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Marek Wesoły: “We are the last country in Europe whose economy is based on hard coal, and thus also the last country that to a large extent extracts this coal on its own” – V Our Future Forum

On May 12 this year, the 5th edition of Our Future Forum took place at The Tides event center in Warsaw. The conference was attended by a record number of over one thousand two hundred participants. The event consisted of ten discussion panels, five masterclasses and three keynote speeches.

One of the panels concerned the green revolution in Poland. The discussion was led by Zuzanna Buszman – Mentor of the Our Future Foundation, and above all a member of the Foundation’s Council. The panel was attended by: Jan Moś – Associate Partner at McKinsey&Company, Piotr Markowski – President of the Management Board of Corab SA, Artur Warzocha – Vice President of the Management Board of Tauron Polska Energia SA and Marek Wesoły – Secretary of State at the Ministry of State Assets.

Zuzanna Buszman began by thanking all the speakers for participating in such an important event for young people and presenting the basic assumptions of Poland’s energy policy. Then she turned to Mr. Artur Warzocha asking why we actually need the energy transformation and why we cannot stay with the current status quo.

The Vice-President of the Management Board of Tauron Polska Energia SA replied that the transition to renewable energy sources is necessary to maintain the competitiveness of our economy. He noted that Poland has until 2050 to completely abandon coal, while the construction of a nuclear power plant in our country may help us achieve this goal much faster. He emphasized the important role of hydroelectric power plants, wind farms and photovoltaic farms as the key pillars of Polish renewable energy in the future. At the end of his speech, he mentioned that in recent years there have been moments in Poland when the production of energy from renewable sources was higher than the production of energy from conventional sources, which only shows the enormous progress that has been made in this field.

Piotr Markowski faced the question of what challenges Polish investors who invest in renewable energy sources face. He emphasized that you do not have to be professionally involved in investing to spend your money on renewable energy sources, because there are already over a million households in Poland that are electricity producers, because in recent years they have invested, among others, in photovoltaics. Then he divided the photovoltaic market into three groups: individual activists, medium-sized companies and professional investors. He also added that one of the most dynamically developing areas related to renewable energy sources is agro photovoltaics, i.e. a method of simultaneous use of agricultural fields to produce food and electricity from photovoltaic panels.

Marek Wesoły referred to the principle of three Ds, i.e. digitization, decarbonization and decentralization, stating that only comprehensive implementation of each of these elements can lead to Poland’s success. “We are the last country in Europe whose economy is based on hard coal, and thus also the last country that to a large extent extracts this coal on its own,” said the Secretary of State in the Ministry of State Assets. He pointed out that the most difficult element of the three D principle that Poland has to face is decarbonisation, because coal is still the foundation of our economy. “More than 70% of electricity in Poland comes from hard coal” – emphasized Marek Wesoły sadly. He then stated that in our geographical location, wind and solar energy cannot be considered as stable energy sources, so Poland should focus on developing other more sustainable energy sources. He decided that nuclear power plants are the best alternative to coal-fired power plants because they provide the greatest stability. At the end, in order to make the participants of the event aware of the scale of the challenge we face, he said that according to experts’ calculations, the total cost of the energy transformation in Poland will amount to several trillion zlotys, and for comparison, the annual budget of our state is about PLN 600 billion, so a full transition to renewable energy sources would cost multiple of our annual budget.

Jan Moś focused on the technologies that have the greatest potential to accelerate the energy transformation. First, he mentioned solutions based on obtaining energy from hydrogen, then he mentioned CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage), i.e. a technology that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and emphasized the importance of electrification in transport and other sectors of the economy. Finally, he emphasized that in his opinion the state alone will not be able to cope with the challenges posed by the energy transformation, so it should be actively supported by business.

Piotr Markowski presented the participants of the conference with his own vision of energy independence of households. “Our vision is for the household to be a producer of electricity” – said the President of the Management Board of Corab SA. He stated that individual consumers are also responsible for the energy transformation and can significantly contribute to the dissemination of renewable energy sources and increasing public awareness of the principles of sustainable development.

Łukasz Warzocha praised the idea of household self-sufficiency and said that Tauron Polska Energia SA, represented by him, fully supports and supports this vision. He noted that distribution networks in Poland require continuous modernization and emphasized that in his opinion this is one of the greatest challenges our country will face in the coming years. He also mentioned that attention should be paid to the issue of energy storage, which can be solved, for example, by building pumped-storage power plants and creating storage facilities based on lithium-ion cells. Finally, he reminded that many times the requirements related to the energy transformation set by the European Union are not adapted to the specifics of the Polish economy and while our country should implement the energy transformation as soon as possible, it cannot do it at any price, without taking into account the social costs associated with it .

Zuzanna Buszman emphasized the importance and impact of the development of new technologies in the field of energy transformation on shaping the labor market in the future. She cited data from a report prepared by the Confederation Lewiatan, which shows that by 2030, three hundred thousand new jobs will be created in Poland in industries such as renewable energy, nuclear energy and electromobility. Then she asked Mr. Jan Moś what skills young people should develop in order to find themselves in the labor market, which is changing due to the energy transformation.

The Associate Partner at McKinsey&Company stated that knowledge in the field of exact subjects: physics, engineering and computer science will certainly be valued in the coming years. After a while, however, he encouraged all humanists, saying that soft skills will also be crucial: communicativeness, creativity and the ability to work in a group. He also noted that there will always be a demand for people with entrepreneurial zeal, because entrepreneurs are one of the main driving forces of the energy transformation.

Piotr Markowski tackled the question of how to encourage young people to return to Poland after studying abroad. He said that in the coming years we will face a huge migration of technology from the Far East to Poland, which is a great opportunity for young people who should implement this technology in our country.

Marek Wesoły added that in recent years the trends have been getting better and better, because every year more and more young Poles return to our country after their studies, even despite the crises related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the war beyond our eastern border. Finally, he noted that new technological challenges will require fresh employees, which are already insufficient in Poland, so there is a huge opportunity for Generation Z. “If we do not focus on educating young people and creating innovative solutions, we will only become a customer of the world, a recipient of new technologies, a payer of the solutions provided, and this is certainly not a good direction for us” – concluded the Secretary of State in the Ministry of State Assets.

Source: Our Future Foundation report

Photo: Our Future Foundation

Maksymilian Mirecki
I am a journalist and editor in Coopernicus. I study law and international relations at University of Warsaw. I am also a host of the podcast "Maximum Dose of Knowledge".
Written by:

Maksymilian Mirecki

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