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Poland vows to triple solar energy capacity this year

Warsaw, Poland – Poland’s Prime Minister has pledged to increase the country’s solar energy capacity three-fold in 2019.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Polish radio that the government plans to triple the country’s solar energy capacity this year. “We will triple our photovoltaic capacities to 1.5 gigawatts”, the Polish Premier said. Despite the three-fold hike, photovoltaic energy would still only account for some 3% of Poland’s total installed power capacity of 45 gigawatts, according to Reuters.

Around 80% of electricity in Poland is produced from coal, the highest percentage in the EU.

According to Eurostat, renewables, including solar energy, accounted for around 10.9% of the energy mix in Poland, and needs to increase to at least 15% by 2020 to comply with EU climate targets.

“Energy and climate policy, but also innovation, will be key to [creating] an appropriate future economic model and these issues will be fundamental in Silesia”, PM Morawiecki further said, referring to Poland’s Silesia region, the heart of the country’s coal industry and where his own constituency of Katowice is located.

Poland’s coal reliance has put the country at odds with the EU’s goal to reach climate neutrality by 2050.

In June, Poland, along with Hungary, Estonia and the Czech Republic, blocked an EU resolution to commit to zero net emissions by mid-century, drawing the ire of a number of countries, including France that spearheaded the proposal.

Officials in Warsaw argue that Poland would need an extensive compensation package to fund its transition before agreeing to the EU’s climate goals.

The Polish energy minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski recently claimed that Poland’s push to achieve zero net emissions by 2050 would cost something in between €700 and 900 billion. “I treat it as a fantasy when someone says that Poland is able to reach the zero-emission goal by 2050”, he said.

A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) however found that achieving climate neutrality in Poland was both “affordable and feasible“, further stressing that a greener energy mix and stronger investments in renewables would considerably lower energy, health and environmental costs in the future.

Environmental activists have accused the Polish government of using modernization costs as a bargaining chip in EU negotiations and an excuse to delay any tough and politically-sensitive decisions regarding the future of the country’s coal industry.