With the development of RES, which will become the backbone of the electricity system in the coming years, Poland needs to prepare it for their integration. Systemic measures will be needed to support the emergence of new dispatchable sources, increasing the flexibility of the grid, and assisting in decentralisation. We invite you to read the Green Strategic Autonomy. Policy to support the development of a sustainable energy system report, written by Krzysztof Kobyłka, Wojciech Lewandowski and Marianna Sobkiewicz.
In a previous report, we defined the concept of ‘Green Strategic Autonomy’, the aim of which is to strengthen security in the European Union (including energy security) through the energy transition, i.e., largely through the development of renewable energy sources (RES). Key to its implementation is prompt decarbonisation, which entails shifting away from fossil fuels and improving energy efficiency to reduce energy demand. The resultant decrease in the demand for coal, gas, and oil would reduce the need for fossil fuel import, thus increasing the independence and energy security of the EU. It is important to bear in mind that sustainable development is a multi-faceted challenge: it is important to meet not only environmental objectives but also social and economic ones.
RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE
The Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted a reorientation of energy policy in EU countries, including Poland. Like most Member States, Poland has diversified its fossil fuel suppliers in order to become independent from Russian import. However, unlike many other EU countries, the Polish government has not taken measures to promote energy conservation through policy (such as lowering temperatures in public buildings). Furthermore, Poland has one of the lowest shares of RES in final energy consumption and is not taking adequate measures to make up for its delay. While many Member States have taken measures to accelerate the development of renewables as a result of the Russian invasion, Poland still has not liberalised the 10H rule, which is currently the largest barrier to RES development in the country.
Poland is one of the slowest decarbonising countries and has one of the most carbon-intensive economies (in relation to GDP). It also ranks second in the EU in terms of the emissions intensity of electricity generation, producing around 70% of its electricity from coal-fired plants. Therefore, conventional generation units must be replaced, but also additional sources need to be built to meet the increasing demand for electricity.
Due to their nature (i.e. low cost of energy production, no need for fuel, scalability and modularity), solar and wind sources will play a key role in decarbonisation. The current grids, designed for relatively larger, centralised generation units, were designed for one-way flow of energy from units to consumers. With a higher RES share in the system, the lower energy density of the sources and their dispersion, also at the level of distribution networks, will substantially change the way the system operates. As the share of RES and their variable production increases, the need for daily and seasonal balancing of the system will increase.
Countries face the challenge of building a stable, resilient system that responds to the characteristics of renewable sources, while ensuring that the transition is economic and equitable. The evolution of the system should be based on three pillars: ensuring adequate energy supply, system flexibility, and decentralisation.
Progress in the development of wind and solar sources in Poland over the last decade has been insufficient. The most important support mechanisms for renewable sources in Poland are the RES auction system and the ‘My Electricity’ programme, together with the regulatory environment for prosumers. The vast majority of the increase in installed capacity in recent years has been due to the development of prosumer PV installations, back in the days of more favourable compensation rules (net-metering). The change to net-billing and the existing barriers to obtaining grid connection permits will have a negative impact on the further development of RES in Poland.
Poland lacks a clear political signal for committing to the green transition. An ambitious strategy, but with an appropriate system for monitoring & evaluating the progress of its implementation, could make for a significant improvement. Updating key strategic documents, such as the Polish Energy Policy 2040 (PEP2040) and the National Energy and Climate Plan 2021- 2030 (NECP), should reflect an ambitious but realistic decarbonisation pathway for the electricity sector, with outlined supporting and monitoring policies and measures.
It is essential that energy transition policies take into account the protection of vulnerable groups from the negative impacts of air pollution, climate change, as well as the transition support initiatives themselves. These measures should include redistribution to minimise their negative impact on the lowest income households.