Turów Complex strategic for ensuring energy security of Poland
Concession processed in accordance with the law
The decision to extend the licence for the Turów Mine for 6 years was issued by the Minister of Climate on 20 March 2020 in accordance with Polish legal framework, and there are therefore no grounds to question its validity and permanent nature. The Turów mine began the application process for extending the concession more than 6 years ago by applying for an environmental permit. As part of this process, cross-border consultations with the Czech Republic and Germany were carried out on a very large scale as part of the environmental impact assessment.
Several thousand detailed answers were provided to questions from both the Czech and German authorities, as well as from the residents of the border areas, addressing their concerns.
It is worth pointing out that such a cross-border environmental impact assessment as was done for this project, on such a scale and with such a level of transparency, has not yet been carried out in any procedure. The following parties, among others, were involved in the procedure on the Czech side:
- The Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic,
- The Regional Geologists Branch of the Czech Geological Survey,
- The Water Protection Department of the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic
- The Department of General Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection of the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic,
- The Liberec Region,
- The National Sanitary Authority of the Liberec Region,
- The Czech Environmental Inspectorate, Regional Inspectorate Liberec,
- The Gmina of Mnišek,
- The City of Nové Mesto pod Smrkem,
- The City of Hejnice,
- The Gmina of Hermanice,
- The Gmina of Kunratice,
- The Gmina of Dolní Řasníce,
- The Gmina of Uhelná,
- The villages Vítkov and Horní Vítkov,
- The local community of the Frýdlant Region and the City of Hrádek nad Nisou,
- The City of Jablonec nad Nisou,
- The Gmina of Habartice
- The Gmina of Bulovka,
- The Gmina of Višñová,
- The Gmina of Černousy,
- Greenpeace Ćeska Republika,
- The CHRÁNÍME VODU association,
- Frýdlant Water Supply Company.
The Czech Republic and Germany signed memoranda of cross-border agreements
During the process to obtain the environmental permit, the Turów Mine cooperated intensively with the Czech and German parties regarding the environmental impact assessment report. Dozens of meetings were held with the Czech and German sides, including with the participation of residents of border areas, to discuss the contents of the environmental assessment report. Taking into account applicable legal regulations, some of the meetings were not a legal obligation and took place as a sign of good will of PGE GiEK, which participated in these proceedings in a transparent manner.
PGE representatives organised two meetings in the Czech Republic with residents of Uhelna and Chotyna. In addition, an administrative hearing open to the public was held in Bogatynia with the participation of more than 400 participants from the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland to exchange views on the prepared impact assessment report of the Turów Mine, and a two-day cross-border consultation meeting also took place in Wrocław with 40 Czech representatives. A similar meeting of experts took place with the German side.
The cross-border consultation process ended with the signing of memoranda of agreement by all parties, including the Czech Republic and Germany, in which the Turów Mine committed to take specific measures to minimise its impact on the border areas. On this basis, in January 2020 the Regional Director for Environmental Protection in Wrocław issued an environmental permit to the Turów Mine for the project to continue mining until 2044, with the requirement that the planned project be designed in such a way as to have the least possible impact on the environment. In view of the concerns of the Czech and German sides regarding e.g. water levels, the Turów Mine has undertaken a number of measures to minimise the impact of the opencast mine in this respect. On the Polish side, near the village of Uhelna, the construction of an anti-filtration screen about 1,100m long and 65 to 117m deep is currently being completed. The PLN 17 million investment is a preventive measure to which the Turów Mine has voluntarily committed itself.
To protect water resources on the German side, a similar filter screen has been in place on the Lusatian Neisse for many years. Construction of the screen began in the 1960s and was completed in 1987. The screen is almost 4 kilometres long and 40 metres deep. The screen has served its purpose, and measurements of its leaktight properties are being carried out as part of a joint German-Polish monitoring network, where results of piezometric measurements indicate that the screen is leaktight and fulfils its purpose.
The environmental permit is beneficial for Poland, because the continuation of mining activities relates to an increase in energy security, which, in the current situation related to the coronavirus pandemic, is of additional value. Today, Poland needs stable and uninterrupted energy supplies and the Turoszów energy complex, as a stable source of power generation, ensures such supplies.
