Mar 26

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The necessary minimum….

Today Polish Prime Minister Tusk announced that Poland would take necessary action to fulfill the 15% renewable energy target by 2020 set in directive 2009/28/EC and “nothing more”. According to the Prime Minister the achievement of this goal will be made in the cheapest way possible to avoid an increase in the energy prices. He stressed that the decision of the government concerning the support for renewable sources of energy would stop the “unhealthy discussions about where to put the money of the taxpayers”. “Some investors are impatiently waiting for information [about the changes of the support for renewable energy] but they have to patient, because for us the problem is not a group of investors wanting to invest in this or that sector, but citizens who will later have to pay for the energy”.

I would argue this is the most populist statement of the Polish Prime Minister Tusk I have heard over the last few months. Who could blame him for caring about the individual consumers of energy? And who cares about the stinky rich investors only waiting to rob Polish citizens of every cent? But there are two points that have to be made. First of all the government of the Prime Minister Tusk governing since 2007 did nothing to stop the expensive practice of burning (mostly imported) biomass by the major energy companies. Only in 2010 the costs of the imports of biomass to Poland exceeded PLN 700 mln (here, p. 26). For each MWh of electricity from biomass co-firing a company received green certificate that it could sell further. This practice led to windfall profits of the largest energy company PGE led by the Tusk’s friend, Krzysztof Kilian. In 2011 the company registered the  highest profits in its history, partly in result of the rising electricity prices.

Now about the “greedy investors”. The interesting things about investors in renewable sources of energy is that they create jobs. There is no doubt, that the development of renewable sources of energy, especially PV, is expensive. But the prices are falling dramatically and the available potential is enormous. In addition to that, as opposed to the imported biomass, solar and wind energy leads to job creation in a given country. In 2011 there were over 300 000 jobs in the PV sector in the EU: 0,03% of this number in Poland…. The major reason for this low number in Poland (around 100) is that after years of discussion the Tusk-led government was still not able to adopt the long-awaited renewable energy law. As a result some of the “greedy investors” decided to leave Poland and invest somewhere else.

But there is one source of energy that Prime Minister Tusk would like to develop at any price, especially if the price is not really known: nuclear energy. According to him there can be no talk about halting the development of the nuclear program in Poland and he cannot be deaf to the arguments of the PGE that investment conditions have changed and the price of electricity has fallen. That seems to be a clear statement of government’s (financial) support for the construction of the nuclear power plant. Since the money would come directly from the state’s budget, the construction of the nuclear power would indeed not increase the price of electricity: Polish citizens will pay for it with their taxes.

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