European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič is in Poland today for the next leg of the Energy Union tour. He will be discussing the EU's plan to help provide Europe with secure, affordable and clean energy and the preparation of Poland's national energy and climate plan.
Ahead of the visit, Vice-President Šefčovič said:
Europe is in the middle of the energy transition. With its large renewable energy resources and great potential in energy efficiency, both in buildings and in the transport sector, Poland can play an important part in this transition. Poland is also a country with a traditionally strong coal mining industry. The Commission is committed to making sure that restructuring of the coal mining sector happens in a socially fair way and wants to provide targeted assistance in order to facilitate access to existing funds, encourage the exchange of good practices, support technology development and kick-off discussions on re-skilling needs and industrial roadmaps. The EU climate and energy targets and the legal framework in the Energy Union areas are matched with significant investment support from the EU budget. Poland is the biggest beneficiary of the solidarity mechanisms under the EU Emissions Trading System.
Half of Poland's energy comes from solid fuels such as coal and wood, which is around three times the EU average. In the past, Poland's own mines provided most of its coal, but in the past ten years imports have been on the rise. Poland is also largely reliant on Russian imports for its gas. Work is underway to diversify its gas sources, in order to increase its own energy security and that of the EU as a whole. For example, a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal at Świnoujście on the Baltic coast has just been completed, with the help of EU funding. One of the first on-shore LNG terminals in central and eastern Europe, this will make it possible to import gas from several different countries.
Polish consumers spend a higher proportion of their income on energy than the EU average. The causes of this include households' relatively low purchasing power, poorly insulated buildings, and cold Polish winters. Renovating homes to improve their energy efficiency and replacing old, inefficient boilers would help Poland save energy as well as improve its air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Poland is modernizing its economy, which is still very carbon and energy intensive, and in this process is decoupling emissions from economic growth. The EU is making major efforts to assist Poland in its economic development, including a more secure and efficient energy system. Through 24 national and regional programmes, Poland has been allocated €86 billion from the European Structural and Investment Funds over the financial period 2014-2020, which is an annual budgetary effort equivalent to nearly 3% of Poland's GDP. Out of this, around €19 billion will be invested in projects contributing to Energy Union objectives in Poland.
During the visit, Vice-President Šefčovič will meet the Polish energy minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski to discuss the changes facing the Polish energy sector. He will also provide an opening speech at the 9th European Economic Congress in Katowice on 'The energy industry in Europe – the most important questions'. He will then take part in other high-level meetings with governmental officials and also engage in a wider debate with energy and business stakeholders at various events, including a roundtable discussion on Polish coal and carbon regions in transition and at the Regional Assembly of the Silesian and Małopolska Regions and European Start-Up Days.
As part of the 2017 Energy Union Tour, the Vice-President has already visited the Netherlands, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden and Belgium. Upcoming dates and more information on the 2017 Energy Union tour are available here.