Natural resources, energy and environment
Poland has significant natural resources, including large deposits of coal, lignite, copper and sulfur. Copper deposits in Dolny Śląsk (Lower Silesia) are considered among the largest in the world and the presence of sulfur is among the richest in Europe. But large dependence on coal for electricity generation and heat also creates air pollution.
Minor amounts of oil, natural gas and iron ore are also extracted. Furthermore, there are minor amounts of zinc, lead, nickel, cobalt, chromium, rock salt, potassium salts, phosphates, clay, chalk, quartz and marble.
- COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Poland with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
The mining industry, not least coal mining, is contracted with ever-lower productivity and lower profitability as coal prices in the world market fall. State involvement in the sector has therefore increased, especially since the Conservative PiS government took office in 2015.
Coal is Poland’s most important energy source and accounts for just over four-fifths of the energy demand. In addition, Poland is dependent on imported natural gas. Most of the gas is purchased from Russia, but through new agreements with the USA and Norway, among others, the Russian gas will be replaced. More than a fifth of Poland’s annual consumption of natural gas is extracted in the country, the remainder being purchased from abroad.
- Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, PL stands for Poland. Visit itypeusa for more information about Poland.
Several important natural gas agreements have been signed in recent years. In 2015, Poland signed an agreement with the EU to supply gas to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania via a new pipeline. In 2020, an Italian company has been commissioned to build a pipeline in the Baltic Sea, south of Skåne, for natural gas deliveries between Denmark and Poland. Both projects are based on EU funding and aim to make Poland and the Baltic States less dependent on Russia for their energy supply.
About 80 percent of electricity in Poland was produced from coal in 2018. The goal is for coal to account for 60 percent of electricity in 2030 and 30 per cent in 2040. In order to succeed in this, it is planned for nuclear power. In 2011, plans were announced for a first nuclear power plant on the Baltic Sea coast, and in 2014 the government gave a clear sign to the construction of two reactors that will be completed by 2033. More nuclear power is being discussed. Hydropower plays a minor role. The development of onshore wind power has been hampered by a regulatory framework passed by the PiS Government in 2016. Wind turbines must be located far from buildings.
The fact that the Polish government plans for electricity production that is not based on coal does not mean that coal consumption will decrease. Coal is the most important source of heating, and if your own production is not enough, you are expected to import. Two-thirds of Polish households rely on coal or garbage to get heat, and the coal-fired electric power plants to a large extent use old technology, with large emissions.
Emissions of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide in particular from carbon combustion lead to air pollution and acidified watercourses. Emissions from agriculture and industry partly fall into the Baltic Sea. At the same time, southern Poland is one of the areas in Europe where air pollution is greatest. Based on the content of dangerous small particles in the air, Kraków and Katowice usually place themselves among the most air-united cities in Europe.
Within the EU, Poland has made several exceptions and deadlines for the transition to a less environmentally harmful energy production, as it fears that such a change will lead to sharp price increases for households or industry (see Calendar).
Over the past two decades, the environment in Poland has nevertheless improved. The heavy industry has been partly replaced by a more environmentally friendly light industry. Environmental awareness among the Poles has also increased. In Warsaw, actress Grażyna Wolszczak broke ground when she sued the state for endangering her health by not limiting emissions: she won the goal. However, it will take many years for Poland to meet EU environmental standards.
Researcher Olga Malinkiewicz has been recognized for a method of developing solar cells that could make solar energy cheaper. Malinkiewicz uses perovskite, a mineral discovered in the Ural Mountains as early as 1830, but she relies on a Japanese method that could only be used on materials that withstand high temperatures. Her new materials have been tested in Japan and by the construction company Skanska, on a building in Warsaw.
Investigations have shown that Poland has assets of shale gas, that is, natural gas stored in shale bricks. A future extraction of shale gas could reduce Poland’s dependence on gas imports. And even though it is still a fossil fuel, Poland sees in the shale gas an opportunity to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the coal. In this way, Poland could approach EU environmental requirements. Russian semi-state gas company Gazprom sponsors environmental organizations protesting against shale gas mining and points to its disadvantages, not least the high costs of gas extraction.
FACTS – ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
2 490 kilograms of oil equivalent (2015)
Electricity consumption per person
3972 kWh, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
285 740 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
7.5 tonnes (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
11.9 percent (2015)
The government retains power
The Citizens’ Platform (PO) wins the seismic selection for the second time in a row. Prime Minister Donald Tusk does a minor government reshuffle but continues to rule with the PO and the Polish Peasant Party.
Poland becomes EU President
Poland will become the EU Presidency (for six months) for the first time since the Polish accession to the Union in 2004.
“The catastrophe error of both Russians and Poles”
The Polish crash report on the plane crash in Russia in April 2010 distributes the blame for the training of the Polish pilots, the actions of the Russian air traffic controllers and the lighting at the airport in Smolensk. As a result of the report’s conclusions on the Air Force’s pilot training, the Polish Defense Minister resigns.
Changes in the pension system
The government is changing the pension system so that compulsory savings in funds of 7.3 percent is reduced to 2.3 percent, while 5 percent instead goes via ZUS (the insurance fund) to pensioners. In this way, the state budget looks better and the government does not have to borrow for the change.
Kaczyński boycotted a memorial ceremony
Opposition leader Jarosław Kaczyński boycotted the official commemorative ceremony one year after the Smolensk air crash in Russia.
Russia blames disaster on Poland
The Russian crash investigation’s final report places the blame for the Polish crash in Smolensk in April 2010 on the Polish pilots. Opposition leader Jarosław Kaczyński describes the report as a “mockery” and is supported by many Poles who believe that Russia is guilty of the disaster.