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Poland's plans to double down on gas-fired power plants put net zero target out of reach

Fossil fuel power plants are set to increase in Poland.
Fossil fuel power plants are set to increase in Poland.   -   Copyright  Czarek Sokolowski/Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
By Reuters

Poland's plans for a new generation of gas-fired power plants would make it impossible for it to meet net zero emissions by 2050, according to a new report. 

The new plants would also cost taxpayers $4.4 billion (€3.8bn), says research by thinktank Carbon Tracker.

The eastern European country is mainly reliant on coal. So plans to more than double its existing gas-fired power generation capacity to over 8 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 are viewed as a transition before switching to nuclear and renewables.

Carbon Tracker analysed the financial viability of five planned gas plants with a combined capacity of 3.7 GW due to begin operation between 2023 and 2027, which would increase Poland's current gas-fired facilities significantly.

It calculated the levelised cost of energy - the average cost of each unit of energy generated over the lifetime of each plant – for new renewables and for the five gas projects.

Plans to more than double its existing gas-fired power generation capacity are viewed as a transition before switching to nuclear and renewables.

The report said that all five projects will be more costly investments than either new onshore wind, offshore wind or solar farms.

Renewables supported by battery storage will be able to respond to peaks and troughs of demand, providing flexibility comparable to new gas plants. Solar with storage will be cheaper than gas from 2024 and onshore wind with storage from 2025.

Czarek Sokolowski/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
People take a dip in a lake in subfreezing temperatures in Warsaw, with chimneys pictured behind.Czarek Sokolowski/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

If the gas plants run for a 30-year lifespan it would be impossible for Poland to reach an EU-wide goal of net zero emissions by 2050. To meet that goal, they would have to close after an average seven years, costing developers more than $200 million (€174.8m), the report said.

Poland has stated that it supports the EU's ambitious climate targets but reaching them should be "safe for society and beneficial for the economy".

Solar with storage will be cheaper than gas from 2024 and onshore wind with storage from 2025.

"With wholesale gas market prices having reached record highs over the past 12 months and rising political tensions in Europe increasing the threat that supplies could be weaponised or placed under international sanctions, now is not the time for nations to be increasing their dependence on gas," said Jonathan Sims and Lorenzo Sani, power and utilities analysts at Carbon Tracker.