Energy Eniday Europe

Farewell to Polonia’s coal

Thanks to coal, Poland has the second most polluted air after Bulgaria and more than 44,000 premature deaths a year have been attributed to smog in Gdansk, Krakow and Warsaw. In coming decades, the challenge for Poland will be to reduce coal’s share in electricity generation from around 80% to zero by 2040.

Poland plans to have its first 1.5 GW nuclear power plant up and running by 2033 and envisages six reactors with a combined total of 9 GW by 2043. This is an ambitious policy, given the high capital costs and technical problems experienced with new nuclear plants in Britain, France and Finland. Moreover, any delay combined with ending lignite could threaten Poland’s energy security. Poland, with twice the dependence on coal as richer Germany, will find it extremely hard and costly to abandon coal. In practice, Forum Energii predicts that coal’s share in Poland’s energy mix could still be 22% by 2040. Nevertheless, the transition toward decarbonisation is underway and rests on natural gas and renewable energy paired with gas-peaking plants.
Central Warsaw

A combination of factors, among them energy security concerns, economics and the power of the coal mining unions, have ensured government support for coal. For decades, burning hard and lignite coal has been a cornerstone of Poland’s policy of self-sufficiency in the electricity generation. Coal had the merit of minimising exposure to Russia’s Gazprom and the interruption of gas supplies to central and Eastern Europe in 2008, 2009 and 2014. Poland is the European Union’s largest coal producer, and its mining directly employs around 100,000 people.

Miners leaving the Knurow mine after a night shift at Knurow in the southern Polish mining region (

Energy transition in Poland

The 2015 election showed the first signs of waning support for coal usage. Grassroots environmental activism and an anti-smog campaign have gained traction.

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