Poland is looking to gradually phase out coal, increase electromobility and renewables, including hydrogen, Jaroslaw Dybowski, executive director of Energy Department at Poland’s PKN Orlen, a major Polish oil refiner and petrol retailer, told New Europe on the sidelines of WindEurope Offshore 2019 conference in Copenhagen.

“First of all, we have the EU targets and I think especially now when you can see quite a big changes in the government in the approach to the environment, zero emissions generation, we have a new Ministry of Climate, these are the very good signals showing that we are in a good way,” Dybowski said.

Hydrogen is seen as one of the future fuels, he said. “First of all, we think about electromobility because this is something tangible, available. This is something that exists in Europe. We have a number of car producers, we have plants for development, producing more cars,” he said, adding that PKN Orlen also builds a number of the charging stations. “Until the end of this year, we will have about 50 charging stations for electric cars but still, in our opinion, the future fuel will also be hydrogen so there will be a co-existence of electricity and hydrogen. Personally, I cannot imagine for instance having a heavy truck that is carrying not only the goods but also the batteries so for this mass communication, for trucks, maybe for some long-distance transportation hydrogen is the future,” Dybowsk said.

He noted, however, that hydrogen is more expensive than electromobility.  “Unfortunately, today the economy of the hydrogen is not as good as the electric cars, but we also understand that in order to develop this new area, there has to be some support. The electric cars they receive some kind of incentives from the government so we expect it will also be done for the hydrogen. Nevertheless, the hydrogen is not as advanced as the electricity. But for us, for PKN Orlen, hydrogen in our opinion will play as important role in transportation as electricity,” Dybowski said.

According to the PKN Orlen executive producing hydrogen from gas is an CO2 intensive process. “We think of some other technologies you can produce hydrogen and the easiest, which is not cheap, but the easiest is electrolytic method so in case we have the offshore wind and we have a surplus of energy so in our opinion this will be used for the production of hydrogen which will we can use for the processing, for the transportation, for the storage, so there is a number of ways we can utilise it,” he said.

Turning to electricity from offshore wind, Dybowski said in Poland there is about 33,000 MW installed capacity. “Now we are talking about 8-10,000 Gigawatt but, of course, the utilisation time is much lower. I would expect that somewhere in the future with the more ambitious plans for offshore, even one-third of the demand could be covered from the offshore generation,” he said.

Phasing out of coal

Asked about phasing out coal, Dybowski said Poland has to change the energy mix. “There was an announcement that one of the power plants called the Ostroleka, which is now under construction, will be the last coal-powered plant. So, in the long-term plans, in the Polish energy policy, you see the decreasing of production of the coal and this is replaced by the wind generally – this means offshore, onshore – plus some new technologies plus gas. But if you look at Germany, for example, in the western countries, gas is already seen as an environmentally-friendly fuel so we also expect gas as a kind transition fuel towards looking beyond 2050 where the majority in Europe shell be the renewable sources. But nevertheless, in the Polish system today we don’t have that many gas-fired units,” Dybowski said. “We, at Orlen, we have 1,500 Megawatt but this is the exception. We are the company with the biggest number of gas-fired units so there will be new construction of the big system gas-fired power plants which will fill this gap after the decommissioning of the hard coal-fired units. This is more or less the policy and then year-by-year increasing the volume of renewables,” he added.

Dybowski said it will be very difficult to exclude gas from generating heat. “When we are talking about the local heating systems gas is the best. Big system power plants, yes, just because they have to be in order to cover the gap after the hard coal so gas is much better than the hard coal in terms of emissions but beyond 2050 as we are talking with Europe this green direction is that’s really also the direction for Poland,” he said.