GOVECS took part in Polish Congress of Renewable Energy last week with yours truly presenting. I spoke about GOVECS and electric mobility in general in a discussion panel focused on clean transportation.
Poland is trying to spark a renewable energy movement, similar to the one happening just across its western borders. Germany currently produces 30% of its electricity through renewable energy resources. Today, Poland is at about 4.2% with a 15% target by year 2020. This target might end up being pretty hard to reach as Poland is consistently refocusing its energy producing priority to coal.
Poland has a long and rich history of coal mining. And today the government is forced to heavily subsidise the coal industry to keep thousands of people employed in regions of Poland with really high unemployment rates. This point was made undoubtably clear during the conference with someone basically saying that Poland is “coal blind”. This subsidised coal has to be explained somehow and so far Polish energy consumption is the best excuse to keep digging.
Renewable energy is after all fairly expensive compared to coal. And politicians have a hard time telling their electoral base that they’re unemployed because the solar farm outside their city was simply much cleaner to the environment. This attitude is what will in my opinion keep Poland from doing any major moves towards renewable energy.
There is a big renewable energy bill in the works that should be signed by the president some time in early 2015, but when very specific questions were raised about the bill, people most familiar with it couldn’t even answer directly.
One question was:
“According to the new law, after putting a solar installation up on my roof, I will be reimbursed for the energy I produce based on 6 month intervals. When do the 6 months begin? From time of installation or will it be calendar 6 months beginning in January?” In a room full of experts, law and policy makers, no one knew.
Straight answers were few and far between all day long. Most of the time when some expert was answering a question, the answer was so long and convoluted that you really forgot what the question was to begin with. I expected more.
The conference seemed pretty promising at the beginning, but just about an hour into it most key authority figures that were the pulling factor for people to show up, had left. I’m mostly talking about a former Prime Minister of Poland Waldemar Pawlak, who is the driving force behind any renewable energy talks in the Polish government. He is the name that draws people in and opens doors when it comes to renewable energy. He stopped by, said a few things, and took off. Some highly ranked people sitting in the first two rows seemed to have taken off at that exact time, too. Again, I expected more.
There must be serious discussions taking place about the state of renewable energy in Poland. But right now I get the impression that it’s a game no one is fully committed to play just yet. Which is odd because Germans are playing that game and seem to be doing pretty well.
I will leave you with a paraphrased quote from the German ambassador who was one of the guest speakers at the conference:
“Germany is making a lot of money today with renewable energy. They’re not any more eco-driven than Poles, they’re just making money. So why can’t Poland?”