By Pablo Gonzalez
Warsaw, Jan 9 (EFE).- Poland, a country that is heavily reliant on coal power, has been mired in an energy crisis driven by skyrocketing fuel prices, which Warsaw blames Moscow for while turning to Brussels for a potential solution.
Inflation, which increased for the sixth month in a row to 8.6% in December, is at its highest levels in 20 years, forcing authorities to lower VAT to zero on food starting February 1.
The government also is working on an assistance program to help families adjust to the spiraling inflation.
Tomas Jelenski, 54, tells Efe the pellets he uses in the stove have risen from 1,200 zlotys (around $300) in September to 1,738 zlotys in January.
Those who use gas to heat their homes or own small businesses have it even worse, as gas bills have increased by 50-60% on average, according to Jelenski, who lives with his family near Warsaw.
“That is a tragedy since everything has become more expensive and everyone must raise their prices,” he says, predicting that some people will be forced to turn to coal to heat their homes, worsening already high levels of air pollution in Poland.
“I have dry wood, but people who have an old coal-fired heater will use it. Nobody is going to change them for a modern system because they don’t have money. Heating with gas or electricity is too expensive,” he adds.
For energy analyst Wojciech Jakóbik, the Polish economy is recovering from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic but lacks the capacity to meet its electricity and natural gas needs.
Jakobik blames the Russian giant Gazprom for the record high prices in Europe, saying it intentionally withholds the supply of natural gas “as part of Russia’s long-term policy.”
He believes Moscow wants to force the European Union to reach a compromise on the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which if authorized, will see gas transported from Russia to Western Europe without passing through Ukraine.
For Jakobik, integrating climate and energy policies at the European level would be a possible solution as it would make Poland a key player in the energy market.
Another factor that has a negative impact on the energy sector in Poland, according to spokesman for the Ministry of Climate Aleksander Brzozka, is the rising CO2-emission permit prices.
“In certain parts of Poland we have around 70% of the total electricity system depending on coal and, therefore, the cost of emissions greatly affects the bills of customers,” he explains to Efe.
Additionally, Brzozka condemned increasing the coverage of the EU’s emissions trading system to also include the transport and construction sectors, calling it “unacceptable” as it would increase energy poverty.
Brzozka adds the energy transition to achieve zero emissions should not be based on these types of criteria but should be carried out in a “planned and fair” way so as to not harm “the weakest.” EFE