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Non-nuclear energy

RES research in new member states

Fission and radiation protection

February 2005
Issue 3

RES Renewable Energy Research in new Member States

A series profiling renewable energy research in the new Member States

Poland: High potential for RES

Recently, Poland has seen a considerable increase in interest in utilisation of renewable energy sources. The current share of green energy in the total energy balance in Poland is around 2.5% and is growing steadily. The process has been accelerated by actions at central government level and political support for the whole renewable energy sector. This includes the adoption by the Polish parliament in 2001 of a National Renewable Energy Strategy – the first such policy document in Central and Eastern Europe.

The RES strategy has ambitious targets of a 7.5% share of renewable energy in the primary energy balance in 2010, increasing to 14% by 2020. In the next few years, a rapid increase is expected in the use of modern renewable energy technologies for heat and electricity production. This will be based largely on wind turbines, biomass co-firing and renewables-based cogeneration (CHP) development.

Sustainable energy R&D in Poland

Research on alternative and renewable energy sources is an important priority for Poland. However, for most renewables, except for biomass co-firing, the research priorities have yet to be finalised. Total expenditure on research and development as a percentage of GDP in Poland was only 0.65% in 2003, and external financing is seen as important to stimulate renewable energy activities across the country. In particular, EU Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund could become an important source of financing for demonstration projects.

Fairly recently, a national network of Centres of Excellence has been initiated: the Polish Sustainable Energy RTD Network integrates all aspects of renewable and renewable-related research, from geothermal to fuel cells and energy storage. This scientific Network for Sustainable Energy Systems – ‘Energy Future’ – brings together all Polish Centres of Excellence financed within FP5, and was started by the Polish National Contact Point Dr Andrzej Slawinski. The network’s main goal is to consolidate and integrate Polish research units and support Polish participation in international research activities, for example by mapping Poland’s scientific potential. The network – a flexible structure with 58 members currently – and its programme have been accepted and are being funded by the Polish State Committee for Scientific Research (KBN).

Dr Tomasz Golec is coordinator of Energy Future and works in the Centre of Excellence CENERG which is based at the Institute of Power Engineering in Warsaw ( Dr Golec’s own research at the Institute has focused mainly on coal-fired power generation, although he is now working on co-firing techniques for biomass and the Institute is also involved in fuel cell work. Amongst the projects run by the Institute are ENFUGEN (Enlarging Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Research Co-operation) and FET-EEU (Future Energy Technologies for an Enlarged European Union).


Currently, photovoltaics (PV) have only a small foothold in Poland, although it is growing. Dr Stanislaw Pietruszko is the head of the Centre of Photovoltaics at the Warsaw University of Technology ( The Centre was established at the end of 2002, and Dr Pietruszko estimates that 14-15 groups now work on PV research in Poland. Many are small units and most work is on the materials science of silicon and thin amorphous and polycrystalline films as a result of expertise gained from previous programmes on semiconductor technology. Some groups also work on module fabrication and testing. The governmental programme “PV for the Energy Needs of Poland” (2000-2002) and FP5 PV Newly Associated States NET project ( were important for Polish scientists in this field and helped boost research in the area. Demonstration projects are key to the promotion of PV in Poland, particularly in off-grid applications, as there is some scepticism over the application of this technology. In 1999, Dr Pietruszko’s group installed the first PV-powered traffic signals in Warsaw. “Now there are over 250 around Warsaw,” he says. “Seeing is believing.” PV units are also being installed on building façades and some new petrol station canopies around the capital.


Grzegorz Wisniewski leads the Centre of Excellence RECEPOL (Renewable Energy Centre of Excellence and Competence in Poland) which is based at the EC Baltic Renewable Energy Centre (EC BREC). Both belong to the Institute for Building Mechanisation and Electrification of Agriculture (IBMER) in Warsaw. RECEPOL organises a sub-network on biomass/bioenergy research and is a significant focus of work in Poland’s plans for boosting RES capacity ( Research activities at RECEPOL include a variety of activities in the renewable energy sector. The centre undertakes interdisciplinary studies on the use of bioenergy from forestry and agriculture, and standardising the methods for analyses of biofuels properties.

