Energy transition in Polish heat and energy sector


Global climate change is temporarily overshadowed by the coronavirus, but global warming is progressing as we speak. One of the main culprits, at least in Poland, are outdated heat and power plants CHP, whose negative impact on the environment can be seen especially in recent weeks - during a winter attack that has not been seen for many years.

Polluters dominate Polish cities

Smoking chimneys of Polish dated heat and power plants, measuring up to several hundred meters, are an indispensable part of the skyline of Polish urban areas. Clouds of grey smoke are also a clear indication of what Poles are breathing in on a daily basis. This is confirmed by the results of a study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health published in the medical journal "The Lancet", which shows how many people a year are killed by smog in over a thousand European cities. At the top of the infamous ranking, Poland took second place, behind Italy. Among the first 50 cities on the list, sixteen are from Poland, which translates into several or even more than a dozen thousand fatalities per year.

“Poor air quality is a topic that returns to public discussion every winter. We can see some of the main polluters on the streets every day - they are outdated cars. If you add to this coal stoves, which are still used in many houses and apartments, even in city centers, and the outdated infrastructure in heat and power plants, we have a recipe for an ecological horror”, comments Michał Wróblewski, Vice President of the Board, Rockfin


International treaties set the course for change

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally is supported, among other things, by the provisions of the Paris Agreement. The aim of the document, ratified by European Union in 2016, is to limit the average increase in the Earth's temperature and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of February this year, the Polish government adopted a document called the Polish Energy Policy 2040 (PEP2040). According to PEP2040, the share of renewable energy sources in gross final energy consumption will be at least 23% in 2030, the installed capacity of offshore wind farms will be ca. 5.9 GW in 2030 and up to ca. 11 GW in 2040. Other elements include a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by ca. 30% by 2030 compared to 1990, and by 2040 heating all households with system heat and zero- or low-emission individual sources.

“Obviously, implementation of an adequate policy for decarbonisation of Polish cities and economy will be a multi-stage process. On the other hand, adapting existing and old plants to international environmental protection plans should be an absolute priority. Unfortunately, the solutions on which Polish heat and power units are based are outdated. What is more, these plants bear enormous costs associated with subsidies for CO2 emissions. This is not economically reasonable”, adds Bartosz Krzemiński President of the Board, Rockfin.

And as estimated by the International Renewable Energy Agency, renewable energy sources could already cover 86% of the world's electricity needs by 2050.

„National and European strategies impose initiatives related to changing the functioning of the country’s infrastructure responsible for energy production. The natural solution seems to be a complete change of the systems and technologies on which these units are based. However, this is an expensive process which stands against the principles of sustainable development. A better and more efficient strategy is therefore the modernisation of existing technological lines”, says Paweł Jaszewski Project Management Director, Member of the Board, Rockfin.


Pack those plants with power

One of the solutions that may help in the modernisation of Polish CHP plants is Power Pack, a product developed by Rockfin. The company started its activity in 1991, initially employing 3 people. Today, with 30 years of experience, more than 700 employees and unique know-how, it belongs to the world league of global suppliers of advanced equipment supporting strategic industries, such as the energy sector.

“While observing the latest trends related to replacing fossil fuel combustion with low- and zero-emission solutions, we decided to use our potential and long-term experience to develop our own solutions and products supporting the energy transformation process. One of our priorities is distributed energy,” explains Bartosz Krzemiński President of the Board, Rockfin.

An example of a solution that fits into this segment of the energy industry is the so-called PowerPack, which can refer, for example, to a gas engine. Gas is seen as a low-emission fuel, particularly in comparison with coal, and as a 'bridge fuel' in the energy transition. Replacing coal with gas is being promoted at both Polish and European level.

Technologies for generating energy from gas with the use of engines and small turbines have been on the market for years, but with the progressive energy transformation, including a move away from the construction of large centralised coal-fired power plants, the market for small and medium-sized systems generating energy in a distributed structure may grow in the coming years.

PowerPack is Rockfin's proposal for a comprehensive offer for the design, construction and commissioning of modern and highly efficient energy systems of several or more megawatts.

"The solution we propose is designed based on the needs and capabilities of a particular plant - its infrastructure resources, scope and scale of operation, team, etc. On this basis, we propose tailor-made technology. Catalogue solutions may simply be less effective.  The advantage of our approach is that we can use the most appropriate technology for the particular application and scale the solution exactly to the customer's needs”, Michał Wróblewski, Vice President of the Board, Rockfin

Depending on the application, the proposed solutions can be based on gas engine technology, small gas turbines or fuel cells, producing electricity, heat and cooling in a combined cycle. What’s important, each time the aim is to improve efficiency and optimise costs, which may also be particularly important for investors.