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Poles are saving money and are increasingly willing to support nuclear energy. Debate of the Institute of Finance on the energy transformation

Trójka ekspertów siedzi w rzędzie w fotelach, bierze udział w nagraniu debaty. Dwoje z ekspertów to kobiety, jeden mężczyzna. Po lewej od nich siedzi prowadzący debatę.

Date: 15 December 2022

The Institute of Finance presented a report discussing the key challenges related to the energy transformation in Poland. It pointed out that changes in our country are necessary and expected. The report was accompanied by the expert debate on the transformation of the Polish energy market.

The Institute of Finance organized a debate on the Polish energy market and energy transformation. The inspiration to initiate the debate was the report “Financial and Legislative Aspects of Energy Transformation in Poland” published by the Institute. The study addresses the problems of legal barriers and economic challenges that our country has to face in the wake of inevitable changes in the energy market. Katarzyna Obłąkowska (lead editor of the report), Artur Bartoszewicz, Maciej Mierzwiński and Krzysztof Tomaszewski co-created the publication.

The debate, organized at the headquarters of the Institute of Finance in Warsaw, was attended by experts from various fields of science and business. It included Katarzyna Obłąkowska – editor of the report, Mateusz Berger – Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and Government Plenipotentiary for Strategic Energy Infrastructure, and Wanda Buk- Vice-President of the Management Board for Regulation at Polska Grupa Energetyczna. The debate was moderated by Jakub Wiech, deputy editor-in-chief of Defence24.pl.

“In its activities, the Institute of Finance deals with various topics related to the economic development of Poland and the current challenges we face. We have no doubt that changes in the energy sector are currently one of the most important topics affecting all of us. Now and in the years to come. That is why we decided to describe this problem in many aspects, focusing primarily on legal issues and those related to the mechanisms of financing the transformation. Therefore, we have organized this debate in order to revive the public discourse in this regard,” explains Łukasz Chrobak, Director of the Institute of Finance.

Poland is looking for a new energy mix

During the debate, Katarzyna Obłąkowska described in details the goals of the development:

“As the authors and representatives of a research institution, which the Institute of Finance is, we started preparing the report aware that the energy transformation is Poland’s greatest challenge in the next twenty or thirty years, and maybe even the entire 21st century. We undertook the effort to analyze the complexity of this challenge and developing recommendations for the current and future public policy in this area, which will help the rulers in shaping such rules of this transformation to carry it out in an effective and fair way, connecting and not dividing society, taking into account national security, health of citizens, energy costs for economy and households as well as the development of domestic technologies, industry, jobs and competences”.

She added that the report of the Institute of Finance constitutes a very broad view of the subject. The aspects covered in the report included issues such as regional transformation challenges, mechanisms for financing energy transformations in Poland and in the European Union, or issues regarding the selection of the optimal energy mix for the country.

During the debate, the vice-president of PGE, Wanda Buk, emphasized the need to search for this new mix. Speaking about the importance of investing in the evolution of energy, she emphasized the importance of geopolitical issues:

“For our company, transformation is one of the biggest challenges. In the case of Polska Grupa Energetyczna, most of the assets are conventional, which Poland must properly manage in the face of changes. We have ambitious transformation plans to realize already in this decade. In accordance with our strategy, by the end of 2030 we want to build 2.5 GW of capacity in the Baltic Sea, 3 GW in photovoltaics, and at least 1 GW in onshore wind energy. Their total value reaches PLN 75 billion. On the other hand, the ongoing Russian invasion on Ukraine means that some investments in 2023 and 2024 will be slowed down. The current situation, including disrupted supply chains, unpredictable fuel prices, make investing in the transformation even more challenging. However, we will do everything possible to achieve these goals. However, it should be remembered that the economy and geopolitics are a system of  communicating vessels.

A challenge and an opportunity for the economy

During the debate, when asked whether the transformation is merely a challenge or if it may also be an opportunity for the Polish economy, including business, Mateusz Berger replied:

“The energy transition is both a formidable challenge and a great opportunity. As part of my ministerial competences, I am responsible for issues such as electricity and gas transmission, or the creation of the first Polish nuclear power plant. One of the biggest challenges we face today as a country, regardless of the topic, is the problem of supplies. Clearly,  this is connected with the ongoing war in Ukraine. Nowadays, in addition, Europe undergos a very dynamic process of changes. The approach to gas, and to coal, which is to be a transitional fuel, is changing. We are facing question if there will be a renaissance of the atom, e.g. whether SMR reactors will be developed. The question about the potential of hydrogen as an innovative technology arises. The aforementioned is an opportunity for all of us, although to take advantage of it, we need to act swiftly. Both at the level of state decisions and business operations. To benefit from the opportunity that lies ahead, we need a multi-sectoral collaboration.”

Poles are afraid of rising energy prices

Katarzyna Obłąkowska, commenting on the results of the research of the Institute of Finance, described how Poles’ approach to the issue of energy is shaped today:

“As a sociologist, I looked at the issue of public opinion on the transformation in the report, and as the Institute, we conduct our own research in this area. Our research shows that many people in Poland are afraid of an increase in energy prices today and almost 80% of Poles declare that they will save electricity due to rising prices. Not only is it an economical approach, but it is also pro-ecological. It confirms the idea that the cheapest energy is the saved energy. The concerns we have identified highlight also the importance of governmental actions to ensure the transition is conducted in a fair manner and does not exacerbate energy poverty.”

It’s time for an atom, it’s time for a synergy of actions

The secretary of state in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister also discussed the development of nuclear energy in Poland:

“Today there is a discussion about what the fuel of the future will be. Small nuclear reactors are an opportunity. It is a safe and effective solution. It is difficult to understand the distance towards this solution expressed by, for example, Austrians or Germans. On the other hand, in Poland there has been an increase in support for nuclear energy recently. This is good, but we must remember that public support is only the first step. If we think about the creation of nuclear energy in our country, we have to create a nuclear culture in general, including the scientific and business aspects. It’s a lengthy process. We need experts, scientists, engineers, people who will effectively lead these investments.

When asked about the cooperation of many sectors of the state in the context of transformation, Wanda Buk replied:

“Broadly defined transformation goals cannot be achieved by administration sector only, but also at the level of business or local politics. There must be a synergy of many areas here. We want the transformation to be fair. Firstly, we should limit the use of conventional energy, replacing it with RES and nuclear energy and, secondly, take care of the areas wherethe labor market at present is based on power plants and coal mines and prepare an alternative for the local community for the future.

As Katarzyna Obłąkowska added:

“We believe that our report, indicating specific solutions regarding the energy mix and addressing social, economic, health, financial, legislative and local development issues related to energy transformations, will be a voice in the debate in this area and will lead to the implementation of key solutions in developing the Polish economy and building the energy security of our country. I am glad that our group of experts commented on these challenges.”

The report “Financial and Legislative Aspects of Energy Transformation in Poland” has been published on the website of the Institute of Finance.

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