Educate. Connect. Inspire

Educate. Connect. Inspire

May 26, 2012

Green Economy in Europe (part 3)


Due to its heavy reliance on coal, Poland is often referred to as the country with the greatest potential for green energy. However, the country still lags behind its European partners in clean tech investment, EurActiv Poland reports.

Poland has considerable potential to develop wind power as an alternative energy source. Experts say conditions are favourable to developing wind turbines across a substantial proportion of its territory, especially near the Baltic Sea and in the mountainous South East, where wind speeds frequently exceed 5.5 metres per second at 50 metres above sea level.

At the turn of the millenium, wind power was hardly used at all in Poland. However, a steep rise was noted between 2000 and 2009, when the amount of power generated by Polish wind turbines multiplied 166 times.

The figure may appear high but in fact the starting level was low. In nominal terms, Polish wind power generation is not impressive. By the end of 2008, the power capacity of all the wind turbines in Germany amounted to almost 24,000 megawatts (MW) and reached nearly 17,000 MW in Spain. Meanwhile, in Poland, wind turbines were capable of generating a mere 472 MW.

Wind power forecasts in Poland are far more optimistic. In a report, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) predicted that by 2020, installed capacity will range between 10,500 MW (low scenario) and 12,500 MW (high scenario). This corresponds to between 12.5% and 14.8% of total energy consumption by 2020.

Funding still an issue

Renewable energy has many advantages and one weakness: it is still expensive, especially compared to coal, which is abundant in Poland.

To build a wind farm, a hydro-electric power station or a biomass power plant, companies in Poland may resort to European funding (Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment). Each application is eligible to obtain 30-70% of the investment cost, provided that total costs exceed 20 million zloty, or five million euro.

The development of green energy in Poland would not be feasible without foreign investment. Currently, there are ten renewable energy investment projects pending at the Polish Agency for Information and Foreign Investment. Their total value amounts to 700 million euro. LM Glasfiber, a global corporation which is the world's leading supplier of blades for wind turbines, recently invested 60 million euro in a new plant in Goleniow, in the north of Poland, creating 460 new jobs.

The development of Polish green business would be almost impossible without foreign partnerships. Kolo, a leading manufacturer of sanitary and bathroom equipment which won a national environmental prize last year, has benefited from its membership of the Sanitec group. This bathroom solution provider invested over 100 million euro in the modernisation of Kolo's plants and the development of environmentally-friendly strategies.

However encouraging, these examples nevertheless remain isolated against the background of an underdeveloped Polish green economy. Analysts say this is caused by a lack of investment and know-how, as well as the persistence of legal barriers. Indeed, it can take up to four years for a new 'green' investment project to be implemented.

How green is official government policy?

However, the real source of problem may originate from higher up, experts point out. In February 2009, the deputy economy minister gave a national award to Polish power companies assembled in the Green Effort Group for their effectiveness and solidarity in implementing the EU's climate change policies.

The Green Effort Group, which brings together Polish power companies responsible for 90% of power generation, calls for the longest possible free allocation of emissions allowances under the European CO2 cap-and-trade scheme. It also fights against any new measures to ensure Polish compliance with national climate obligations.

The fact that the Green Effort Group was granted a national award demonstrates the government's close ties with industry and suggests that despite its public posturing, it will refrain from forcing a breakthrough on green policies. Until this changes, no revolution in Polish green business can be expected, environmentalists say.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic believes that there is a need to use a mix of instruments to facilitate the transition to a more resource‐efficient and innovative economy. Here is a selection of several examples using various instruments below, while the list is not all inclusive:

Economic instrument

In the Czech Republic (similarly to some other countries, predominantly in Central Europe region), many blocks of flats were built using the concrete panel technology in the past. These buildings enabled a relatively good standard of housing to many people. Their lifetime, however, was limited and from the perspective of energy consumption these buildings were very inefficient. With the assistance of a programme called "PANEL" (the current version of the programme called "NEW PANEL"), which provides credit guarantees and grants for interest payments, more than 350,000 of flats were reconstructed and provided with thermal insulation during the time period 2001‐2010.

Since 2009, the Green Investment Scheme called "Green Light for Savings" has been focusing not only on support for heating installations utilising renewable energy sources, but also on investment in energy savings in reconstructions and new buildings. The programme supports quality insulation of family houses and non‐panel multiple‐dwelling houses, the replacement of environmentally unfriendly heating for low‐emission biomass‐fired boilers and efficient heat pumps, installations of these sources in new low‐energy buildings, as well as construction of new houses in the passive energy standard.

The scheme is funded by the sale of greenhouse gas emission credits under the Kyoto Protocol. The implementation of the scheme leads not only to CO2 emissions reductions, but also brings other benefits, such as reduction of energy consumption for heating and also replacement of coal, lignite or fuel‐oil boilers for renewable energy sources, contributing to air pollution reduction (caused particularly by dust, SO2 and NOx emissions). Further benefits of the programme: jobs (mainly in construction sector) kept or created during the time of economic recession and also savings for households concerning their payments for energy.

The programme EFEKT is designed to provide support to energy savings and use of renewable energy sources. The grants are determined for energy planning, minor investment actions and pilot projects and recipients can be private entities, non‐profit organizations, universities, cities, villages, districts, social and health facilities, public organizations and associations. In 2010, the grants stimulated launching of energy savings projects and investments of total value exceeding the total financial volume of the grants almost 1.7 times.

Voluntary instruments

In 2011, the Ministry of the Environment concluded voluntary agreements with major industry enterprises in the Moravian‐Silesian district, which heavily suffers from air pollution. The agreements focus on reducing air pollution through concrete measures, including investments in most advanced technologies, which, in turn, contribute to greening the industrial production in exposed localities.

Informative/education instruments

A recent example of promoting innovative solutions as well as cooperation among government, private sector, academia and R&D in the Czech Republic has been a joint project of the Ministry of Environment and the Academy of Sciences called „mart Solutions for the Environment" (2010/2011), which encouraged talented high school and university students to join a competition with their path
‐breaking ideas for expert solutions to specific environmental problems (water treatment technologies, emissions reduction technologies, material and waste recycling, development of new analytical methods for detection of harmful substances). 

The learning programme "(Don´t) Buy It!" for children comprises a package of entertaining activities, such as a test on household consumption; a modified card game focusing on most frequent logos used for consumer goods; a board game "Man, (don´t) buy it!", which makes the children familiar with choices how through buying various goods reduce negative impacts on the environment; a game "Smart Household" focusing on household equipment; life cycle scheme of a spirit marker; and a questionnaire for calculation of ecological footprint. The package also includes a manual with instructions for individual activities and lots of ideas how to make consumption sustainable.


Supporting scientific knowledge and taking advantage of it in designing and adopting the practical measures is very important part of instrument mix. A relevant example is the recent study on Evaluation of Ecosystem Functions and Services in the Czech Republic completed by the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem (Faculty for the Environment), based on complex research in 2007‐2009. The purpose of the study was, first, to classify and to map the biotopes in the Czech Republic, taking into account the link between the extent of provision of selected ecosystem services and the value of their biodiversity; second, to describe the biotopes´ ability to provide ecosystem services at present and to deliver a prognosis for conditions of global environmental changes with regard to biodiversity protection; and third, to propose an evaluation method for ecosystem services.

Transboundary cooperation

Transboundary cooperation is a very important part of international cooperation and represents a basic fundament for neighbourhood relations. A recent example is the memorandum between the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic and Ministry of the Environment of the Republic of Poland for improvement of air quality in the Czech‐Polish border region, signed on 29 September 2011. The memorandum aims, inter alia, at improvement of energy efficiency in dwelling buildings and use of local renewable energy sources.

Development cooperation

In line with the Czech Republic´s Strategy for International Development Cooperation for the time period 2010‐2017, a special attention in development projects is devoted to improvement of the environment and promotion of environmentally‐friendly technologies and sustainable use of resources. The current projects focus, inter alia, on development of waste management, waste water treatment and use of renewable energy sources at municipal and local level (Balkan region), sustainable management of land, forest and water resources (African region), electrification of remote areas using sustainable (solar) technology of electricity generation (Caucasian region), waste water treatment and development of organic farming (Eastern European region), analysis of pollution and restoration of an industrial zone, building new water sources or restoration of the old ones, development of water resources management, and development of renewable energy sources for rural areas (Asian region).


Slovakia may seem to have been a late starter in developing renewable and green energies, but its economic players are catching up, using research as an instrument to promote cutting-edge technologies. Slovakia and the Czech Republic were two parts of a common federal state until 1993. Comparisons between the two countries are thus telling regarding trends in developing renewable and green technologies.
According to analysis by Peter Kolesár from Candole Partners, the Czech Republic has experienced a rapid growth in photovoltaic (PV) installations and wind projects: there are currently 411 MW of PV installations and 180 MW of wind turbines in the country (see EurActiv 26/02/10).
However, Slovakia only has 200 kW of PVs and five MW of wind turbines and investment in renewable energy resources has been low. The main reasons for these differences are the following:
  • The Czech Republic has adopted a support scheme guaranteeing feed-in tariffs for 20 years or green bonuses paid together with the electricity price.
  • The Czech Republic benefits from the presence of a Green Party in its parliament, which actively proposes policies on renewable energy resources.
  • More pressure is exerted by energy investors in the Czech Republic to increase the feed-in tariffs. Feed-in tariffs are a policy mechanism designed to accelerate efforts to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy as a power source.
The situation is quite different in Slovakia, where the development of renewable energy policies has been slow. Reportedly, part of the reason for this is the lack of expertise and resources at the Economy Ministry and the transmission system operator (SEPS; Slovak Electricity Transmission System) for analysing current renewable trends.
In spring 2009, a new renewable energy law was introduced in Slovakia and since then the country has become more attractive for projects and investments in renewable energy. In particular, a large number of requests have been tabled for developing wind energy projects.
However, SEPS has officially declared that projects using renewable resources, such as wind or solar power, have a negative impact on the stability of the retransmission system because they are unpredictable and should therefore be limited. Furthermore, the expansion of renewable energy resources in Slovakia has other constraints, notably the fact that 23% of Slovakia comprises protected bird areas.
Moreover, there is a widespread view that renewable energy installations would hike consumer electricity prices and breed disputes with landowners – meaning that distribution companies wanting permits from the state would have real problems.
Public interest in solar collectors
As a part of an economic recovery package, the Slovak government agreed last year to promote the installation of renewable energy sources. For this it allocated an additional budget of 100 million Slovak korunas, or 3.3 million euros, to support biomass boiler and solar collector installations, which have been the main targets of plans for renewable energy since 2007. The first call for proposals began in April 2009. The partial budget for public funding in 2010 was eight million euros. Since the programme started, the Economy Ministry has received 1,500 applications – over 80% of which have been for solar collector installations.
Compressed natural gas is in fashion
The Slovak Gas Enterprise (SPP), the dominant, state-supported gas distributor in Slovakia, E.ON Ruhrgas and Gaz de France have started a programme to support the development of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) as an alternative and clean motor fuel of the future. "In the long run, SPP supports the use of natural gas for fueling vehicles and it has really good reasons for that," states the company on its CNG website. "When using compressed natural gas for powering the vehicles, no mechanical impurities are created, the fuel does not smell, and the vehicle produces 60–80% fewer gaseous emissions," it adds.
CNG is promoted as a fuel for public transport in large Slovakian cities and citizens are also encouraged to buy personal vehicles running on bi-fuel engines, one of the fuels being CNG.
Research as a driving force
With EU backing, Ludovit Jelemensky and Frantisek Janicek, both from the Slovak Technical University, opened the National Centre for Research and Application of Renewable Energy Sources in June 2009. It is the first centre of excellence in Slovakia which focuses on renewable and new sources of energy at top academic level in cooperation with private companies. Its primary research topics are biomass, solar energy and hydro-energy resources.
There are three other innovative R&D projects supported by EU funds, but they are administrated by private companies. One is a new robotic platform for ultra-deep drilling – primarily geothermal, but also for hydrocarbon prospects.

The employment dimension of economy greening

Slovakia is a country with a strong environmental movement, the roots of which date back to the 1970s and 1980s when it embodied a platform of political resistanceand the efforts to resolve urgent environmental burdens. The ecological enthusiasm was one of the driving forces behind the social and political changes of 1989 and the general support translated into a strong position of green parties in the newly emerging political system. In the past twenty years, however, the level of society ‘greening’ gradually diminished and Slovakia became a standard market economy, where environmental impacts of economic and other policies are still proclaimed as important, yet in reality are paid relatively low attention. The economy underwent substantial structural changes, the effect of which – even if not intended in the first place – was a reduction of ecological burdens. The EU accession implied the adoption of new commitments in response to today's environmental challenges.

Climate change constitutes an important topic for political debate, and as suggested by survey, it resonates soundly also in the society. Slovakia acceded to all commitments following from EU's new energy and climate change package and participated actively in the negotiations at the European and global levels. Yet, the national policy debate is dominated by the energy policy, where fossil fuels and nuclear power continue playing a key role. By joining the international energy and climate packages, Slovakia in fact confirmed the efforts to green the economy. For the time being, this endeavour is a product of international agreements rather than a resolution of national policy makers to promote a low-carbon economy. A discussion about the impacts of green restructuring on the local labour market has not taken place. In this respect, the policy response to the current economic crisis indicates some progress, as part of recovery measures aim, in line with the EU's Economic Recovery Plan, to address energy efficiency with positive effects on employment. However, it is too early to consider these partial steps as a coherent strategy.

The potential of green employment in Slovakia in the near future is mainly in the 'greening' of traditional industries and occupations and, to a lesser extent, in newlyemerging green sectors. This is suggested by the existing structure of the economy, by the lack of green knowledge, and not least by fiscal restrictions. Nonetheless, shifts in employment towards greener jobs are likely to take place in several industries and possibly induce some growth of structural unemployment. The current set of labour market policies is neutral to economy greening and their potential is somewhat limited. Tax and state aid policies are playing a crucial role at present. Labour market policies could improve their role in promoting green employment by adjusting employment services, while the highest impact is to be achieved in conjunction with other economic and social policies.