Most of the lignite-powered electricity generation at Belchatow, Europe’s largest coal-fired power plant, could be made up for by the deployment of renewables paired with batteries or paired with less carbon-intensive thermal capacity such as combined heat and power, according to new research by Polish think tank Forum Energii and research company BloombergNEF (BNEF).

From a land-use perspective, it would be possible to deploy 11 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar power in Łódź, the Polish region where Belchatow is located, to replace 80% of its lignite-fired electricity generation, say the authors of the report.

Alternatively, 6GW of wind and solar paired with a gas, biomass or waste-to-energy plant would achieve similar output, finds the report, which was released on 20 October 2022.

Existing plans in the Łódź region include a 600 megawatt (MW) solar and 100MW wind project announced by Belchatow-owner PGE – which would replace just 4% of the plant’s 2021 lignite-fired power generation, say the authors.

Even under sustained high gas prices, the research predicts a drop in electricity generation from lignite in Poland of 75% between 2021 and 2030. Local lignite resources in Belchatow are likely to run out by 2036 at the latest, it says, which will force the plant to shut.

The Belchatow coal plant currently supplies 20% of Poland’s power. BNEF and Forum Energii say a successful energy transition at the plant could serve as an example for coal regions around the world.

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“This is an optimistic report in the context of Belchatow’s energy future,” Maciej Kozakiewicz, plenipotentiary of the Board of the Łódź Province for the transformation of the Belchatow region, said in a statement. “It proves that with the involvement of all stakeholders, the region’s prosperity can still be built on energy generation. And with the right scale of investment, there is a chance to maintain the symbolic status of ‘the capital of energy production in Poland.’”