Poland climate resilience policy indicator

Source(s)
International Energy Agency

Country summary

  • Poland’s average temperature rose by just over 2°C from the 1951-1960 period to 2011-2020, significantly outpacing the world average increase over the past two decades. As the country’s average temperature is expected to continue rising throughout the century, higher temperatures could boost summer electricity demand considerably while also reducing the efficiency of both thermal plants and transmission lines.
  • Although no significant changes in annual precipitation trends emerged between 1971 and 2011, the number of extreme precipitation events increased, particularly in southern Poland. Climate projections show a rise in precipitation intensity across the country in upcoming decades.
  • For sectors sensitive to the effects of climate change, including the energy sector, Poland’s 2030 National Environmental Policy and the Polish Strategic Adaptation Plan for the Sectors Receptive to Climate Change until 2020 with the Perspective of the Year 2030 identify concrete actions to improve climate resilience in the energy sector. In addition to launching a national adaptation strategy, Poland has also implemented regional initiatives and provides climate information through an online platform. While the country’s climate policies focus strongly on energy sector adaptation, energy policies such as the Energy Policy of Poland until 2040 rather prioritise security aspects of the energy system security and climate change mitigation by diversifying the energy mix and improving operational efficiency in emergency situations. Although national energy policies broadly address climate change adaptation, climate resilience is not directly prioritised.

Climate hazard assessment

Temperature

Poland’s average temperature increased by just over 2°C from 1951-1960 to 2011-2020. In the last two decades, the country’s average temperature increase (0.0586°C per year) has surpassed the world average (0.0313°C per year). Geographical disparities have been significant, however, with warming during 1981-2010 being three times stronger in eastern and western Poland (0.3°C per decade) than in the centre (0.1°C per decade).

The rise in average temperature during 1981-2010 was accompanied by a decrease in the number of days with temperatures below 0°C (2-3 fewer days per decade) and an increase in the number of days above 25°C (6 more days per decade). Naturally, higher average temperatures have reduced the number of heating degree days (HDDs) and augmented cooling degree days (CDDs).

Poland’s average temperature is projected to continue climbing throughout this century. The number of days above 25°C is predicted to rise substantially from 29 days per year in the 2001-2010 period to 52 days in 2071-2090.1 Meanwhile, frost days (minimum temperature below 0°C) will decrease throughout the century, from 102 days per year during 2001-2010 to 65 days in 2071-2090.1 With fewer HDDs expected, energy demand for winter heating will fall, while higher summer temperatures could increase CDDs and boost summer electricity demand.

These altered demand patterns could compromise system reliability in the summer. For instance, closing some co‑generation plants2 to adjust to a shorter winter heating season may result in less generation capacity in the summer if decommissioning is not synchronised with the launch of new generation capacity (e.g. small solar photovoltaic plants) to meet rising summer electricity demand.

Heatwaves also affect both electricity supply and demand. Higher temperatures reduce thermal generator efficiency and limit transmission line capacity while also boosting demand for air conditioning – a combination that can unbalance electricity supply and demand, threatening electricity supply reliability. For example, the simultaneous increase in electricity demand and drop in transmission capacity during a 2015 heatwave forced Poland’s transmission system operator to restrict industrial electricity demand, effectively forcing some industries to reduce their output.

Precipitation

Although Poland’s total annual precipitation did not change significantly between 1971 and 2011, spatial disparities have been observed. Extreme precipitation events (over 50 mm per day) have become more frequent, particularly in the southern part of the country. Meanwhile, in eastern Poland the number of rainless days increased five days per decade in the last 30 years. Electricity generation from some thermal power plants (especially those with open cooling circuits) may have to be restricted due to limited availability of cooling water (which accounts for 70% of Poland’s total water consumption) and because of higher water temperatures.

Climate projections indicate no significant trends until 2030 in total annual precipitation. However, precipitation intensity will likely increase throughout the century, with maximum daily rainfall rising from 31.5 mm in 2001-2010 to 33.7 mm in 2071-2090.1 Long-term projections to 2090 show notable seasonal differences in precipitation trends, with an increase in the winter and a decrease in the summer.

