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Is there a future for Carbon Capture and Storage in Poland ?

Michal Drabik

V. Conclusion

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1In conclusion, the climate is changing, the average temperature on Earth is rising, the EU is concerned and Poland is developing. Despite the fact that the country is trying to make up economically for lost time under Communism, as a member of the EU, it still has to comply with a demanding European climate policy. Therefore, the country is obliged to gradually suppress its emissions. The task is not easy, especially keeping in mind how coal-dependent and energy intensive the Polish economy is. Given that abandoning coal as an energy source is not a viable option, Poland has no other choice but to find a way to make coal “cleaner.”

2At first glance, CCS, with its potential for lowering CO2 emissions without jeopardizing the future of coal-fired power plants, appears to be a perfect solution. Yet, the closer it is examined, the more its charm fades away. First of all, CCS installations are expensive to build and operate. Secondly, the technology reduces the efficiency of plants in which it is installed. Thirdly, it diverts attention from renewables. Fourthly, its storage component poses potential dangers to people and the environment alike. Finally, CCS raises the price of electricity.

3The first argument worries governments and private investors; the second one discourages energy companies; the third one upsets environmentalists; the fourth one alienates people living nearby CO2 storage sites; and the last one simply disheartens the whole society. As a result, there is nobody left to support the technology. While the above description overly simplifies the issue, it conveys the current state of affairs quite well. Consequently, it appears that under these circumstances, any attempt to implement CCS on a commercial-scale in Poland is doomed to failure.

4This paper analyzed the technology in terms of the likelihood of its application in Poland. After placing CCS in the European context, examining the attitudes Polish stakeholders have towards the technology, reviewing the public debate on CCS in the country, and scrutinizing Polish society’s hopes, fears and beliefs concerning CCS, the paper concludes that, as of today, the chances for CCS implementation in Poland are virtually null.

5A lack of complete certainty comes from the fact that there is always a chance that the EU will, at some point, render the use of the technology mandatory. Short of such an imposition, however, the large-scale implementation of CCS in Poland will simply not happen.

6The “risk” of the above-mentioned “intervention” from Brussels is rather low. Even in the EU CCS is not as popular as it used to be, for there are many factors that stand against it: it has been developing slower than was forecasted, its costs have still not declined, its supporting programs and initiatives have been underperforming or failing, Member States have not been keen to invest in it, and the price of carbon remains low. Consequently, conditions for CCS development in the EU are, euphemistically speaking, rather adverse.

7While the Union is capable of keeping CCS “alive” for the time being, it does not have any persuasive arguments to convince its members to apply the technology on a large-scale. It is also unlikely to force them to do so. At the end of the day, the final say within the Union is always with the states, and CCS has not been friends with most of them for a long while now.

8Likewise, in Poland as well the technology suffers a general lack of support. Politicians are much more concerned with combating the crisis rather than climate change at present. As a result, they give priority to the economy and put environmental matters on the backburner in anticipation of better times in the future.

9NGOs seem to follow the same path. Even those that had previously favored the technology, ultimately turned against it, being unable to ignore its costs.

10Experts and research institutions, while occasionally infatuated with CCS’s promises, are generally far from being enthusiastic about it. On the contrary, they tend to perceive the technology as an interesting subject to explore rather than as a viable abatement solution, ready for implementation in the country.

11Energy companies, while to some extent still open to testing and trying CCS on a small scale, are unwilling to commit resources to its commercial development. Since the “first movers” will have to pay a lot for something that will be available to others at a substantially lower price later, each company has good reason to wait.

12People, in turn, do not wish to wait. As soon as a storage site is announced to be planned in a given neighborhood, its inhabitants immediately and fiercely oppose it. Notwithstanding the fact that they claim to be friendly towards the technology, they will not rest until the project is relocated elsewhere.

13If discussed in abstract, CCS is not rejected by Poles. Although they do not know much about it, they perceive it as environmentally friendly and potentially useful. Yet, the closer the technology comes to realization, the more their acceptance evolves into rejection.

14Furthermore, such a situation is unlikely to change, as Polish people do not make much effort to educate themselves about the technology. While the public debate about CCS in Poland may not be spectacular from the perspective of the outside observer, it is certainly instructive, multi-layered, relatively unbiased and definitely available for anybody who wishes to participate in it. However, most Polish people do not have such a wish.

15In fact, a great majority of lay people who do participate in the debate only do so in response to CCS’ direct encroachment on their lives. Since most people are not being directly affected by CCS and are completely indifferent to it, the relatively small group of loud protesters becomes the de facto voice of the whole public. Consequently, confronted by the negative opinion of “the people,” the government, being ever more cautious itself and reserved towards the technology, happily yields to their demands. Once the project is terminated no one dwells on it, since it is extrapolated that no one in Poland really wants CCS based on the trends discussed in this paper.

16The only problem which remains is how the country will meet its emission goals without CCS. This, however, is a subject for further research. To shed some light on that issue, I can only add that, according to my best knowledge, no one in Poland has an answer to that question yet. Besides, having in mind the growing opposition to the climate policy in the EU, I would be very careful in treating it as something set in stone.

17Two decades ago, the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, exclaimed these famous lines: “it’s the economy stupid!” Twenty years have gone by and the US still remains faithful to that principle. Since the EU is at the verge of establishing a free-trade zone with the US, it has to keep that fact in mind. Under the current circumstances, the idea of subordinating environmental ambitions to market mechanisms may prove worthwhile once again.


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.


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