Future energy strategies for Poland should be based on reliable analyses. - If we have calculations that show the reduction level Poland can cope with, and how costs rapidly rise afterwards, then we become serious partners in discussion - said Prof. Maciej Nowicki.

On January 8 the conference "2050 - Low Emission Poland" was held at the Polonia Palace Hotel in Warsaw, during which the results of research conducted by the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) and the Institute for Structural Research (IBS) were presented. In their joint project experts wanted to find out how to modernize Poland to reach the 2050 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent, as defined in the "Roadmap for the transition to a competitive low-emission economy by 2050".

- It is extremely difficult to imagine how our economy and energy sector will look in 40 years time. However, certain global trends do exist, and those responsible for creating national strategies need to read and recognize them, even those that are currently in an embryonic state - said Professor Maciej Nowicki at the opening of the conference.

Professor Zbigniew M. Karaczun argued that the positive aspects of low-emisson transition are so significant that both politicians and the public should decide its course. In addition to adding value to the environment, he pointed out "utilitarian economic reasons".

- The market for green technology is the fastest growing market in the world. In 2005-2011 its value increased by 230 percent, despite the global economic crisis - emphasized Prof. Karaczun.

Among the positive social effects of a low-emission economy, he mentioned creation of a civil society rather than a corporate one, creating new jobs, better health and lower costs of health care. The political effects include improved Polish energy security, an improved international image, and linking economic growth with broader civilization development.

- It is not possible for us to reach a level of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through activities related to energy only. Even a zero-emission energy sector cannot result in this effect. Other areas - transport, industry, waste management, agriculture – also need a significant effort - this is how the president of the Institute for Sustainable Development, Dr. Andrzej Kassenberg, began presenting the results of the previous work by experts.

As emphasized by Dr Kassenberg, the rate of energy consumption and emission in heavy industry will decrease with the convergence to the EU and due to the continuation of historical trends of gradual improvements in the efficiency of resource use. The fuel sector in Poland already has better indicators than the EU.

Most of the reductions by the steel industry are associated with more effective energy use, and relatively less importantly changes in production processes. A reverse regularity can be observed in cement production.

In the chemical industry, the greatest chances for reduction lie in the introduction of co-generation – both in existing and new plants. For the petrochemical industry, there are many reduction options, although the scale of emission reduction seems to be minimal compared to other industries (by 80-90 thousand tonnes CO2e).

Very great opportunities for emission reduction exist in waste management, especially in the reduction of methane emissions through its use in the production of electricity and co-generation. Furthermore, these investments bring fast returns. This is a considerable opportunity, but it also carries significant problems – emphasized Dr Kassenberg. Among the obstacles he indicated EU regulations which render future biodegradable storage impossible.

One of the greatest dilemmas for experts is how to approach Carbon Capture and Storage. Should it be taken into account as an important and possible solution? Or should it be rejected due to technological and geological uncertainty, the high costs and significant increase in energy consumption? CCS results in high capital and operational costs, permanently increasing the cost of production and engaging considerable economic resources. On the other hand, its potential reduction is very significant (about 20 million tonnes of CO2).

In agriculture the greatest reduction potential is associated with agricultural technology. All the analyzed reduction options could give a reduction of about 45 million tonnes of CO2. Dr Kassenberg underlined that the calculations did not take into account changes in land use (e.g. afforestation) or changes in flora structure.

According to experts, transport in the coming decades will experience a high increase in the mileage of cars in Poland. A less significant factor will the increase in the number of cars, and improvement in the efficiency of engines, in the Business-As-Usual scenario, will only slow the increase in emissions. The promulgation of fuel-efficient cars (including hybrids) may reduce emission in the sector by half.

The results of research on a low-emission energy sector were presented by Dr Maciej Bukowski, president of the Institute for Structural Research.

- The greatest difficulty is to make good predictions of electricity and heat consumption, and in consequence expected production in the Polish energy sector – said Dr Bukowski. - The main cause of the potential increase in demand for electricity is the expected change in GDP. We expect that Poland will achieve 80 proc. of the German output.

Another significant factor is the deepening electrification, which concerns individual sectors and households.

- As a result, in 2050 we expect the total consumption of electricity in Poland to be at a level of 270tWh, albeit we have allowed for the increased efficiency of energy management, including lower transmission losses – the IBS president emphasized.

Under the project, experts prepared six scenarios of development of a low-emission economy. The first scenario assumes full diversification. In another, the “French” model, the foundation of the mix would be nuclear energy. The “European integration scenario” assumes a focus on national renewable energy sources and high energy imports from the EU. The “distributed self-sufficiency” scenario is based on autarchy and a high significance of distributed sources of energy. Another two proposals assume the “Shale Eldorado”, in which gas energy plants become the basis of the mix, and the “Old-new coal” where coal maintains a dominant position in the mix. In each scenario, even that assuming the dominance of coal, renewables have a significant share in the energy mix.

The lowest capital expenditures are in the BAU scenario, which assumes increasingly effective coal technologies, not equipped with CCS. At the other extreme in terms of cost is the French scenario, assuming a large share of nuclear energy, and the scenario of full diversification in the 2020s, also including the introduction of nuclear power plants.

- The energy sector has a much larger reduction potential than do industry and agricultural taken together, because it relies very much on coal. A reduction of 50-60 percent is quite easy, but above this level significant difficulties will escalate - summed Dr Bukowski.

In the final report, experts will indicate the most favorable scenario for Poland. During the discussion, many participants gave a lot of suggestions that should be taken into account in further works.

According to Prof. Radoslaw Gawlik, future models should indicate that a carbon tax will be the incentive for engineers to look for the solutions for reducing CO2.

In the opinion of Tomasz Podgajniak, the vice-president of the Polish Economic Chamber of Renewable Energy, the creation of an optimal Polish energy scenario requires the inclusion of the issue of energy storage. “This is a key issue, at least due to the fact that parts of the renewable energy sources are not stable” - he pointed out.

According to Prof. Maciej Nowicki, the final report should concentrate more on the issue of solar energy. - In Germany, by 2020 7 percent of energy is to come from photovoltaics - he said.

Marek Kossowski, former Deputy Minister of Economy, said that the report should allow more for the issues of network systems.

- Why can't we acknowledge that emissions reaching 170mln tonnes in 2050, using solutions which will not harm the economy, are the optimal scenario for Poland? Why are we so desperate to look for the additional reduction of 80-90 tonnes, when it is clear that it will dramatically increase the cost? - asked Jacek Miziak, the head of the Department of Sustainable Growth at the Ministry of Environment.

- The veto that Poland used in the issue of CO2 was not based on any calculations. If we have calculations that show the reduction level Poland can cope with, and how costs rapidly rise afterwards, then we become partners in discussion. - Prof. Nowicki summed up.

The Tuesday conference was an element of a broader public debate on the modernization of Poland based on innovation of the economy, fuller use of the workforce, clear and stable legal regulations, and the sustainable use of natural resources.