08 June 2021
The EU’s most polluting coal plant to close by 2036
Warsaw, 8 June 2021 – Poland’s Łódź region has announced that the EU’s most polluting coal plant, Bełchatów, will close by 2036 and its mines by 2038. The news is contained within the region’s Territorial Just Transition Plan (TJTP) which must be submitted to the European Commission in order to access the EU’s 17.5 billion euro Just Transition Fund. Bełchatów’s owner, PGE, also planned to excavate a new mine at Złoczew, but this too now lies in tatters according to the TJTP, though PGE is yet to withdraw its application for a licence for the project.
“PGE has spent years denying the reality of coal’s flailing prospects, and fighting those seeking to clean up our air and protect our climate and water. Today’s announcement confirming the closure of the EU’s most toxic coal plant and the mines that feed it shows that it is slowly beginning to grasp reality,” said Zala Primc, campaigner at Europe Beyond Coal. “PGE and the Polish government should be under no illusion: Bełchatów and every other coal plant in Poland has no future beyond 2030. They need to start planning a fair transition for workers and local communities.”
“PGE wants to spin this announcement as an example of it helping the Łódź region to access the EU Just Transition Fund. In reality, Bełchatów’s closure is being forced upon PGE by coal’s demise and will inevitably come this decade, not the next. PGE needs to stop misleading the local communities and focusing on greenwashing and instead prepare a plan to close all of its coal plants by 2030 the latest,” said Joanna Flisowska, head of climate & energy unit at Greenpeace Poland. “As for PGE’s Złoczew mine project, that was never going to fly. Unfortunately, Bogatynia, another coal region in Poland, has not been as lucky as Łódź and will miss out on hundreds of millions of euros in EU Just Transition Funds because PGE secured an extension of the mine’s licence from the Polish government to 2044.”
“The fact that we have a public statement confirming that Europe’s largest CO2 emitter will close is a significant milestone in Poland’s energy transformation, and shows that an increasing number of regional authorities realise that the game is up for coal. For the Złoczew mine project to be officially dead, PGE also needs to withdraw its application for its mining license,” said Ilona Jędrasik, Poland Lead at ClientEarth.
According to a report by Greenpeace  all of Poland’s coal plants will close by 2035 under a business as usual scenario pathway, while a study by Polish think tank Instrat  shows that Poland can phase out the vast majority of its coal by 2030, including all but one of Bełchatów’s coal units, without impacting upon the country’s energy security. Another study  also shows that a strategy of green investments would create up to six times more jobs than the Bełchatów power plant and its mines currently provide.
- Greenpeace report showing that all Polish coal plants and mines could close by 2035 as part of standard business activity dictated by technical conditions and the economic and market environment. https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-poland-stateless/2020/08/d1d7c177-gp-pl-poland-could-phase-out-coal-by-2035-as-business-as-usual.speeding-up-needed.pdf
- Polish think thank Instrat and environmental organisation ClientEarth modelled an ambitious Polish coal exit scenario that would see the share of coal in electricity generation decrease from 70 percent today, to 13 percent in 2030, and a final coal phase out by 2035: http://instrat.pl/en/coal-phase-out/
- Instrat and ClientEarth policy paper: Green Jobs in Coal Regions. Case Study: Bełchatów: http://instrat.pl/en/green-Bełchatów/
- PGE’s announcement: https://www.gkpge.pl/Biuro-Prasowe/komunikaty-prasowe/korporacyjne/grupa-pge-sprawiedliwa-transformacja-regionu-Bełchatówskiego-staje-sie-faktem) and draft Just Transition Territorial Plan for the Łódź region: https://bip.lodzkie.pl/ogloszenia/konsultacje-spo%C5%82eczne/item/11043-konsultacje-projektu-terytorialnego-planu-sprawiedliwej-transformacji-wojew%C3%B3dztwa-%C5%82%C3%B3dzkiego
- Bełchatów is the largest lignite-fired power plant in the world. It burns a tonne of lignite every second, and emits as many tonnes of CO2 each year as a small country: https://www.clientearth.org/latest/latest-updates/news/clientearth-lawyers-launch-court-fight-to-block-major-new-coal-mine-in-poland/
- The European Commission has warned that regions that do not demonstrate they are exiting coal will be excluded from the EU’s EUR 17.5 billion Just Transition Fund: https://www.reuters.com/article/poland-coal-eu/polands-plan-to-extend-coal-mines-life-could-cost-it-eu-climate-funds-idUSL4N2MQ2AL
- The announced closure plan for Bełchatów envisions closing one unit in 2030, another in 2031, two in 2032, two in 2033, three in 2034, two in 2035 and one in 2036. Bełchatów mine is to close by 2026 and the Szczerców mine by 2038.
- The Złoczew open pit lignite coal mine was planned to supply the Bełchatów power plant with coal well beyond 2030 and would have been the deepest lignite pit in Europe, forcing more than 3,000 people from 33 villages to relocate.
- PGE and the Polish government remain mired in scandal over the company’s illegal operations at its Turow coal mine, which is currently the focus of a Czech lawsuit against Poland with the Court of Justice of the European: https://beyond-coal.eu/2021/06/08/european-commission-urged-to-join-turow-mine-court-case-to-protect-rule-of-law/
- Two years ago ClientEarth launched a legal challenge against PGE, arguing that under the Polish civil law, the state-owned company must stop burning lignite at Bełchatów by 2035. ClientEarth wants PGE to close 11 of Bełchatów’s 12 units by 2030 and the last by 2035: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-23/polish-court-proposes-pge-clientearth-talks-over-pollution
Zala Primc, Campaigner, Europe Beyond Coal (English, Slovene)
[email protected], + 386 (0) 40 981 828
Ilona Jędrasik, Poland Lead, ClientEarth (English, Polish)
email@example.com, +48 (0) 518 845 790
Joanna Flisowska, Head of Climate & Energy Unit, Greenpeace Poland (English, Polish)
[email protected], +48 (0) 698 693 170
Alastair Clewer, Communications Officer, Europe Beyond Coal (English)
[email protected], +49 176 433 07 185
Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner. www.beyond-coal.eu