20 January 2020

From coal to biomass? Bioenergy in Poland

Photo: Mariusz Jerzy Stolarski, UWM Olsztyn, Poland

Photo: Mariusz Jerzy Stolarski, UWM Olsztyn, Poland

Dr. Mariusz Jerzy Stolarski serves as a full time professor at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland. Currently, Mariusz works in the Faculty of Environmental Management and Agriculture and the Centre for Bioeconomy and Renewable Energies. He performs research studies in the area of cultivation, productivity, usability of perennial industrial crops, as well as non-edible oil crops for multipurpose utilisation (industrial and energy), as an element of the circular bioeconomy. Mariusz lead the mapping of biomass value chains for improved sustainable energy use in the BSR for the BalticBiomass4Value project.

What role does bioenergy play in Poland and the Baltic Sea Region’s energy system? What are the main trends?

It should be considered that bioenergy plays the most important role among all types of renewable energy sources (RES). In 2017, bioenergy in Poland accounted for 82% of all RES, and in other BSR countries such as Sweden and Estonia, the percentage of bioenergy in the total RES utilised ranges from 55 to 96% respectively. The percentage of utilised bioenergy in RES over the last years has been slightly decreasing due to the development of other RES, especially when considering innovations in wind and sun. However, bioenergy utilisation will still play the biggest role in BSR countries.

What changes do you foresee in Poland when you consider the bioenergy sector? Which bioenergy products will be the most viable? Why?

I think that solid biofuels will still play the most important role in Poland, especially in consideration of wood (in the form of wood chips, pellets or briquettes), as well as straw in some regions. This is due to the biomass utilisation potential that currently exists in Poland. In addition, we have high hopes for the development of agricultural biogas plants due to the very large amounts of various substrates from agriculture and the agri-food industry. Bioenergy technologies can be, and already are, cost-effective, but legal and political aspects have a significant impact on profitability. In addition, it should be added that in Poland the challenge of transforming the new generation into one that utilises renewables for energy production instead of coal. I hope that in the future energy will be harnessed mainly from bioenergy produced from biomass.

There are currently many environmental, economic and social concerns regarding the biomass use for energy production. Do you foresee the implementation of restrictions (prohibitions, taxes, etc.) that would directly influence the renewable energy market uptake?

For now, not a lot of information is available considering such restrictions. In the past, there were very advanced plans to limit biomass imports from long distances, especially from outside the country. I think that due to the very large share of coal in energy production in Poland, modern bioenergy installations for the production of heat and electricity on a large, medium as well as small and individual scale will develop.

What is the main message of your current research?

The main message of my current research is that in Baltic Sea Region countries there is currently a very large potential for biomass utilisation, and a very large quantity of experience in bioenergy production. However, we must learn how to make better use of these resources, taking into account the cascading use of various biomass raw materials, especially in the context of circular bioeconomy. In addition, we must learn how improving local and international cooperation to manage these resources more rationally, will produce a better result.

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