The Hand Writing in on the Wall: Nuclear and Shale Gas in Poland are Going Nowhere

I wrote in a blog post some months ago that Polish energy policy is hitting reality. The plans for a nuclear plant have been naive and overlooked the simple fact that it will cost a lot of money and provide electricity as expensive as any other source. It is also likely to be illegal aid under EU competition rules [see pending European court challenge). The shale gas potential of Poland has been lost on the legal problem of no ownership of mineral rights, excessive government demands for payments, taxes, and red tape.

Coal is...well, coal. It is dying everywhere else and the economics in Poland are especially unfavorable (deep mining, high sulfur content and high ash content). It cost more to mine generally than it can be sold for for the foreseeable future. The power plants that burn it are aging dinosaurs that are inefficient, enormously polluting, and threatened with near-term extinction by the carbon emission penalties.

Now the shale gas wells are clearly an illusion at best. The nuclear plant is problematic and less likely to be built with every passing day. The state-owned utilities are being compelled to write down their coal-fired assets. New coal-fired capacity makes no economic sense and has been pushed by the government to the point of likely threatening the long-term bankruptcy of its owners. By politically compelling the utilities with some significant state-ownership to look at bailing out the bankrupt state-owned coal mines, the government is hastening the day when the whole electricity infrastructure collapses from economic duress.

Slowly the politicians are getting more vocal about renewable energy, because frankly it is about the only thing left on the plate.  Clearly no other energy sector has investors lined up waiting to invest on the day that the government cleans up the rules.

The hand-writing is on the wall - the facts are clear to anyone looking for them. But like anyone in big trouble, Poland still is struggling with the "denial" phase.


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