21 Jun 2024, 11:59
Patryk Strzałkowski

Dispatch from Poland

Credit: Grand-Warszawski, Shutterstock

Poland is emerging from a long election cycle - from parliamentary elections last October that brought a change of government to local ballots in April, and finally the European Parliament elections earlier this month. All these bring into focus what prime minister Donald Tusk’s government can actually deliver - at home and in the EU - including on climate. The upcoming strategies for the energy transition and the associated legislative changes promise interesting insights. 

***Our weekly Dispatches provide an overview of the most relevant recent and upcoming developments for the shift to climate neutrality in selected European countries, from policy and diplomacy to society and industry.

For a bird's-eye view of the country's climate-friendly transition, read the respective 'Guide to'.***

Stories to watch in the weeks ahead

  • Poland’s role in the EU’s new legislative cycle - The Polish government can expect to gain more influence in the EU following the European Parliament elections (more on the result later). This is because the country has one of the largest delegations in the centre-right European People's Party group, and also has a prime minister from the EPP, which could give it more leverage to influence decisions in the European Commission and Parliament. Additionally, Poland is planning its EU Council presidency next year. The country looks set to put a focus on energy security, and hopes to have more say in climate policy. Deputy climate minister Krzysztof Bolesta told me in an interview that the government in Warsaw will try to convince the other member states to push the launch of the EU emissions trading system for buildings and transport (EU ETS2), which is meant to become fully operational in 2027, further into the future. 
  • Will bills and strategies roll? After six months with the new government in power and the end of the election campaigns, we should see more concrete steps in Poland’s energy transition. In the coming weeks, we expect to see the full National Energy and Climate Plan for the period until 2030 published. For now, the government has only published half of the strategy, the “existing measures” scenario. The “ambitious” scenario, whose publication is imminent, should allow a first real look into how the new government envisions the transition. The climate ministry is working on two bills meant to support the rollout of renewable energy sources (bills will change permitting and billing for prosumers). A long-awaited bill on wind farm location is still delayed, but expected sometime this year.
  • Adaptation in focus - Poland’s 44 largest cities have drawn up their climate adaptation plans in recent years. Now the climate ministry wants smaller cities and towns (above 20,000 inhabitants) to follow, and is working on a bill that will oblige them to do so. The need for adaptation is underscored by recent extreme weather events, including a flash flood in cities in southern Poland. With consultations ending on 17 June, work on the bill is expected to continue in the coming weeks.
  • Poland-Germany high level talks - The first German-Polish government consultations in six years will take place on 2 July in Warsaw. With no official announcement from the Polish side, there is no published agenda yet - but climate policy issues are likely to feature in the talks, in addition to security and migration. In June, ministers from both countries met at an event hosted by the German embassy in Warsaw, and in May at the German-Polish Energy Transformation Forum in Berlin.

The latest from Poland – last month in recap

  • Poland goes to the polls again - Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition has asserted its leading position in the European Parliament elections, finishing in first place by narrowly beating the right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party. But two of Tusk’s coalition partners, The Left and the Third Way, performed poorly. This might influence the power dynamic in the coalition and underscore its somewhat fragile majority. The far right Confederation exceeded expectations, coming in third place after campaigning on “stopping the Green Deal.” Poland will send 53 MEPs, including 23 to the EPP and 20 to the centre-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, which is more Eurosceptic. 
  • Electricity finally getting green(er) - Almost 30 gigawatts of installed capacity in wind and solar are bearing fruit. In May 2024, almost 36 percent of electricity production in Poland was from renewables - a new record. But with this come new challenges. One is the record volume of renewable curtailment, a result of lacking flexibility (with big, old coal plants mostly to blame) and energy storage. Now the government is considering changing its solar subsidy programme to require building battery storages. Another challenge is the lack of progress in wind farm deployment (contrasting with solar). According to the Instrat Foundation, Poland needs at least 130 megawatts of new wind capacity deployed each month. But in March, total capacity actually fell, when old turbines were decommissioned and no new ones started operation. 
  • Fewer Chinese heat pumps in subsidy programme - The climate ministry has introduced stricter rules for heat pumps that can be purchased with subsidies from the government’s flagship Clean Air Programme. Only devices with European certification can now be refunded with the subsidy. New measures are meant to limit the growing problem of people buying heat pumps (often from China or other Asian producers) that do not meet the requirements and parameters stated by the companies that sell them. Such devices were frequently sold well above their market price to match the subsidy limit.
  • Changes on electricity market - On 14 June, Poland implemented a reform of the balancing power market (required by the EU regulation on the internal market for electricity to increase market flexibility). From now on, billing is made on a 15-minute instead of an hourly basis. Smaller energy producers will also be able to participate. The reform should allow for better managing the electricity production peak from PV and should also encourage - through lower prices - usage during peak PV power generation hours. 

Patryk's picks – Highlights from upcoming events and top reads

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