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Poland's Lodz Region publishes draft plans to close massive Belchatow power plant by 2036

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The lignite-burning Bełchatów power plant emits more than 30 million tonnes of CO2 every year
The lignite-burning Bełchatów power plant emits more than 30 million tonnes of CO2 every year   -   Copyright  Czarek Sokolowski/AP
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Polish authorities are prepared to close Europe’s most polluting power plant by the end of 2036, according to a draft document published by local authorities on Tuesday.

The Lodz region has launched a public consultation its bid for support from the EU's multibillion-euro Just Transition Fund, which helps coal-dependent regions shift to a climate-neutral economy.

The plans include a proposal to wind up Europe’s biggest coal complex, Bełchatów, which since 1982 has poured more than 1 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere

Under the draft 'Territorial Just Transition Plan', lignite-burning at Bełchatów would be reduced by 80 per cent by 2030 – the equivalent of cancelling a year’s worth of emissions from Croatia - and stopped outright by 2036.

Energy bosses drop years-old lignite mine plans

Poland's state-run energy group PGE has duly scrapped plans to develop an open-pit coal mine in Zloczew to support Bełchatów, based on the conclusion that it would be loss-making.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, PGE chief executive Wojciech Dąbrowski conceded that dropping the plan to exploit the Zloczew lignite deposit, and scheduling a shutdown of the power plant, were both "of fundamental importance".

“They are also symbolic," he said, "because the success of this project will largely determine the success of the Polish energy transformation.”

However, the company warned that Bełchatów is the biggest employer in the transition area and careful thought would be needed to minimise the socio-economic impact of phasing out coal.

So far, the Lodz region's document says, no decision had been made on what type of energy coal-fired units would be replaced with. But it said either nuclear power or green hydrogen might be considered after 2030.

Green campaigners: Time to get planning

Environmentalists who have been following developments in one of Europe's most coal-dependant countries welcomed the proposals on Friday.

“Finally, PGE has stopped pulling the wool over people’s eyes that it will build the Zloczew mine,” said Joanna Flisowska from Greenpeace.

Ilona Jędrasik, fossil fuel infrastructure lead at ClientEarth’s Warsaw office, said: “The wind is changing – when you see Europe’s biggest coal operation heading into retirement, it’s clear an era has ended.

“Coal has long been stalling and profitability is collapsing. The most important thing now is to secure a realistic future for those who have been employed by the coal industry up until now, and to plan for a low-emissions future. The Polish government owes this to Polish people and to Europe.”

Bełchatów is roughly five times the size of an average coal plant and burns a tonne of coal every second.

Two mines currently feed Bełchatów, and the Lodz region's plan proposes that the first close by 2026, and the second by 2038.