High energy prices drive coal renaissance in the Czech Republic

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — On this a part of the northeastern Czech Republic, large piles of coal are stacked able to be offered to keen consumers and smoke belches from coal-fired energy crops which are ramping up as a substitute of shutting down.

Ostrava has been working for many years to finish its legacy as essentially the most polluted space within the nation, remodeling itself from a working-class industrial stronghold to a contemporary metropolis with vacationer spots. However Russia’s battle in Ukraine has sparked an power disaster in Europe that has paved the way in which for the return of coal, jeopardizing local weather objectives and threatening health from elevated air pollution.

Households and companies are turning to this once-considered out of date gas as they search a less expensive choice to pure fuel, the costs of which have jumped as Russia minimize provides to Europe.

Demand for lignite – the most cost effective and most power inefficient type – utilized by Czech households jumped practically 35% within the first 9 months of 2022 in comparison with a 12 months earlier.

Over the identical interval, manufacturing rose by greater than 20%, the primary enhance after many years of just about steady decline, the Czech Ministry of Business and Commerce mentioned.

“We’re nervous,” mentioned Zdenka Němečková Crkvenjaš, liable for the surroundings as a member of the board of administrators of the Moravian-Silesian area. “If costs do not come down, what might occur is we’ll face elevated air pollution.”

The area is a part of the Higher Silesian Coal Basin, an enormous industrialized space straddling the Czech-Polish border with wealthy coal deposits and factories producing metal, electrical energy and the kind of coal used for the manufacture of metal which dates from the nineteenth century.

A mix of burning coal for residential heating and industrial services led to “catastrophic” air air pollution on the finish of the communist period in 1989, mentioned Petr Jančík of the Technical College of Ostrava, an air air pollution professional who cooperated within the Air Tritia mission which just lately produced a web based mannequin of polluted air on the Czech-Polish-Slovakian border.

Coal-fired energy just isn’t solely disastrous for the local weather, additionally it is a well being hazard, releasing emissions of heavy particles, nitrogen oxides and mercury, which contaminate fish in lakes and rivers.

The decline of commercial and mining actions and the arrival of recent environmental requirements after the Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004 have significantly improved air high quality.

However massive challenges stay.

Emissions of airborne mud – PM10 particles – now meet environmental limits within the area, however concentrations of smaller PM2.5 particles that may penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream nonetheless don’t attain the World Well being Group requirements.

A 2021 research of greater than 800 European cities by Spain’s Barcelona Institute for International Well being, or ISGlobal, locations the regional capital of Ostrava and close by cities of Karviná and Havířov among the many 10 most polluted European cities. He estimated that 529 deaths a 12 months might be prevented in these three cities if air high quality tips have been adopted.

Burning coal additionally releases the damaging substance benzo(a)pyrene, ranges of that are nonetheless excessive regardless of authorities applications that pay to interchange older furnaces with extra environment friendly ones that scale back air pollution.

Some 50,000 ovens nonetheless must be changed within the Ostrava area, mentioned Němečková Crkvenjaš, estimating the determine at 500,000 in a extra populated and polluted space throughout the Polish border.

“I am afraid this winter will not be preferrred in relation to air air pollution,” she mentioned. “I will be joyful if I am fallacious.”

Roman Vank, board member of coal vendor Ridera in Ostrava, mentioned coal gross sales have elevated by round 30% in comparison with final 12 months. The most cost effective type – lignite – was essentially the most in demand.

Jančík, the scientist, mentioned the affect on air high quality is troublesome to foretell instantly, particularly if it is one other gentle winter, and air pollution “could solely get barely worse. “.

In response to him, a constructive improvement is that the excessive costs of pure fuel and electrical energy drive individuals to amass photo voltaic panels, extra environment friendly heating techniques and to attempt to grow to be much less depending on power sources.

“There are two opposing tendencies: the primary is that persons are attempting to make use of higher and extra environment friendly ovens, and the second is that they’re contemplating utilizing extra coal and wooden,” Jančík mentioned. “It might be the results of shock or worries, they usually wish to put together the provides.”

Czech Greenpeace spokesperson Lukáš Hrábek anticipated a detrimental affect within the close to future.

“We see contradictory tendencies proper now. We see greater coal consumption, however on the similar time we see huge funding in renewables, warmth pumps, insulation,” Hrábek mentioned. “So it is laborious to say what the long-term impact might be, however the short-term impact is fairly apparent, air air pollution might be worse as a consequence of greater coal consumption.

In one other signal of the coal renaissance, the Czech Republic has canceled plans to utterly halt mining close to Ostrava to assist protect electrical energy provides amid the power disaster.

State-owned OKD will develop its mining actions within the Ostrava area till at the very least the top of subsequent 12 months, citing “large” demand. It’s going to primarily be used for electrical energy era and home heating, with coal-fired energy crops producing virtually 50% of the nation’s electrical energy.

The choice got here after the European Union agreed to ban Russian coal from August due to the battle in Ukraine and as it really works to chop the bloc’s power ties with Russia.

The Czech authorities goals to part out coal in energy era by 2033 and enhance its reliance on nuclear energy.


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