The Polish government intends to end the use of coal as an energy source by 2060, a deputy prime minister has announced. “We cannot ignore reality” and must meet the requirements “imposed on us by European policy”, says Jacek Sasin.
Poland remains Europe’s most coal-dependent country, relying on the fossil fuel for around 80% of its power. This year it overtook Germany as the EU’s biggest generator of electricity from coal.
However, various factors, including more stringent EU regulations, have made coal a less attractive and more costly option, with rising electricity prices contributing to growing inflation. This has pushed Poland’s otherwise coal-friendly government to look towards alternatives.
In an interview with Dziennik Gazeta Prawna published today, Sasin, who also serves as minister for state assets, confirmed that the government “assumes that the end of coal-based energy in Poland will be 2050 or perhaps 2060”.
He explained that there is sufficient financing on the market for coal-based energy “until 2040”, but that the situation after that date will be a “matter for discussion with the European Commission”.
In the meantime, Poland must “invest intensively in building an alternative to coal”, added Sasin. “We are talking about the need for huge investments in carbon-free energy, which is imposed on us by European policy.”
Poland is the only member state not to have signed up to the EU’s target of climate neutrality by 2050. Under the proposed EU budget for 2021-2027, which was agreed by member states in late July, Poland would only be able to access 50% of its designated green transition funds until it agrees to the goal.
“I am the last person who wants to close mines, but we cannot ignore reality”, said Sasin. He also warned that Polish energy companies would “not manage the transformation with their own resources, without external financing”.
His remarks follow the government’s decision last week to back away at the last minute from a planned announcement to restructure Europe’s largest hard coal producer, state-owned PGG, following pressure from Poland’s powerful mining lobby.
According to media leaks, the plan had included a potential 30% pay cut for miners, limiting benefits, and the closure of Wujek mine and part of Ruda mine.
“The board of PGG, in consultation with the Ministry of State Assets, prepared a restructuring plan that was realistic, economically sound and guaranteed the continued functioning of PGG in coming years,” Sasin told said in today’s interview. But it was shelved due to “strong opposition from the social side”.
He said that the government has set a deadline of 2-3 months to come up with a “realistic repair plan” to get the ailing coal sector back on its feet following a years-long decline that has been accelerated by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Poland’s mining heartland of Silesia has become the country’s epicentre for infections, largely due to outbreaks in mines, many of which have been forced to suspend activity as a result. Sasin today emphasised that these closures, as well as reduced energy demand as the economy slowed, have worsened losses for the industry.