tons of coal. In 2012, 6.6 Million tons were imported from Russia. That makes a high percentage, if nothing else. Furthermore, the Polish mines are not flourishing. The biggest coal corporation Kompania Weglowa is facing a bankruptcy. A lot of shafts are out of date, investment is lacking, new surfaces are not being utilized. Therefore, in the opinion of Ancygier, the politics is less about the mining itself and more about the big energy companies in which the state is involved. If those companies are provided with cheap energy, there is more dividend money pouring back into the Polish state budget.
Those controlling the energy corporations can set the price. “Besides the energy security another important aim of the politics is to boost economic development with the help of cheap energy”, says representative for economics Ernst Kopp from Austrian Economic Chamber in Warsaw. Environmental doubts are only third on the list. Or when Brussels puts pressure. However, in order to reach the emissions reduction goals, the government is planning to embrace nuclear power.
150 million tons of coal
Polish energy policy has always been determined by coal. Moreover, with 150 tons coal realized, in 1972 Poland was the biggest coal exporter in Europe, in 1979 – the second biggest in the world. This sector shrank after the end of the cold war in 1989 primarily because of the economy’s shrinkage, however it still remains the dominant energy supplier.
* EVA KONZETT (Austria), Contributor
Austrian born, Eva graduated Romance languages and comparative literature at the University of Vienna. She worked and studied for a whole year in the Transylvanian city of Cluj-Napoca at the Babes-Bolyai University; later, between 2012 and 2013 she free-lanced in Bucharest. Since 2008, however, Eva is employed in the East Europe Newsroom of the Austrian business oriented journal, Wirtschaftsblatt. She published in numerous media in Austria, Germany, Serbia, and Romania.