• Poland caught between a rock and Russian gas

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The Financial Times has looked at the potential of a significant shift away from coal mining and firing in Poland. The country currently burns coal to produce around 80% of its electricity, and has long identified mining with economic prosperity, but depletion of the most economic deposits, coupled with EU carbon emissions permit costs, is putting a financial pressure on the industry. Meanwhile, there are a range of environmental and social pressures, top-most being the country’s poor air quality, which results in an estimated 45,000 premature deaths per year, as well as land degradation and encroachment of mining into populated areas. These factors are pushing Poland towards a reduction in coal mining and use, but other factors are also at play. Gas, which might be an alternative fuel, would most likely be imported from Russia, and the Polish government is wary of losing its energy independence. Nuclear power is another option, but it may be unpopular given the widely-held view that the Chernobyl disaster in neighbouring Ukraine resulted in serious adverse health effects for many Poles. There are, in addition, strong mining unions opposed to a shift away from coal. What seems most likely is that the country will slowly decrease its use of coal while moving to a broader mix of renewables and some gas, with gas imports from the USA or the Middle East being a possibility.