Presidents and ministers participated in the presentation of a new EEA Grants programme on Climate, Environment and Energy in Poland


A new EEA Grants programme on renewable energy, environment and climate was presented at a conference in Warsaw in Poland last March, with the participation of the presidents of Poland and Iceland, as well as ministers from Poland, Iceland and Norway. 

This is the first time that a single climate, environmental and energy program is launched in Poland under the auspices of the EEA Grants, which has been preparing and organizing the programme for several years between Poland, Norway and Iceland, and the National Energy Authority has been the donor programme partner on behalf of Iceland

The largest contribution to climate, environment and energy in the EEA

The programme is also one of the largest in climate, environmental and energy issues under the auspices of the EEA Grants, but the total amount of grants is €140 million, and in addition Poland will contribute the same amount in loans and grants so the total funding will therefore be €280 million or 40 billion ISK. However, the scope of the projects can be much more or up to 65 billion ISK, as the EEA Grants will only be part of the total finance of projects.

The projects funded by this programme are expected to reduce the annual carbon dioxide emissions in Poland by 600,000 tonnes, which will benefit not only Poland but also across borders. By comparison, Iceland needs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one million tonnes by 2030 or by 100,000 tonnes per year over the next 10 years. The annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in this programme is therefore six times greater than the planned reduction in Iceland. The project shows that Iceland, in cooperation with other European nations, can achieve great success in the field of foreign affairs, through professional projects and effective cooperation within the EEA for the benefit of all, because emissions are independent of borders.

At the beginning of the conference, four ministers delivered speeches, from left to right: Waldemar Buda, Deputy Minister of Development and Regional Affairs in Poland, Mathias Fischer, Deputy Minister of Climate and Environment in Norway, Lilja D. Alfreðsdóttir of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Iceland and Adam Guibourgé-Czetwertyński, Deputy Minister of Climate Change in Poland. In their address, the project emphasized the importance of the project, not least because of its effect on reducing air pollution and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as emissions in Poland are high due to the use of coal. The project also demonstrates the importance and value of the EEA Agreement with the cooperation of countries within it.

Iceland's knowledge and experience benefit Poland

Lilja D. Alfreðsdóttir emphasized Iceland's experience when switching from space heating using oil to geothermal energy since 1970. Then the use of oil for heating was reduced from 50% to about 5% in a short period of time or just over a decade. This great achievement was achieved through dialogue and cooperation between the state, local authorities and the business community. Iceland could therefore share long-term experience and knowledge of geothermal energy in Poland.

The Minister of Education also said that increased utilization of geothermal energy was an important solution in the fight against climate change to reduce the use of coal for heating, including greenhouse gas emissions that benefit all countries regardless of borders. In recent years, 14 fellows from Poland have also studied at the United Nations University Geothermal Training Programme in Iceland (now Gró Geothermal Training Programme under the auspices of UNESCO), many of whom were now leading experts in this field in Poland. One of them is Beata Kepinska, who has had a major contribution to the strengthening of the relationship between Iceland and Poland in the field of geothermal energy. She is therefore like a geothermal ambassador to Poland. Lilja then thanked all those who had worked on this project in Poland, Norway, at the EEA office in Brussels and in Iceland.

Michał Kurtyka, Minister of Climate Affairs in Poland

Michał Kurtyka, Minister of Climate Affairs in Poland, welcomed both the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda and Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, who were present at this programme conference. He said that cooperation between Poland and Iceland was based, among other things, on infrastructure development in water conservation and green energy, with the aim of increasing the quality of life of citizens, protecting the environment and improving air quality, based on cooperation.

He also said this was not an ordinary conference, but a meeting to work on new ideas to counter common problems that we all face, for the benefit of communities and the economy of countries.
The minister mentioned the importance of the EEA Grants projects and would especially like to thank Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein for this important contribution. Soon, eight new projects in the field of energy, environment and climate will be started.

