A few weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, Polish energy expert, Joanna Pandera, removed the gas stovetop from her kitchen and replaced it with an electric range. She signed a contract for an electric heat pump so that she would no longer need Russian natural gas to warm her home through Poland’s long winters.
The energy expert was working to “de-Russify” the energy flowing into her house, and many Poles, furious with Russia and sympathetic to Ukraine, are doing the same this year. A growing number of Poles are embracing green measures because the shift will free them from Russian fossil fuels.
The country of Poland has led Europe in installations of renewable-friendly heat pumps per capita this year,
with their sales more than doubling compared to a year ago. Just last year, Polish policymakers aimed to install 10 gigawatts of solar panels by 2030 — a goal it has already surpassed.
“We are doing everything we can to help our citizens be more energy independent,” said the director of climate efforts for the Warsaw city government.
“In Poland the biggest fear is to have no gas because of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. People have started to be afraid of gas as their only source of heat.”
Heat pumps run on electricity, so they appeal to climate advocates because they can run on renewable energy. Installers say their phones have been ringing off the hook.
Some analysts fear that with prices so high, Poland’s climate outlook could get worse before it gets better. Not only has the government made it easier to burn dirty coal for heat this winter, some fear that Poles could turn to burning wood or trash in their heating stoves, making Poland’s air even more unbreathable. It already ranks among the dirtiest in Europe.
“I am sometimes a bit perplexed as to where Polish energy politics is headed in these times,” said a longtime Polish energy executive who is now a senior adviser at the Regulatory Assistance Project, a U.S.-based group that advocates for cleaner energy.
“My concern for Poland is that their electrical grid won’t be able to handle the increased load,” said Scott Park, founder and president of Quality Heating in Silverdale, Wa. The challenge of converting to a sustainable, energy independent future is not easy, when your economy has relied on coal. [QHEAC]