With extreme precipitation events becoming more frequent, floods could pose a serious threat to energy sector operations. For instance, when rainfall-induced flooding in June 2020 affected one of the country’s coal storage sites, electricity generation from the Belchatow power plant had to be interrupted. Poland had to import electricity from Germany and Sweden, causing power prices in the balancing market to jump temporarily.

Tropical cyclones and storms

Although Poland is rarely exposed to tropical cyclones, it has experienced at least 11 storms with very strong winds since 2005.3 As the Polish electricity distribution system is dominated by overhead lines, it could be vulnerable to failures caused by storms. While weather-resistant cables are being used for low- and medium-voltage power transmission in large urban areas, other regions are still exposed to storm-induced disruptions.

During summer 2017 alone, two major storms hit the country. Uprooted trees damaged electricity distribution lines, leaving 500 000 homes without electricity. Damage to the network was severe, and it took more than five days to fully restore access to electricity.

Policy readiness for climate resilience

Poland’s climate change adaptation policy identifies concrete actions to enhance the climate resilience of the country’s energy sector. The Polish National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change by 2020 with Perspective to 2030, published in 2013 by the Ministry of the Environment (currently the Ministry of Climate and Environment) based on the KLIMADA project, examined how to develop and implement strategic adaptation plans for sectors and areas vulnerable to climate change.

The strategy outlines climate change impacts for 11 vulnerable sectors, including energy. It lists energy sector climate change adaptation actions, including preparing the energy system for altered conditions, particularly in the context of peak winter and summer energy demand. For example, the strategy encourages alternative energy production capacity at the local level, especially for heating and air conditioning in areas with low population density. In considering extreme weather events, such as heavy precipitation, flooding and strong winds, it promotes the adoption of less-vulnerable underground and overhead transmission networks.

Poland’s 2030 National Environmental Policy, adopted in 2019, contains numerous actions to directly or indirectly increase energy system climate resilience. It calls for investments to improve protection against natural risks; flood risk management plans; drought prevention; and the construction of systems to warn of and respond to environmental hazards and natural disasters.

In addition to its national adaptation strategy, Poland has implemented regional initiatives. For example, the Development of Urban Adaptation Plans for Cities With More Than 100,000 Inhabitants project supports the development of regional adaptation plans for cities, where 30% of Poland’s population lives. However, no regional adaptation plans have yet been fully developed. The Polish Ministry of Climate and Environment also provides guidelines for preparing regional climate change adaptation plans, including a methodology and checklist for plan development at the local level.

In March 2020 Poland launched the Climate-Friendly Cities (Miasto z Klimatem) initiative to help cities increase their resilience to climate change (particularly to drought, floods and heatwaves) by developing green and blue infrastructure. The focus is on facilitating consultations among stakeholders, including municipalities, NGOs, private entities and citizens, and on implementing financial and legal instruments. Poland is therefore preparing legislation for retaining rainwater in local catchments and for developing green and blue infrastructure. This initiative is to be continued, to help cities develop or update strategic and planning documents and roadmaps for urban transformation.

While Poland’s climate policies clearly prioritise energy sector adaptation measures, its energy policies focus instead on climate change mitigation and energy security. For instance, the key energy policy documents, the National Energy and Climate Plan for 2021-2030 (2019) and the Energy Policy of Poland until 2040 (2021) do not directly advocate climate change adaptation. However, measures suggested in the Energy Policy to 2040 may indirectly support energy sector resilience, even if they do not explicitly target adaptation or resilience.

For example, modernising and developing electricity grids (e.g. medium-voltage underground line cabling) and strengthening operational efficiency in emergency situations are expected to enhance power grid climate resilience. Proposed actions include: establishing a digital communication system for distribution system operators; equipping medium- and low-voltage lines with grid operation diagnostic and analysis equipment; and increasing the use of control and automatic reconfiguration equipment in medium-voltage grids.

In addition, reducing coal-fired capacity and diversifying energy sources as planned in the Energy Policy of Poland until 2040 will make the energy sector more climate-resilient, and having significantly fewer old, ineffective and over-exploited coal-fired power units in use will reduce water consumption for cooling purposes. Also, having renewable-based distributed energy generation, greater storage capacity and a demand-side response system could provide more options to cope with the adverse effects of climate change.

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