Poland decision is likely to enable it to meet EU’s CO2 emission reduction targets, and improve its ties with Brussels while creating green energy jobs in the country.
According to sources familiar with the matter at hand, Poland’s state-controlled PGE has abandoned its efforts to build the country’s first nuclear power station; it has instead focused on building new wind farms in the Baltic Sea.
In March, PGE, Poland’s largest power group, had announced plans of building an offshore wind project for around $10 billion.
Currently coal mining feeds 80% of the country’s energy requirements making it one of Europe’s biggest polluters.
The Polish government is under pressure to meet EU emission targets; but it has also promised to defend coal from competition.
As per a source, PGE does not have the financial strength to fund both, the nuclear and the wind farms project. The availability of improved affordable technology swung the decision in the favour of the wind farms project.
“PGE cannot afford both – offshore wind and nuclear. The decision was taken to go for offshore,” said the source.
A government source confirmed that PGE would focus on offshore.
PGE’s spokesmen declined to comment.
According to investors and analysts, building offshore wind farms is the easiest and fastest way for Poland to fill the gap in the country’s electricity demand while reducing CO2 emissions in line with EU’s 2030 targets.
Further, the decision to open up the offshore power industry could attract more investors to the country. Already, Statoil has stated it would be joining Polenergia’s offshore project which has drawn interest from other international wind companies.
“We received phone calls from all over Europe after Statoil’s decision was announced. If such a player has entered, we need to be in too, many investors say,” said Maciej Stryjecki, the president of the board at SMDI Advisory Group.
Investors are also waiting to see whether Poland offers subsidies for feeding its grid.
“Even if we take into account the very positive trend in the decline in offshore technology costs, offshore wind farms will not be built without support,” said Michal Michalski, Polenergia management board member.
However, a shift to green energy has pain points, especially in terms of job losses. Poland’s coal industry employs 83,000 people and a dew are worried that the shift in energy strategy could lead to job cuts.
“I do not believe that offshore wind can be profitable,” said Jaroslaw Grzesik, the head of one of the biggest trade unions in Polish coal industry. “We are definitely against it.”
While the dirty coal energy could be at the losing end, adopting green energy is likely to benefit other industries.
As per an estimate by the Polish Wind Energy Association (PWEA) offshore windfarms with a total capacity of 6 GW would help create around 77,000 new jobs and add around 60 billion zlotys to economic growth.
Local authorities in the windy Baltic resort and port of Leba, which is close to the future offshore sites, are hoping the industry could provide year-round employment as a balance to seasonal jobs.
“If investors choose Leba, a base and functional and technical facilities for wind farms could be created here,” said Andrzej Strzechminski, Leba’s mayor.
Already PWEA has identified nearly 70 potential Polish suppliers to the offshore industry which includes shipyards Crist SA and GSG Towers. Their workers’ boat-building skills can be transferred to make windmill components.
“We are not talking anymore about whether Poland needs to develop offshore wind projects…there are no more question marks and we only talk about when and how to do it right,” said Liudmyla Buimister who was the CEO of GSG Towers, a unit of Gdansk Shipyard Group, until April 16.