Mr. Andrzej Duda , President of Poland

In his address, President of Poland Mr. Andrzej Duda said it was gratifying to be able to participate in the presentation of the EEA Grants programme in Poland and Europe on climate, environment and energy issues. This project would be a response to the current challenge of human activities and the impact on nature and ecosystems. The grants' tasks were also important for disseminating information, knowledge and technology to Poland and, above all, making it easy to establish valuable connections, including personal ones, which is exactly the essence of the matter today.   

The President also said that Poland fully recognized the need to act, sometimes urgently, to protect the natural environment, both nationally and internationally. This was reflected, among other things, in that Poland is the only country in the world to have hosted three UN climate change conferences (most recently in 2018) and chaired the COP four times.

When Poland chaired COP24 in Katowice 2018, the so-called Katowice rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement were negotiated. At the end of last year, the Ministry of Climate Change was also established by the newly established government of the Republic of Poland, which works in connection with environmental, climate and energy issues.

He reminded the audience that combating climate change was a task that the international community would have to work on together, and in this context, our guests' contribution here with knowledge, experience and cooperation is extremely important for success.

The President mentioned that it was a special pleasure for the President of Iceland, Gudni Th. Jóhannesson is to visit Poland at this time. He thanked Iceland for its contribution to the EEA Grants and the great cooperation that had existed for many years in the field of the EEA Grants and this unique opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience. The President said that a good participation in the conference was proof of a strong interest in the EEA Grants Energy and Climate Change Programme.

The president also thanked all the parties involved in the organization of the conference. From Poland, he thanked the Ministry of Climate and the Ministry of Regional Affairs and the EEA and EU funds. He also thanked foreign partners from Iceland and Norway for successful cooperation in the joint projects of this program launched today between the Ministry of Climate Change in Poland together, the National Fund for Environment and Water Protection in Poland, National Environmental Agency in Norway, Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate in Norway and National Energy Authority in Iceland. The President also wished everyone good luck and encouraged everyone to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the program and implement them with initiative and support that promote positive change.

Mr. Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, President of Iceland

The President of Iceland, Mr. Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, said it was a pleasure and an honour to attend this conference. He recalled that Iceland was occupied more than 1000 years ago. Settlers and women came to the untouched human island in the middle of the North Atlantic. We can see the vast expanse of black sand, the steep slopes, the torrential rivers and the graceful waterfalls, the hot springs and the living volcanoes. This new environment was truly unlike the one that the settlers had left, and it was frightening for them, but it also offered many new opportunities.

Around the year 1000, a Christian faith was established in Iceland. But some people did not want the baptism to take place in cold water but chose the hot water that was widely found. The people understood the benefits and utilization of geothermal energy. Later, one of our foremost writers in the Middle Ages, Snorri Sturluson, understood the utilization and importance of geothermal energy. In Reykholt, Borgarfjörður, he had a hot pool next to the farm. There he went and lay in the hot water and got inspiration and ideas for his great works of writing.

Nature was a gentle master of the nation for centuries; chilly climates, torrential rains that were hard to come by, repetitive firebreaks that left deserted areas or regions and harsh earthquakes. But in the last century, we managed to turn our circumstances into a will. We were able to use it to the charm and prosperity that was previously a threat. We harnessed streams to produce clean energy. We used the geothermal heat to heat our homes, and also to produce electricity. Today, Iceland produces almost all of its electricity with hydropower and geothermal energy. It was a major step forward in an important and necessary transformation from fossil fuels to green energy. Precisely in this area there are great opportunities in cooperation between Poland and Iceland - a transformation towards green energy.

The President said that it was a special pleasure that cooperation in this area was possible within the EEA Grants. Iceland plans to become carbon neutral by 2040, 10 years ahead of the European Union, and it will succeed. Poland intends to become carbon neutral by 2050, but if it is to succeed then systematic cooperation is extremely important. It is therefore important to start such cooperation for the benefit of the environment and the people.

Poland has great resources in geothermal energy, although there are no earthquakes and volcanic eruptions like in Iceland, but the potential for utilization of geothermal energy is great, especially in the southern part of the country. Opportunities exist, so it is up to us, you and all of us to move in the right direction. This conference and the opportunities for collaboration that it opens is a test of capitalizing on these opportunities. The President finally said that it was an honour and pleasure to attend this conference and that he was looking forward to seeing the results.

