Poland’s renewables capacity growing but coal still dominates – report

Coal dominates electricity production in Poland, making up 70.7% of power generation in 2022, followed by renewables (20.6%).

Poland’s renewable energy capacity is increasing but the country’s power and heat production is still dominated by coal and forms the biggest contribution to its emissions, according to a report by Polish think tank Forum Energii. The think tank compiled 2021 and 2022 data on Poland’s energy sector, showing that, while coal’s role in energy production has decreased, it still makes up almost half (45% in 2021) of energy sources used.

Overall, 85% of Poland’s energy came from fossil fuels in 2021. Alongside coal, oil contributed 23% and fossil gas 17%. Renewable energy sources provided 10% of total energy consumption, with as much as 8% coming from biomass. The think tank warned that the modernisation of the Polish energy sector is very slow.
“The economy as a whole remains highly energy-intensive and increasingly dependent on fossil fuel imports – now that Russian supplies have been cut off, and from new, often politically uncertain sources,” it explained.

Renewables growing in power production
When it comes to electricity production, renewables play a bigger role in Poland. While coal dominates, making up almost three-quarters (70.7%) of power generation in 2022, renewables were the second largest contributor, accounting for about a fifth (20.6%). Wind was responsible for over half of this and solar photovoltaics a quarter. Overall, in 2022, renewables produced 36.8 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, 20% more than in 2021. Production from photovoltaics increased by 4 TWh, up by 102% and onshore wind by 3 TWh, up by 19%.

Meanwhile, the achievable capacity of Poland’s renewables – what would happen if all producers were online together – increased to 38.3%, pipping hard coal’s achievable capacity to the post. However, renewable power plants cannot all run at the same time as they are dependent on weather conditions, like the sun shining or wind blowing, meaning their effective contribution is lower.

Slow progress on emissions reductions
Coal’s continued dominance means Poland is still one of the most carbon-intensive energy systems in Europe. When added to the emissions from fuel combustion in households, the power and heat sector is responsible for almost half of Poland’s emissions. At the same time, since 1990, the country has decreased emissions by 15.7%, compared to the EU average of 29%. And, while Poland still emits significantly less than some EU countries, like Germany, its emissions reductions are slower. For instance, in the last three decades, Germany has cut emissions by 38.7% while Czechia has achieved a 39.8% cut and Slovakia 44.4%. Like other EU countries, Poland’s emissions also rose in 2022, up 0.3% from 2021.

Poland increasingly reliant on imports
Forum Energii’s report also shows an increase in Poland’s reliance on imported energy supplies, due to increasing demand over the last decade and a drop in the domestic supply of raw materials used to produce energy. These imports grew to a record 43% in 2021, up from 31% a decade ago. The increased reliance exposes Poland to higher prices and less energy security as global fossil fuel markets remain tight and volatile. In 2022, the cost for Poland to import crude oil, fossil gas, and hard coal skyrocketed, hitting a record high of PLN 193 billion (€42.6 billion), almost double that in 2021.

More action needed to transform energy sector
To truly transform Poland’s energy sector, the think tank called for realistic energy targets to motivate market players to invest, meet growing demand and make up for the fossil capacity being phased out.

“It is crucial that the government, when updating the energy policy and the National Energy and Climate Action Plan, takes a holistic view of the energy balance of the whole economy – from the point of view of energy demand,” said Joanna Mackowiak-Pandera, president of Forum Energii. “Questions need to be asked: How much coal, gas, oil do we need, not just in the power sector itself, but in the whole economy – industry, services, households, heating? ” “It is clear that we can reduce their use through energy efficiency and renewable sources,” she added.