- BloombergNEF’s new study offers a transition plan for Poland to replace its 5.1 GW Belchatow Lignite Coal Power Plant
- 11 GW of wind and solar can help replace 80% of the plant’s coal power generation
- It can also be replaced by a mix of clean energy and supportive technologies led by wind and solar
- Lignite availability is likely to end in Poland’s Łódź region by 2036 hence the country needs to execute on a feasible transition plan lest the surrounding infrastructure becomes stranded
- Wind and solar offer a faster route to transition for the plant compared to other technologies that either depend on volatility of the global markets or take too long a time to come online
Europe’s largest and the world’s 6th largest coal fired plant, 5.1 GW Belchatow facility can be replaced with 11 GW wind and solar to account for 80% of brown coal power generation of the plant in Poland, according to a transition plan offered by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BloombergNEF).
Specifically, by 2036, 6.4 GW to 10.7 GW of wind and solar with 1.0 GW to 1.5 GW of firm capacity could replace 80% of lost generation at Belchatow. To realize this, however, permitting restrictions for onshore wind projects must be addressed.
Titled Energy in Belchatow After Lignite Future-proofing energy generation in Belchatow, Poland, the study offers 3 potential scenarios for replacing lignite generation at Belchatow with alternative clean energy technologies.Under an optimal renewables scenario, by 2036 it proposes 5 GW solar and 5.7 GW wind, supported by other clean fuels to be located within a radius of 20 to 30 km of the Belchatow plant.
Under a land-constrained renewables scenario the recommendation is for 3.6 GW solar and 2.8 GW wind, while under a renewables and small module reactor (SMR) nuclear scenario the analysts propose 5 GW solar and 4 GW wind as potential capacity along with supportive technologies, to maximize the use of grid connection.
They add that all scenarios can replace 80% of Belchatow’s 2021 generation ensuring that valuable grid infrastructure for the plant does not become stranded.
Such a transition, according to the analysts, will lower overall power system costs in Poland’s Łódź region that hosts the Belchatow lignite plant. The region is estimated to run out of lignite availability by 2036 which is the timeline for its operator state-owned utility Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE) to shut it down.
The plant currently supplies 1/5th of Poland’s power, hence provides it energy security. However, according to the study lignite generation will drop by 75% over 2021 to 2030 in Poland ‘even under sustained high gas prices’. Hence, the need to transition to a cleaner energy source before the plant runs out of lignite supply.
Analysts argue that wind and solar provide Poland a better and faster chance at replacing the plant while it still has time since securing investments for a new gas pipeline to Belchatow may not work in the current challenging global market environment. Nuclear power plants too take a longer time to commission. Thermal plants as gas, biomass or waste-to-energy will depend on fuel availability and price.
“The construction of new, low-emission sources in the Bełchatów region must be started as soon as possible in order to maintain the security of energy supply at a high level and reduce electricity prices,” said CEO of Forum Energii Joanna Maćkowiak-Pandera. The Forum released the report along with Bloomberg Philanthropies and BloombergNEF.
At present only 600 MW solar and 100 MW wind energy capacity is planned to come up in the Łódź region. This capacity to be built by PGE can replace only 4% of the plant’s 2021 lignite generation.
Having a concrete transition plan and executing on the same would also enable Poland to benefit from the European Union’s (EU) Just Transition Fund (JTF).
“This new report shows a promising path to replacing Europe’s biggest coal-fired power plant with alternative and resilient clean energy sources – and it can serve as an example for coal regions in Europe and globally that are looking to reap the health and economic benefits of clean energy,” added UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions and founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, Michael R. Bloomberg.
The BloombergNEF study is available for free download on its website.