Poland and coal

From Global Energy Monitor

Poland is a large producer and consumer of coal. In 2019, it produced 112.2 million tonnes.[1]

As of 2018, coal provides half of Poland's primary energy, including 80% of its electricity.[2] The government, using the slogan ‘Poland stands on coal’,[3] claims it is a strategic fuel guaranteeing energy security.[4]

Coal Resources

According to expert reports commissioned by the World Energy Council in 2011, Poland’s remaining discovered amount of bituminous coal in place was 17 606 million tonnes, of which 4 178 million tonnes were estimated to be recoverable. The corresponding tonnages for lignite are reported as
1 668 million tonnes in place, of which 1 287 is regarded as recoverable.[5]

Poland’s hard coal resources are mainly in the Upper Silesian Basin, which lies in the south- west of the country, straddling the border with the Czech Republic: about 80% of the basin is in Polish territory. Other hard-coal fields are located in the Lower Silesia and Lublin basins. There are a number of lignite deposits in central and western Poland, with four of the larger basins currently being exploited for production, virtually all through surface mining.

According to European Association for Coal and Lignite (Euracoal), a coal industry lobbying group, Poland has hard coal reserves totaling 16.9 billion tonnes, mainly located in Upper Silesia and in the Lublin basin. Mineable lignite reserves amount to almost 15 billion tonnes.[6]

Resource Details

Category Reserve Classification Quantity Units Data Year
BGR Estimate Reserves 26,932[1] million tonnes 2019
BGR Estimate Resources 383,946[1] million tonnes 2019
Geological Survey Reserves 87,623[7] million tonnes 2020
Geological Survey Resources million tonnes
Commercial Reserves Reserves million tonnes
Commercial Resources Resources million tonnes

Coal Production

The governing party is supported by the politically powerful coal industry, and 100,000 Polish jobs are estimated to be related to coal.[8] Miners are highly respected and their trade unions are also politically powerful.[9]

While the Polish coal industry remains a substantial producer, the industry has undergone a dramatic restructuring with production falling by approximately one third between 1988 and 1998.

The future of the domestic coal mining industry is therefore tied to the power generation industry, which itself is in the midst of a major shake-up. The Austrian Energy Council points out that the existing generation capacity is aging which it states "is becoming an increasingly serious problem".

In 2005 Poland mined approximately 159 million tonnes of coal according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Of this, just over 61 million tonnes was brown coal and lignite and the remainder bituminous coal.[10] In 2004 approximately 58.7% of the country's installed generation capacity was publicly-owned power stations burning hard coal while a further 25.4% operated on lignite.

Poland aims to continue mining lignite after 2040.[11] In 2005, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Finland were (in order of value) the major importers of Polish coal. The upper Silesian, the lower Silesian, and the Lublin Basins have exploitable resources that amounted to 43,32 Mt of coal in 32 deposits. the upper Silesian Basin represented the major portion of the country's total reserves, hosting about 79% of the total in 110 deposits."[12]

The British Geological survey states that over 76 million tonnes of bituminous coal and 56.5 million tonnes of lignite coal were extracted in 2010.[13]

Coal Mines

It is estimated that around 80% of Polish coal mines are unprofitable with annual losses of €1 billion a year.[14] In 2018 the Energy Ministry stated that currently exploited deposits will start to decline by 2030, and therefore that Zloczew and possibly also Oscislowo lignite deposits will be developed.[15]:

Coal mining project approved

In June 2011, New World Resources (NWR), the biggest Czech coking-coal supplier, said its board of directors gave final approval to extract coal from the Debiensko mine in Poland. NWR expects to begin the project by the end of 2011, and extracting coal by 2017. The company's feasibility study indicated the mine had reserves of about 190 million metric tons, for an average annual production of 2 million tons. Total investment in the mine will reach 411 million euros ($584 million).

Seven-eighths of the mine’s reserves are coking coal and one-eighth is the less profitable thermal coal, the feasibility study shows. NWR has a 50-year mining license, granted in 2008, to extract coal from Debiensko. The company also applied for a license to mine additional coal seams at the site and expects to receive approval for that project by mid-2012, it said.[16]

Coal mine construction stopped

On March 12, 2009, Greenpeace International announced that the construction of a new coal mine in Tomislawice had been halted. Following from a Greenpeace legal challenge in December 2008, a Polish court found possible illegalities in the project's environmental assessment process. Construction has been suspended pending an investigation. The new mine would result in about 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere.[17]

Coal Consumption

Coal plants

In 2017, of the 170TWh of electricity generated, hard coal accounted for about half and lignite just over 30%.[15] 10GW of new coal-fired power in Poland is scheduled to become operational before 2028[14] and Poland’s largest utility, PGE, is extremely dependent on coal.[18]

"More than half of the current capacity was built in the 1970s. Approximately 60% of the system is more than 15 years old, and 40% is more than 20 years old. More than 1.5 GWe has been in operation for more than 30 years. This problem has been exacerbated by insufficient expenditure on maintenance and modernization projects. PSE has estimated that by 2005, over 20 GWe of capacity will need rehabilitation while almost 3 GWe will need to be retired. Rehabilitation costs, including environmental protection costs, are estimated between $50 and $350 per kW of capacity. Additionally, there are plans in place to expand the existing transmission and distribution networks. These investments in the electricity industry are estimated to cost around $50 billion over the next 15 years.

