Naimski was speaking a month after Poland’s government approved a long-term energy strategy calling for the construction of six nuclear reactors by 2043 with a combined capacity of 6 to 9 GW.
Along with construction of above-water wind turbines and the development of infrastructure to allow imports of natural gas, bringing nuclear reactors on stream will help Poland reduce its dependence on coal, according to the document setting out the energy strategy.
In 2020, according to the British independent climate and energy think tank Ember, coal accounted for 70 % of the electricity produced in Poland, with 13 % produced by various other hydrocarbons and 17 % by renewable energy sources. By way of comparison, in the European Union as a whole (excluding Britain), coal-generated power accounted for 13 % of the total last year, with renewable sources totalling 38 % and other hydrocarbons 24 % (The share of nuclear power was set at 25 % and hydroelectric power at 13 %).
This contrast was even more striking a decade ago. In 2010, coal accounted for 87 % of power generation in Poland, while in 2015 that figure stood at 79 %. The corresponding EU figures for the share of coal in the energy balance (with a retrospective assessment of the bloc’s current 27 members) were 24 % and 25 %.
Poland reduced its reliance on coal partly by switching to natural gas, wind and solar energy. The share of gas rose from 3 % to 10 % in the period 2010-2015. The share of wind and solar energy climbed from 1 % to 11 %.
The change was linked in part to increased availability of liquefied natural gas (LNG) – Poland’s imports of LNG more than tripled from 0.97 billion cu. m to 3.76 billion cu.m. in the period 2016-2020.
The same effect occurred with a fivefold increase in wind generation capacity (from 1.1 GW to 5.9 GW, according to BP figures) over the period 2010-2020.
The construction of nuclear reactors will now make a contribution to efforts to replace coal – the first reactor, with a capacity of 1 to 1.6 MW according to the energy strategy paper, is to be commissioned in 2033. Five other reactors will follow, to be built at intervals of two to three years.
That will make Poland over the next two decades Europe’s leading country, along with Finland, to proceed with new nuclear reactors.