Polish Climate Minister Michał Kurtyka on 22 June, in an open letter to Kadri Simons, EU Commissioner for Energy and EU Vice-Presidents Frans Timmermans and Valdis Dombrovskis, said Poland remains committed to the pursuit of climate neutrality, which it intends to support by implementing both renewable and nuclear technologies, following the example and experience of other EU member states.

Kurtyka, expressing appreciation for the European Commission’s (EC's) efforts to promote transformation towards climate-neutral energy systems, and gave assurances that Poland fully supports this paradigm and consistently strives to gradually adapt its energy sector to it.

"Poland remains committed to the pursuit of climate neutrality, which it intends to support through the implementation of both renewable and nuclear technologies, while using the invaluable synergy between them," he wrote.

He emphasised that baseload electricity production in Poland currently depends to a large extent on the burning of fossil fuels, and Polish geographical conditions preclude the development of stable renewable sources, such as hydropower. At the same time, "in the late 1980s, the opportunity to deploy nuclear energy was lost as a result of an arbitrary decision”, he noted.

He estimated that these circumstances, combined with a large population and industry showing increasing energy demand, put Poland at “a different starting point from the rest of our partners in the EU”. He continued: "That is why Poland, modelling on the good example and experience of other member states, intends to develop nuclear power to replace the baseload electricity generation provided by coal, with zero-emission, stable production at affordable costs for Polish citizens and the economy."

He added that all available low-carbon technologies that could help achieve a climate neutral EU by 2050 should be supported. "That is why we were surprised when nuclear energy was not reflected in the latest EU policies, including the European Green Deal package, while its place in EU taxonomy is still being questioned."

Kurtyka pointed out that, at a time when half the EU countries use or intend to develop nuclear energy as part of their energy transformation, this technology, which provides almost half of the low-emission energy production in the EU, is excluded from the wide financial possibilities offered by the green transformation. This means there is no equal treatment in the energy sector.

"Depriving the nuclear sector of investment opportunities related to green transformation is  incompatible with the principle of energy sovereignty of the member states and violates the obligations arising from the Euratom Treaty in promoting the development of the EU nuclear sector," he noted.

"Not questioning the green transformation as such, but asking a fundamental question about its general direction and principles in technology, I would like to emphasise once again the necessary role that nuclear energy must play in clean energy systems, which is strongly supported by the latest reports published, among others by the IPCC and the International Energy Agency," he wrote.

"Therefore, we call on the European Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, including the Euratom Treaty, to ensure that the EU's energy and climate policy is developed in a technologically neutral and evidence-based manner, including work undertaken under the European Green Deal and Sustainable Financing Package."

The same day, Kurtyka told the TOGETAIR 2020 climate summit in Warsaw: "The transformation towards a zero-emission economy must be smooth. For this, capital is needed, maintaining the competitiveness of the national economy and ensuring social acceptability." He noted that renewable energy in Poland exceeds 10GW, and the fastest growing segment is photovoltaics.

"Energy transformation will create opportunities to stimulate domestic industry and involvement in innovative projects. This is particularly important in the era of economic recovery, strained after the COVID-19 pandemic," he added.

Kurtyka noted the European Commission’s plans in the long-term to use investments in the reconstruction of economies after the crisis to accelerate the climate transformation. "Therefore, as a climate resort, we have taken up the challenge of proposing to Polish local governments, families and enterprises a large-scale green investment plan that mobilises almost PLN 8 billion ($2bn). These funds will be available later this year," he said.

Poland has no nuclear power plants but aims to cut the share of coal in its electricity mix from 80% to 32% by 2040 and to introduce 6-9GWe of nuclear capacity that would account for 18%. It plans to have a six reactor units in operation by 2040.

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay