Over the past two years, natural gas has become a high-risk fuel: it is subject to huge price fluctuations and, following the disruption of supplies from Russia, competition for imports of this resource from other sources is increasing. Not long ago, there were plans in Poland to significantly increase the consumption of natural gas throughout the economy - by 75% by 2035. It was supposed to be a transition fuel.
Many countries are currently reviewing their approach to gas consumption. In this context, Poland finds itself at a special moment: it must simultaneously manage the transition away from coal - while avoiding a drastic increase in the role of natural gas in the economy.The government must therefore have a strategy for the role of this fuel. It should take into account the overall balance of natural gas, not only in the power sector, but in all sectors of the economy combined, including industry, households and heating," stresses the Energy Forum in its latest report, "Past time for gas?".
The analysis is available in Polish only.
In recent years, natural gas consumption in the Polish economy has been around 20 bcm, which is relatively low compared to other EU countries. However, up to 80% of the gas consumed in Poland is imported - supplies from Russia have been replaced by other directions. According to Gaz-System's forecasts back in 2021, the role of gas in Poland was expected to grow - even to 34 bcm per year within a decade. The gas infrastructure has been developed with a view to the progressive gasification of the energy and household sectors.
The experience of the last two years has forced a revision of this approach. Gaz-System has lowered its consumption forecasts and the government has announced a reduced role for gas in the forthcoming revision of Poland's energy policy until 2040. If the overriding goal is to reduce the role of the risky blue fuel, such an approach is no longer possible.
The main consumers of natural gas in Poland are
- Industry - 40% of demand
- Households - 25%,
- Electricity generation and heating - 20% in total.
It is necessary to prepare sectoral strategies to reduce dependence on gas. The latest report of the Forum Energii entitled "Past time for gas?". What Poland can do to reduce gas consumption in the economy' is the first study to analyse all sectors of the economy, examining the current importance of natural gas and the potential for reducing its consumption.
The Forum Energii calculations show that approaching the balance of gas consumption from the point of view of the economy as a whole, while introducing sectoral strategies to reduce its consumption, creates an opportunity to reduce the role of natural gas as early as the middle of the next decade. In 2035, the annual consumption of natural gas in the economy could be reduced to around 19 billion cubic metres. Such a demand can be met by domestic production and imports from sources other than Russia.
It should be noted, however, that before gas consumption is reduced, its role in the economy will temporarily increase over the next decade as a result of the conversion of heat and power plants to gas fuel due to coal shortages and the slow development of renewable energy sources in these sectors.
The Polish electricity system is under pressure to develop new capacity and prepare for the electrification of new sectors. The role of gas in the system will grow, but we cannot allow its volume to increase, especially as there are technologies that limit the use of natural gas. There is a great potential to reduce consumption of the blue fuel in the coming years, whether in households or in industry,' points out the report's author, Dr Aleksandra Gawlikowska-Fyk of the Forum Energii.
Gas reduction in particular sectors - recommended actions
In its latest report, the Forum Energii recommends a number of solutions, the planning and implementation of which will allow to reduce the share of gas in Poland in the 2035 perspective.
In the electricity sector:
- Significantly accelerate the development of RES, including biogas and biomethane - increase the scale of planned projects.
- Use the most flexible gas-fired power plants and develop cogeneration (the most efficient way of using fuels).
- Recognising the potential for energy efficiency.
- Use existing gas units (200+) provided their flexibility is increased.
In district heating:
- Improve energy efficiency of buildings and district heating infrastructure.
- Increase the share of renewables to 40% by 2030: heat pumps, biomethane, biomass, solar panels, geothermal.
- Electrification of heat.
- Exploiting the potential of waste incineration and waste-to-energy.
- Improving the energy efficiency of buildings (reducing heat demand by 28% by 2030).
- Increasing the share of renewable energies to 65% in 2030: dynamic growth of heat pumps and solar collectors, stable share of biomass.
- Increase the share of electrification to 40% by 2030.
- Setting a date for the end of support for the purchase of gas boilers from subsidy schemes and the subsequent phasing out of their sale.
- Support the use of green hydrogen (reducing gas consumption).
- Systematic support for reducing natural gas consumption in other sectors, including through energy efficiency improvements.
The use of gas must be considered not only from the perspective of one sector - e.g. electricity or district heating - but of the whole economy. Such an approach has an impact on Poland's import dependency and our energy security. At the moment, many investments are suspended because decision-makers expect the situation to stabilise, but this will not happen. The energy market will be volatile in the coming years. The longer the uncertainty lasts, the more Poland's security will be threatened. We should try to minimise the role of blue fuel - where possible, e.g. in heating and industry. In the power industry, the share of gas must be minimised, but it will be difficult to give it up at this time," concludes Dr Joanna Maćkowiak-Pandera, President of the Forum Energii.