Coal imports

Rather than increasing energy security by developing indigenous wind power Poland is attempting to replace some of its coal imports from Russia with more expensive imports from the USA.[19]

EU coal phase out

Like all EU members, the country has a legally-binding clean energy target. Silesia is a "Coal Region in Transition"[20] but the national government list of proposed beneficiaries of EU funding has been criticized for only containing state-owned fossil fuel companies.[21]

Poland, the EU, and climate negotiations

Poland and Germany are the EU’s biggest consumers of coal.

In 2011, Poland drew sharp criticism when it blocked EU plans to raise its goal for reducing carbon emissions. At 20 percent by 2020, Poland already exceeds the bloc's commitment under the Kyoto Protocol.

In 2018 Poland sued to try to avoid new EU pollution rules.[22]

Health costs of coal

A 2013 report by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) found that burning coal to produce electricity costs Europeans €42.8 billion (US $55 billion) in health care costs annually. About €8 billion of that is Poland. The new report is based on a calculation of the costs associated with premature deaths resulting from exposure to coal-related air pollution, medical visits, hospitalizations, medication and reduced activity, including working days lost.[23]

Air Quality

Following a ruling from the European Court of Justice in March 2018, Poland has to immediately take measures to noticeably improve air quality.[24]

Financial costs of coal

Poland is expected to be significantly negatively affected by climate change, and has an adaptation strategy which is being financed via the Infrastructure and Environment Program 2014–2020.[25] Environmental campaigners say that the cost of burning coal will increase due to the increasing EU carbon price.[19]

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 BGR Energy Study 2019 - Data and Developments in German and Global Energy Supplies (23), 200 p, Hannover, Germany
  2. "Poland - Energy System Overview", IEA, accessed June 2018
  3. Magdalena Kuchler & Gavin Bridge,"Down the black hole: Sustaining national socio-technical imaginaries of coal in Poland" Energy Research & Social Science Volume 41, July 2018, Pages 136-147
  4. "Climate and energy policies in Poland" European Parliament briefing, Sept. 2017
  5. Energy Resources: Coal, World Energy Council, Country Notes, 2013.
  6. "Poland," Eurocoal, accessed Nov. 2012.
  7. PGI, Geoportal, Resources and Ouput of Mineral Raw Materials, 2020
  8. "Dark clouds in Poland" New Internationalist, 14 June 2018
  9. "Explaining Poland's Coal Paradox" Forbes, 28 March 2018
  10. Walter G. Steblez, "The Mineral Industries of Central Europe: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia", 2005 Minerals Yearbook, U.S. Geological Survey, page 17.
  11. "Poland approves lignite strategy", Platts, 5 June 2018
  12. Walter G. Steblez, "The Mineral Industries of Central Europe: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia", 2005 Minerals Yearbook, U.S. Geological Survey, page 7.
  13. "European Mineral Statistics: 2006-2010," British Geological Survey, 2012.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "King Coal Is Alive and Kicking in Poland", Powermag, 03/01/2018
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Poland approves lignite strategy", Platts, 5 June 2018
  16. Ladka Bauerova, "New World Resources Board Gives Final Approval to Debiensko Mine" Bloomberg, Jun 20, 2011.
  17. "VICTORY! Polish coal mine construction halted," Greenpeace International, March 12, 2009.
  18. "IEEFA Europe: As risks mount, Poland’s PGE struggles to break from its fossil fuel past" IEEFA, 14 June 2018
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Poland turns to fossil fuel soulmate Trump as coal output flags" Reuters, 15 Nov 2018
  20. "Coal Regions in Transition Platform", European Commission, 4 June 2018
  21. "The European Commission’s platform for coal regions in transition: case studies highlight tilt toward coal companies", Bankwatch, June 2018
  22. "ClientEarth moves to defend new EU rules from 'inexcusable' coal industry attack" ClientEarth, Feb 28, 2018.
  23. Alex Kirby, "Coal burning exacts a lethal price - report," Climate News Network, 29 March 7, 2013.
  24. "Polish coal, Polish smog, Polish chaos" Energy Transition, 29 March 2018
  25. Dorota Michalak,"A Comparative Analysis of Initiatives and Adaptation Measures To Climate Change Undertaken in Poland and Eastern EU Countries" sciendo Volume 20: Issue 3, Sept 2017

Related GEM.wiki articles

Europe and coal

External Resources

External Articles

Click here for a list of coal plants in Poland (compiled by Greenpeace).

Background information