During the campaign we have met with many local citizens voicing their concerns about the Północ power plant. Here we present some of the answers to the questions they have asked us. Would you like to know more? Browse our website or contact us.
Is the Północ Power Plant a state-owned project?
No. Polenergia – the company owning Elektrownia Północ – is a private firm known for investing in modern wind and gas facilities, and part of the Kulczyk Family financial empire. Unlike the vast majority of Polish coal facilities it remains independent from the State Treasury.
What will be the Północ power plant’s impact on climate?
Elektrownia Północ would be one of the biggest coal-fired power plants in Poland. It would burn approximately 3,7 million tons of coal annually. Although the investor did not even care to estimate how much greenhouse gases it will emit, we might expect that Północ will become a new climate wrecker – it will be more than 8 million tons of carbon dioxide a year – the yearly emissions of countries such as Togo or Cyprus.
Who will construct the Północ power plant
The French company Alstom has been chosen as the main contractor of the Północ power plant. Alstom is infamous for numerous scandals, including cases of corruption. The company and/or its staff has been found guilty of corruption offences in relation to at least seven other cases. Alstom has been under observation by the Norwegian Finance Ministry since 2011 after its Council on Ethics recommended in 2010 to exclude Alstom from the Government Pension Fund Global. Most recently, the UK Serious Fraud Office charged Alstom Network UK with paying around USD 8.5 million in bribes between 2000 and 2006 to win transport contracts in India, Poland and Tunisia. Scandals and unethical business practices did not escape the notice of the civil society. In 2013 Alstom was nominated for the ‘prestigious’ Public Eye Awards, or the ‘award of shame’, for the worst company of the year.
Will Elektrownia Północ create many jobs for the local community?
The Investor promises that job offers will be flowing to the Pelplin Municipality with the first swing of a shovel. He estimated that around 2500 jobs will be created, yet those jobs will most probably be short-term and low-paid construction works, the majority of well-paid jobs will be given to experts and specialist from outside the region. How many stable jobs available for the local community will be created remains unknown. Elektrownia Północ will create new jobs, but also heavily impact agriculture and tourism eliminating existing ones. It will also mean that development of clean energy and green jobs will be impeded or stopped, while it was estimated that by 2020 there could have been even 350 000 green jobs in Poland should we phase out coal. This losses, however, has never been taken into account by the investor.
Does building a coal power plant means cheap energy for the local communities?
Quite the other way round. The Chairman of the PEP group (Elektrownia Północ’s owner) admitted in an interview that with current energy prices the project is unprofitable. Only a significant increase in energy prices would make it workable. In other words, the citizens of Pomerania would be closing the gaps in the investor’s budget with their own energy bills. Alternatively, communities which invest in renewable sources if energy can save up to 25% in energy bills.
Is it true that next-generation coal plants have virtually no impact on the environment?
It’s still impossible to completely prevent harmful impact of coal-fired power plants on the environment. It is true that modern power plants pollute less, but they too have serious impact on human health and the environment. No filters can catch all the pollutants, they can only decrease emission levels. For many toxic substances (e.g mercury) there are no safe limits of emission. According to the EIA Report the Północ power plant will not be more modern that facilities built 15 years ago.
Are coal power plants dangerous to homan health?
According to estimations done by the HEAL organization, about half a million people in Europe die due to air pollution every year. Annually they cause aprox. 3000 premature deaths in Poland. Coal plants have their share in four of the five most common causes of death, that is, cancer in general, lung cancer, respiratory diseases, and circulatory system diseases. Children and elderly persons are especially vulnerable. A coal plant may emit pollution at a high altitude; while this reduces the threat to people living in the vicinity of the plant, it also transports the pollution to other areas, as far away as 500 km. Health experts estimated that air pollution from the Północ power plant could kill approx. 469 people and cause the loss of 5000 years of living and 470 000 workdays. The financial costs of health loss stemming from the pollution caused by the power plant during its 35 years of operation have been estimated at 363 – 1,107 billion Euro.
Will the CCS Ready installation prevent Elektrownia Północ from affecting the climate?
Some promise that coal will become climate-friendly if CCS filters are installed. The CCS Ready installation allows one to install a carbon dioxide capture system. Unfortunately, there are currently no tested, functional systems of this kind that could be used for such a large power plant. Carbon Capture and Storage is an experimental technology which does not work yet and requires combustion of 20-30% more coal which means more pollution. It is also very expensive which would translate into severe increase in energy prices. CCS cannot replace going carbon neutral. Even new coal power plants emit 15 times more CO2 than renewables.
Will the Północ Power Plant impact on Vistula make any difference? The river is already very polluted.
It is true that Vistula used to be very polluted, by thanks to great effort of several generations its condition changed dramatically for the better. It is now one of the most precious water ecosystems of our country. Elektrownia Północ might ruin it. What is more, in the European Union, water does not constitute a commercial product. Under the EU Water Framework Directive, our country is required to curb water pollution in compliance with Water Use Plans. This means that if the water is too polluted, not only is intensifying the pollution prohibited, but actions must be taken to return it to its proper state. Such actions may also be required by laws governing Nature 2000 sites.
Will the Północ power plant be harmful to historic monuments?
According to the Management of the Malbork Castle Museum, a UNESCO heritage site, high emission of pollutants from the power plant will be destructive to the local historic buildings. They are particularly concerned about a possible synergic reaction which would further accelerate destructive processes. They emphasize that locating a coal-fired power plant so close to a UNESCO heritage site is a grave mistake which may have dire consequences.
Why do the environmentalists protest against new coal-fired power plants in Poland? Don’t we need energy?
Environmentalists have been protesting against energy solutions in recent years because the proposed energy sources are often extremely harmful to the environment, and often to economy – they are far too expensive or unprofitable and ineffective. Informing the public about such potential harm is a matter of civic responsibility. Poland remains a democratic country, its law allows for social dialogue and civic participation. Every decision should follow the regulations in force and take into account all potential environmental impacts. That is why any responsible person who suspects the proposed solutions may be invalid or against the law should speak out − just as any citizen wishing to influence their country’s future should vote. The social organizations have been also calling for development of clean energy projects based on renewable energy. Such projects will not only ensure country’s energy independence but will also contribute to the region’s development and environmental protection.
If we don't build Elektrownia Północ, will we have to build a nuclear power plant?
A nuclear power plant is planned as a result of a strategic decision by Polish authorities who wish to provide Poland with a secure power source. Therefore, we shouldn't consider coal a viable alternative to nuclear power. Building another coal plant while the country is already 93% dependent on coal power may hasten the decision to build a nuclear facility. In fact the only real alternative to coal and nuclear is development of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Where will the coal used in the Północ power plant come from?
Nobody knows it for such, but it is rather unlikely that the Północ Power Plant will burn Polish coal. It is no accident that the power plant is to be built in northern Poland – a long distance from coal mines, but with excellent railway connection to the nearby harbour in Gdynia, which docks are famous for welcoming coal ships from distant places such as Chile, China or Australia. Foreign coal is cheaper and of higher quality than the domestic resource. Today the majority of coal Poland imports is from Russia. In Poland, almost 90% of energy is produced from coal. Strategically speaking, it’s inadvisable to further increase this reliance on coal, especially when international treaties such as the Paris Agreement oblige us to reduce CO2 emissions. To produce energy profitably, we may find ourselves having to import coal from China, for example. Large coal plants are a long-term − several decades or more − investment, and recent economic changes have clearly shown that we should not lock ourselves in coal dependence.