To hit Poland’s RES targets, considerable increases in capacity for small biomass boilers (8 000 MW capacity), wood-fired heating plant (4 000 MW), wood-fired CHP (1 500 MW) and straw-fired heating plants (1 000 MW) are envisaged by 2010. The projected share of electrical power produced by various RES is shown in Figure 1.The Polish government expects 4% of power generation to be derived from co-firing biomass with coal by 2010 – equivalent to 10-12 million m3of biomass fuel. Current logging operations in Poland yield around 2.5 million m3. Fortunately, the potential for bioenergy is very large in Poland with almost 60% of its land devoted to agricultural production and over 29% currently forest or woodland. Therefore, there are significant biomass feeds available from agricultural surpluses/wastes, plus opportunities for specific energy cropping. In addition, there is good technical potential for up to 26 PJ (PJ = 1015J) of biogas production from livestock farms.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy in Poland has a significant potential due to the presence of large-scale low-enthalpy resources connected with three extensive sedimentary geothermal provinces covering about 80% of the country. Geothermal energy use has mostly been concentrated in space heating and balneology/bathing, while others, such as greenhouse heating, fish farming, and timber drying, are on an experimental scale.

Recently, a number of geothermal heating plants have gone on-line. One example is the heating plant installed in the ski resort of Zakopane which exploits geothermal reservoirs deep below the surface. The heat generated is used in the town’s district heating system. Thanks to a World Bank loan, this system will soon serve up to 80 000 people. Drilling the wells to tap the geothermal energy is capital intensive, but the operating costs are very low.

Exploiting the geothermal energy has benefited the environment around the resort. Zakopane is situated in the Podhale valley – part of the Tatra Mountains that border Slovakia. Due to local weather conditions, smog from old coal-burning heaters would often become trapped in the valley. Now the environment is much cleaner and the geothermal scheme has reduced annual emissions by an estimated 210 000 t of CO2, 1 200 t of sulphur dioxide and some 400 t of particulates. 

Another geothermal project is currently being undertaken in Pyrzyce which actually runs at 27 MWth resulting in a geothermal heat production of 95 TJ. The share of geothermal in total heat generation is about 60%, while the rest comes from gas boilers. The plant replaced 68 low-efficient, coal-based heating plants combusting about 30 000 t of coal annually, and generating considerable amounts of emissions. Thanks to the introduction of a geothermal-gas heating system in Pyrzyce, the plant reduced CO2 emissions from 85 000t/y to 4 500 t/y.

Geological surveys indicate that geothermal reservoirs could be accessible in 70% of Poland, implying that this renewable source could play a significant part in providing sustainable energy to the country.

Other resources

Installed wind power increased from 33 MW capacity in 2000 to 57 MW in 2003, and both onshore and offshore wind power offer possibilities for a significant contribution to RES in Poland. Research studies show that 30% of the Polish land surface is economically suitable for wind turbine applications, with 5% classed as very favourable. Poland has a good technical potential for wind energy development and local manufacturing. However, there are issues of social acceptance, integration of wind turbines into the grid, and the need to foster greater technical capacity in the country.

There is also significant potential for hydroelectric schemes, in particular for small-scale schemes. Most of the hydroelectric power plants in Poland are located in the southern and western part of the country, and are owned and operated by the Pumped Storage Power Plants Company (PSPP).  PSPP currently has 23 hydroelectric and pumped storage power plants (except for the pumped storage facilities, all of them quite small) with a cumulative installed capacity of nearly 1 500 MWe.

Figure 1. Projected contributions to total green electricity production in Poland in 2010

Figure 1. Projected contributions to total greenelectricity production in Poland in 2010

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