Polish Climate Minister Michał Kurtyka yesterday unveiled his plan to construct six new nuclear power units by 2040 as the country transitions to a clean energy economy. This plan includes reducing the share of coal in electricity production to between 37% and 56% in 2030, and to between 11% and 28% in 2040, depending on CO2 prices. Coal last year accounted for 74% of Polish electricity generation.

Polish Climate Minister Michał Kurtyka speaking today at World Nuclear Association's Strategic eForum 2020 (Image: World Nuclear Association)

The new Poland's Energy Policy for 2040 (PEP2040) is based on three pillars: a just transition; a zero-emission energy system; and good air quality. The first 1-1.6 GWe nuclear unit is to be commissioned in 2033, with five more units, or 6-9 GWe, to follow by 2040. The investment expected to be required for this is PLN150 billion (USD39.7 billion). New jobs created by the country's nuclear and renewable energy sectors are expected to total 300,000.

"The transition will cover many sectors, but it is energy that plays a particularly important role in the fight against climate change. The updated Poland's energy policy for 2040 takes this into account in its assumptions, on an equal footing with the need to ensure energy security, a just transition, reconstruction after the coronavirus pandemic, a stable labour market, sustainable development of the economy and strengthening its competitiveness," Kurtyka said.

By 2040, more than half of installed electricity capacity will be from zero-emission sources, according to the new policy. The implementation of offshore wind power and the start-up of a nuclear power plant will "play a special role" in this process as two strategic new areas and industries for Poland. The policy also includes PLN130 billion of investment in offshore wind projects.

"This is an opportunity to develop domestic industry, develop specialised human resources, create new jobs and generate added value for the national economy," Kurtyka said.

The climate ministry’s plan still has to be adopted by the government.

Strategic planning

Addressing the high-level panel Building a stronger and cleaner tomorrow with nuclear energy during World Nuclear Association's Strategic eForum 2020 today, Kurtyka said Poland was famous for its green energy credentials. It would build on this reputation further, he said, with the adoption nuclear power.

Kurtyka was secretary of state at the Polish energy and environment ministries before becoming president of COP24, which was held in Katowice in December 2018. A year later, he was appointed head of the newly formed Ministry of Climate. Kurtyka recalled the adoption of the Just Transition Declaration signed by over 50 countries and parties to the climate convention, at COP24 in Katowice. Katowice is the capital of Silesia, a region with a long coal mining tradition.

"Since December 2018 we have been facing more and more challenges and it is increasingly important that we tackle this by not omitting such an important source of clean, stable and scalable energy as nuclear," Kurtyka said in his opening remarks to the Strategic eForum participants. "And so, when we look at the evolution of the Polish energy system, we are facing unprecedented growth in renewable technologies. We have been recognised by Bloomberg as Europe's 'hottest' green market in the coming years."

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast that, between 2019 and 2024, Poland will have 65% growth in the installed capacity of renewable energy, which Kurtyka said was "already good news", adding that Poland expects its zero-emissions energy system will be the size of its existing conventional energy system within the next 20 years.

"But this won't happen without nuclear. Why? We know that we are faced with the intermittence of renewable energy sources," he said. "Whenever we analysed, for the sake of our energy strategy in previous climate years, we saw that there are periods of up to 9-10 days each year when we don't have enough sun or wind, whether onshore or offshore, to provide our system with enough electricity. And so, we must tackle this challenge of these important gaps that our renewable energy sources are making."

This will be increasingly important for Poland as one of only two OECD countries that has had uninterrupted economic growth since 1990.

"Of course, we are facing COVID-19 and that's a different story, but we are facing a very big increase in the quality of life in Poland. We foresee that the next 20 years will be very much successful for Poland if we tackle this right and I think that providing stable and competitive energy for our industry is part of this 'making things right' equation.

"So we have just published a draft energy policy as well as Polish nuclear programme to be adopted by our Council of Ministers. We as the Ministry of Climate are the host of these two documents and we expect that within the next 20 years we will be building a whole new fleet of nuclear reactors here in Poland. We expect the first reactor to be starting by 2033 and then every two years a new reactor will be built so that the fleet by the beginning of 2040 will reach six nuclear reactors, which will provide baseload electricity for Polish industry and society."

Of the 300,000 new jobs this strategy creates, about 60,000 will be directly linked to nuclear energy, he said.

"We see electricity playing an increasingly important role in the energy transition in the 21st Century. The IEA stipulates that the share of electricity in the final energy consumption will rise from 19% to 24% by 2040, and in a country like Poland this will be even higher."

Poland is the biggest producer and exporter of electric buses in the EU, he noted. "We expect from the plans developed by the Ministry of Climate that, starting from 2025, in all major cities of Poland - that is, with more than 100,000 residents and we have 44 such cities - it will not be possible anymore to sell combustion-engine buses. We will switch to zero-emission buses, whether battery or hydrogen."

That then will be another large consumer of electricity, he said, along with district heating.

"Over the last 18 months we have modernised more than 200,000 houses and an important element of this transition is replacing old fossil fuel non-ecological boilers with heat pumps. And we expect the solar PV, heat pump and electric charger to be the winning trio within our housing system. And industry also needs stable, baseload, zero-emission energy. So, when we are facing this energy transition in Poland, we are facing it in an extremely comprehensive manner, but also building a level playing field for all technologies," he said.

"Some of the technologies in the beginning will be more costly and complicated to be put in place than others. We are also building a support scheme for offshore wind in Poland, but we need also to recall that nuclear requires a specific and well-designed regulatory framework and one that will benefit from available financing as the cost of financing is absolutely crucial for building competitive nuclear."

His ministry is consulting with the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency on building a high-temperature gas-cooled research reactor. "We see this technology to be extremely promising and we would like a research reactor to be built in Poland in an international cooperation and we still see a high temperature reactor also as part of the solution to hydrogen production," he said.

"We see that the production of hydrogen can also be done with nuclear and we see that a hydrogen economy can play an important role in the coming years, especially here in the European Union, and we are working hand-in-hand with other European countries as well as with the European Commission to build a hydrogen sector with industry and partners in Poland."

Referring to the report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ahead of the UN climate talks in December 2018, he concluded: "All in all, the Polish perspective is of unprecedented transition that we are facing and we are ready to engage in this. It is important that we recognise nuclear as part of the solution, especially after what the IPCC panel demonstrated for COP24."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 10 September 2020
Original article: world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Poland-plans-USD40-bn-investment-in-new-nuclear-pl