Opinion of the European Commission - the objections of the Czech Republic are unfounded
At the end of 2020 the European Commission reviewed a complaint from the Czech government concerning the issuing of a permit by the Ministry of Climate of the Republic of Poland for extending the concession for lignite mining in the Turów opencast mine until 2026.
In its opinion, the European Commission did not mention the compliance of the six-year concession with EU law. The European Commission, while confirming the fact that Polish law contains provisions exempting the obligation to carry out an environmental impact assessment, which is contrary to EU law, stated that this does not affect the continuing of mining activities at the Turów mine.
Closure of the complex would generate losses to the tune of PLN 13.5 billion
With social and economic issues in mind, as well as Poland's energy security, the sudden closure of the Turów mine could have catastrophic consequences. The related technological, business, social and environmental losses are estimated at PLN 13.5 billion, and would result, among others, from the lack of electricity generation, the need to terminate power supply agreements, the costs of the completed modernisation works adjusting power installations to the BAT conclusions, the unprofitable nature of the investment in a modern 496 MW power unit in the Turów Power Plant and the need to terminate employment contracts. In addition, the termination of operations of the Turów complex would result in the need for immediate protection of the open mine. Such a process should be carried out many years in advance, due to geotechnical and environmental hazards (dewatering), which may otherwise lead to a large-scale environmental disaster - due to the size of the mine. The cost of recultivation alone is estimated at PLN 6 billion.
The Turów mine is the only supplier of fuel for the nearby power plant. It is not possible to provide fuel from another mine due to the technological conditions of energy production from lignite associated, among others, with the need to maintain ongoing, uninterrupted coal supplies to the power plant. In practice, the interruption of fuel supplies would mean the immediate closure of the Turów Power Plant, which is a vital element in the Polish power system and has a key impact on ensuring Poland's energy security and a stable supply of electricity to millions of Polish homes. The Turów mine and power plant account for approximately 5% of Poland's energy production, supplying around 2.3 million households.
After the completion of a new power unit in the Turów Power Plant, the number of energy recipients will increase by an additional 1 million households.
Strategic importance of the Turów complex
The Turów energy complex plays an important role in the development of the entire region, influencing the local labour market, providing local tax revenue (in addition to taxes paid to the state budget), carrying out extensive activities aimed at reducing the environmental impact and supporting local communities through CSR activities. The Turów Mine and Power Plant are the largest employers in the region and one of the largest in the whole of Lower Silesia. The two plants and PGE Group companies providing services to them employ a total of approximately 5,300 people. In the years 2018 -2020 the Turów Mine cooperated with approximately 1450 suppliers, and the total value of turnover from supplies in the period 2018 - Q3 2020 was approximately PLN 1.2 billion gross. The Turów Power Plant, in turn, cooperated with approximately 1,700 suppliers in the same period, and the total value of turnover from supplies in this period exceeded PLN 5.57 billion gross. Employment directly at the Mine and Power Plant, in subsidiaries and cooperating entities provides a stable income for about 60-80 thousand people, including families of those cooperating with the Mine and Power Plant. The closure of the Turów Mine and Power Plant without ensuring a long-term transformation programme would mean the collapse of the local labour market and a dramatic increase in unemployment and bankruptcy for hundreds of companies.
An unquestionable asset of the Turów Power Plant is its location close to two borders in the direct vicinity of the Polish-German Mikułowa-Hagenwerder interconnector operating at 400 kV. The Turów Power Plant is the closest major source for this interconnection on the Polish side, which creates the possibility to supply it in case of the need to export Polish energy to Germany. The Turów Power Plant thus plays an important stabilisation role in the operation of the power system of the cross-border connection.
In order to inform the public about the operations of the Turów complex, press releases are systematically published on the websites of PGE GiEK, the mine and the power plant, providing information on the work in progress related to the Turów concession.
To enhance communication and further share knowledge, at the beginning of December 2020 PGE GiEK launched the website www.turow2044.pl, dedicated to the Turów Mine and Power Plant, which contains information exclusively on the activities of the Turów complex in the context of the renewed concession for coal extraction. The launch of the website was in response to the doubts of opponents of the complex's operation regarding the necessity and legality of further functioning of the Turów Complex.
In addition, the website of the Turów Mine includes a Q&A section regarding the concession for the Turów mine, which has also been translated into English.