Prof. Ruszel: Coal's transitional renaissance and EU ETS reform a remedy for the crisis

The energy transformation under way throughout Europe requires stable energy supplies, which have been increasingly secured for many months through increased use of coal. In order to maintain energy security of Poland, availability of domestic coal and predictable costs of its production are of key importance. According to Dr. Mariusz Ruszel - prof. of Rzeszów University of Technology and president of I. Łukasiewicz Institute for Energy Policy - In the face of Russia's aggressive military and raw materials policy, these two factors are shaping the immediate future of the country's energy sector.

Russia's long-standing and deliberate destabilisation of the EU energy market has shown how great the risk is of Europe becoming dependent on imports of raw materials. The scale of this risk was brutally revealed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which shocked both the markets and European politicians, who had hitherto ignored warnings about energy dependence on Russia. The war in Ukraine is a new factor that may accelerate the discussion on which direction and methods to reform the ongoing energy transition and its main objective, the implementation of EU climate policy.

"The energy transition is a process which, in today's conditions, should be implemented primarily on the basis of raw materials available in a particular country. In view of the current energy crisis affecting the whole continent, when modelling the future energy mix of Poland and the EU and planning the path towards the set goal, we must take into account not only climate protection, but also costs and security". - says President of the I. Łukasiewicz Institute for Energy Policy, Prof. Mariusz Ruszel.

In the face of the turmoil in the markets and the sudden jumps in the price of energy raw materials, it is clearer than ever that ensuring access to raw materials is crucial to the success of the energy transition. This concerns not only energy resources, but also other materials necessary for the implementation of investments in renewable energy sources. The transition from coal to renewable energy sources will not be possible without the use of high quality steel, which is crucial in the production of wind turbines, and which in turn requires the use of coking coal and electricity. Poland is in the comfortable position of not having to import coking coal or thermal coal for power generation, as these are mined locally.

Polish power stations use domestic coal production almost entirely, ensuring a stable energy supply for the economy. The renaissance of coal, however, caused by the current crisis, is transitory in nature and no one today is in any doubt that its future is sealed. In the long term, however, energy security is to be ensured for Poles by renewable energy sources and the nuclear power plant, which will play the role of a system stabiliser, providing energy when the sun does not shine and the wind blows poorly.

"If you look holistically at all the other elements involved in the energy transition, it is clear that there is no energy storage available in the market today that can be deployed on a large scale. Therefore, without securing power reserves in the form of conventional energy, the energy transition cannot be implemented too quickly. As a consequence of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the question of the future of the EU's climate policy, the assumptions of which have become outdated at an accelerated pace, is gaining new importance. We can expect that many politicians will be faced with a dilemma: climate protection or job protection. If we strive for competitiveness of the European economy, we will first use those raw materials and energy sources that are cheaper," added Prof. Ruszel.

The ongoing economic crisis clearly highlights the scale of the threat to the EU's climate policy prospects. In turn, the stabilisation of economic development offers an opportunity to continue the energy transition process in the long term. From this point of view, the competitiveness of the economy can only be ensured by permanently available and secure energy which will guarantee the operation of factories, offices and households in an uninterrupted manner.

The coming years - as indicated, inter alia, by reports of the International Energy Agency - will bring an increased use of coal in the power industry. The trend has been visible for many months now - both governments and enterprises choose primarily those energy sources which are cheaper and secure reliable energy supplies at a stable price.