Energy Transformation of Polish Cities and Towns – Local Development Forum seminar report
A special Local Development Forum seminar with a pivotal strategic theme of energy transformation in Polish cities and towns was held. This was the first of a series of meetings exploring the subject, planned by the Association of Polish Cities over

One of the seminar’s main purposes was to inspire local governments to launch energy and district heating transformation projects, and adapt to European Union regulations in the field. The “Energy Transformation of Polish Cities and Towns – New Challenges and Opportunities” meeting was organised by the Association of Polish Cities in collaboration with the Polish Development Fund, as part of the cycle “Launching Endogenous Potential as a Development Condition for Small- and Medium-Sized Towns in Poland”.

Panellists attending the meeting emphasised that we have found ourselves at a stage of fundamental changes in terms of Poland’s district heating system, energy transformation nothing but a process we will simply have to undergo. Waste conversion and use is of paramount significance to local governments in terms of finance and environmental protection alike. While the transformation itself will be horrendously costly, the final bill will be exponentially higher should the plan be abandoned.

Director of the Local Government Investment Fund at the Polish Development Fund Marcin Borek presented the annual cost estimate for fossil fuels used in district heating. The amount totals PLN 10.5 billion “burned” with coal, gas and heating oil, and should be increased to include the cost of purchasing CO2 emission allowances for Poland (approximately PLN 12 billion per annum today). “Failure to convert district heating to Renewable Energy Sources and local fuels over the next 20 years will translate into around PLN 210 billion irrecoverably going up in flames in coal and gas consumption, not to mention another PLN 240 million or so in CO2 emission allowance purchases for the industry, given District Heating Company requirements,” Marcin Borek said. He believes that at least some Polish fossil fuel spendings could be saved if allocated to investments in technologies requiring no fuel purchase and developed by Polish companies, such as heat pump-based district heating. On the other hand, outflow of cash due for CO2 emissions from the Polish district heating industry over 20 years can result in major investment shortage, and a degradation of district heating systems based on obsolete and ineffective generation sources.

The cost of essential pre-2045 Polish district heating system investments in view of meeting Fit for 55 Package requirements has been estimated at any amount between PLN 277 billion and PLN 410 billion. Director Marcin Borek spoke during the meeting of funding tools and financial assistance programmes designed to support urban energy transformation.

Executive Director of the Office of the Association of Polish Cities Andrzej Porawski presented challenges, framework conditions and recommendations for an integrated urban energy policy. When discussing the overall current diagnosis, he pointed to the lack of energy strategies and co-ordination shortages in municipal management, and the lack of energy planning (supply plans still comprising nothing but passive data collections for individual subsectors). While multiple thermal modernisation activities have been launched, they continue to be fragmented and frequently tied to isolated modernisation or investment projects. Andrzej Porawski mentioned current regulations as well, clearly disadvantageous from the energy transformation viewpoint.

Co-ordinator of the Energy Management Team at the Municipal Authority of Bydgoszcz Tomasz Bońdos presented Bydgoszcz’s energy self-sufficiency roadmap. It involved many years and a sequence of decisions and activities. The first decision (in 2013) was to introduce a new one-person Urban Chief Energy Specialist position. Owing to European Union funding associated with Bydgoszcz participating in international CitiEnGov and ENERGY@SCHOOL projects under to the INTERREG Central Europe Programme, a full-fledged Energy Management Team was formed in 2016.

Municipal District Heating Company Olsztyn, Municipal Utilities Management Company Krosno and Municipal District Heating Company Świdnica shared their experience as well.

Director Andrzej Porawski announced that over two following months, the Association of Polish Cities would organise successive meetings with a focus on energy transformation in Polish cities and towns. The meeting on 22 November in Gdańsk will explore thermal waste conversion (as part of the ABRYS conference). The use of biogas, Renewable Energy Sources and Hydrogen will be discussed on 30 November and 1 December in Poznań.