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Plans to build new Polish Leczna coal plant abandoned

GDF Suez Energy Poland, which is part of the French energy company ENGIE, announced that it would not go ahead with building the Leczna coal-fired power plant in south-eastern Poland. A recent HEAL assessment showed that future plant would lead to high health costs.

In response to an open letter by two Polish non-governmental organisations, Society for Earth and ClientEarth the board of GDF Suez Energy Poland stated that there were no plans to go ahead with building the 500 MW Leczna coal-fired power plant. The company also confirmed that ENGIE, the French energy company to which it belonged, would withdraw from any coal investments in Poland.

This welcome news follows the publication of a recent assessment by HEAL on how the future plant would lead to high health costs not only in the 100km vicinity of the plant, but also across all Poland. However, in order to be absolutely certain that Leczna will not be build, investors also need to cancel the request for the so-called environmental decision, as the first step on receiving the building permit.

An average coal power plant such as Leczna emits thousands of hazardous tons of air pollutants such as fine particles, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and heavy metals (mercury etc.) each year, over an average lifetime of fourty years, contributing to poor air quality in Poland, with significant health impacts.

HEAL calculated that health costs between 875.000 to 2.8 million EUR would be generated in the Lublin region (100 km radius) each year, stemming from early death, an increase in chronic bronchitis in adults, additional cases of bronchitis in children, as well as from productivity loss. Over the average lifetime of fourty years, health costs would amount to 35 – 113 million EUR. For the whole of Poland, the health costs would be 7.5 to 24.05 million EUR per year, and 300 – 962 million EUR in 40 years.

As part of HEAL’s work on Leczna, we also took a look at public financing for coal power generation in Poland. The country’s power sector is largely dependent on coal, with 85% of electricity generated from this fossil fuel source. Taking the methodology of the International Monetary Fund as the basis, HEAL calculated that each year, coal power generation in Poland is subsidized with 4.2 – 9.3 billion EUR. In comparison, public financing for hospitals in Poland only amounts to 6.69 billion EUR a year. This is the first ever comparison of subsidies for energy generation and healthcare.

The results on coal subsidies and the Leczna health costs were presented with a press conference in the Polish Press Agency office in Warsaw gathering high leveled panelists including Krzysztof Skotak (National Research Institute), Adam Stańczyk (Military Medical Institute) and Dariusz Szwed (Green Institute), as well as locally during an event in Lublin, with Grazyna Gilewicz (right), representative of local governments from the Lubelskie region.

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Originally posted on 23 November 2015

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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