Environmental group sues Polish 5.4GW lignite power plant

Author: Ellie Chambers

2019/09/26

LONDON (ICIS)--ClientEarth, lawyers for the Earth Foundation, are suing Poland’s 5.5GW Belchatow lignite-fired plant for contributing to the climate crisis, the law firm said on Thursday.

The law firm appealed to the Lodz district court to order plant operator and Polish power incumbent PGE to cease burning coal at Belchatow by 2035 at the latest and reduce carbon emissions to zero.

The lawsuit is based on the environmental protection law, which allows ecological groups to file lawsuits to compel companies to cease activities which either damage or threaten to damage the environment.

Belchatow emitted more greenhouse gases than any other single emitter in Europe during 2018, European Commission data shows.

But the power plant is also fundamental to the energy security of Poland, accounting for almost 21% of Poland’s total production in 2017.

PREVIOUS COURT CASES

ClientEarth has had considerable success in obstructing coal-fired generation in Poland before.

On 1 August, as a result of a case brought by the firm, Poznan district court ruled an agreement between Polish utilities Enea and Energa to build the 1GW coal-fired Ostroleka C plant invalid.

The plant was supposed to be the last coal power plant to be built in Poland and was planned to come online in 2023 at the earliest.

ICIS analysis indicated the impact of Ostroleka C not coming online would be bearish in the mid-term, as the plant would have increased Poland’s need to buy EUAs, but slightly bullish in the long term.

On 19 June, the Polish supreme administrative court ruled that the 1.6GW coal-fired Polnoc plant would never be built, also due to a case brought by ClientEarth.

POLAND’S RELIANCE ON COAL

Poland’s national energy and climate plan (NECP) to 2030 proposed that the share of coal in the generation mix would be reduced to 60% by 2030.

ICIS analysis estimates the share of lignite and hard coal in this year’s generation mix will be 82%.

The plan also included a target of 21% of renewable energy in final energy consumption by 2030, but this fell short of the commission recommendation by 4 percentage points.

The final NECP is due for submission by 31 December 2019, when Poland will either have to take account of the Commission’s recommendations or justify their reasons for not doing so.

Poland currently has no concrete plans for moving away from coal-fired generation entirely.

The country even opened a new coal mine as recently as Wednesday.

Belchatow also has no plans for a coal exit and PGE has embarked on a programme of modernising coal units to ensure they can run for longer.

After announcing modernisation at one 370MW block at Belchatow, the company said it would now be able to run until 2034.