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Time for coal? – a debate during EEC 2023 in Katowice


Time for coal? – a debate during EEC 2023 in Katowice

On Wednesday, April 26, during the XV European Economic Congress in Katowice, a debate was held under the title: “Time for Coal?”. The prospects for coal mining in Poland in the face of the energy crisis and the ongoing war were discussed. The debate was attended by experts and industry representatives.

The discussion’s moderator, Jerzy Dudała, editor of the wnp.pl portal, began by stating that despite the outbreak of war and the change in the EU’s anti-coal policy, global coal production has reached a record high of 8.4 billion tons in 2022. Marek Wesoły, the government’s plenipotentiary for the transformation of energy companies and coal mining, assures that Poland wants to maintain the direction set in the social contract and will defend the country’s interests in the EU, and that Poland’s security requires using coal as a domestic resource and striving for independence from Russian natural gas.

– We are trying to deal with the crisis, but unfortunately, there is still a lack of reflection in the EU, as can be seen in the methane regulation. Successive documents continue to move in an unambiguously “green direction,” despite the fact that Europe’s energy future has been shaken by (…) betting on Russian natural gas. In Poland, we care about the country’s security and want to remain the voice of reason in the EU. Instead of gas, we intend to use our raw material – coal – the extraction of which must be sufficient for us to safely achieve carbon-free energy. We want to continue the direction that was set in the social contract. We will oppose any act that goes against our interests. We should think about security and represent Poland’s interests in the EU across divisions,” Marek Wesoły stressed.

As the deputy minister points out, the recent adjustments to the methane regulation promise a good future. He explained that although the limit of 5 tons of methane per kiloton of mined coal remains “absolutely unacceptable” in the draft, the description of penalties has been changed, and the fees will be set by the member state and will go back to the mines.

Tomasz Rogala, chairman of the board of PGG S.A. and president of the Euracoal association, stressed that the incentives for more efficient methane capture and the provisions that allow the use of coal in a transitional period for 20 years send a positive signal to mines. He believes that opening the market to coal importers who make unverifiable declarations about emissions is one of the regulation’s biggest flaws. He also touched on the prospect of operating in the industry.

-The European perspective on coal is clear – it’s decarbonization and measures to make it harder for mines to operate. If the ETS fee is about 100 euros, any energy from RES will be cheaper and competitive with coal. We will use coal at the rate that new sources of energy are coming into the country. The 2030s will be crucial in this regard. The ETS has created a large margin for RES power generators, who do not compete with each other, but only with coal. As coal producers, we will have to constantly explain our special situation in the EU. However, it is good that coal has been included in government documents as a transitional fuel,” said Tomasz Rogala.

On the subject of increasing output, he replied that already this year output is higher than planned 2 years ago, and that this trend will continue for the next few years, which poses new challenges for producers.

-We also have to look at the fact that in Poland there are still many people working in the coal sector, and it is an important branch of our economy. Therefore, it is necessary to look for ways of transformation so that these people do not lose their jobs and do not fall into poverty,” added Marcin Nowak, director of the strategy and analysis department at the Polish Economic Chamber of Renewable Energy and RES.

According to Agnieszka Sikorska, director of climate and energy at the Polish Business Club:

It is important to remember that Poland is part of the EU and decisions on coal will have an impact in the country. Many companies avoid investing in the coal sector because the risks associated with the branch’s uncertain future are too great. Therefore, the government should act carefully and in such a way as to ensure a balance between climate protection and the country’s economic interests.

Talks about the future of the mining industry continue to be controversial, pointing to the use of coal as a key energy resource on the one hand, and the need for energy transition and environmental protection on the other.

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