In the figure: Olav Myklebust, Norway's ambassador to Poland, Michal Kurtyka, minister of climate affairs in Poland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, President of Iceland, Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, Mathias Fischer, Deputy Minister of Climate and Environment in Norway, and Krzysztof Szczerski, Adviser to the President of Poland. María Erla Marelsdóttir, Ambassador of Iceland to Poland based in Berlin, also attended part of the conference and accompanied the President, as well as Director Arni Sigurjónsson, Office of the President, Örnólfur Thorsson Director, and Þorleifur Þór Jónsson, Project Manager Export and Investments.

Climate, environment and energy planning - key elements of the project

Piotr Bogusz, Deputy Director-General of the Ecological Fund at the Ministry of Climate, presented the main points of the programme. Support under the programme is focused on priorities and projects aimed at improving air quality and the environment, developing heat and power systems and improving energy efficiency with renewable energy. Emphasis will be placed on increasing production with renewable energy sources, such as geothermal and small hydroelectric power stations, and mitigation measures will be carried out due to climate change and ecosystem protection.

The plan includes support in three main areas:

  • Renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy security
  • Mitigation measures and climate change adaptation
  • Environment and ecosystem projects
There will also be an emphasis on pilot projects concerning the circular economy and the use of biomass in the energy sector.

The number of calls will be advertised

Mr. Bogusz said that a number of project tenders will be announced in the coming months, with good opportunities for cooperation between Polish and Icelandic companies. Only Polish companies can be applicants, but Icelandic partners are sought after and applications with Icelandic partners get extra points in the selection process. The total amount of grants in the program is approx. €140 million. In addition, the possibility of additional loan financing from Poland is the same amount. In total, the total amount of grants and loans will be about €280 million or about 40 billion ISK.

The first eight tenders for projects in the field of climate and environment

The first eight tenders for projects have already been advertised , with particular focus on climate and the environment, energy efficiency and heating. Advertising and tenders for other projects relating to geothermal energy, hydropower and district heating, will be announced in mid-May on NEA news page and facebook page.

The tenders that have already been advertised are divided by focus.

  • Three tenders concern projects on improved energy efficiency and efficiency in industry (more efficient co-generation (CHP)), municipal heating systems and in school buildings.
  • Two project offerings relate to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and climate change adaptation; local actions and awareness raising in schools.
  • Three project offerings on climate change and ecosystem management, action against alien species and mapping and ecosystem services assessment.

Later, tenders will be announced for projects related to small hydroelectric power plants, geothermal energy, district heating, etc.

All the necessary information related to the tender for these projects can be found on the Ministry of Climate of Poland webpage . The deadline for submitting applications for the auctions is until June 3, 2020 or July 17, depending on individual auctions, see the aforementioned website.

Marcin Jamiolkowski, from the National Fund in Poland, mentioned that the fund has long experience and extensive knowledge, with 700 employees working for the fund. Increased support for geothermal energy and up to €140 million in the form of grants and / or loans will be provided to the program from the National Fund in Poland, as well as €140 million from the EEA Grants program. In total, this would therefore be around €280 million.

EEA Development Fund in Brussels

Árni Páll Árnason Deputy Director General of the EEA Grants Financial Mechanism Office (FMO) in Brussels, said that the EEA Grants' job was to assist countries in setting up and implementing projects such as these.

He mentioned that cooperation in this program has been extremely satisfying and effective with staff in Poland, the National Energy Authority of Iceland, the Environment Agency of Norway and the Norwegian Energy and Water Agency.

The collaboration had been based on professionalism, honesty and driving attitude, and he especially thanked the Ministry of Regional and Development Fund, the Ministry of Climate and National Environment of Poland for a satisfactory and constructive cooperation.

Árni said it was also a pleasure to see this extensive programme happen. The programme was large on many scales and this one programme is expected to reduce the annual carbon dioxide emissions of Poland by 600,000 tonnes, or about 45% of all EEA Grants projects. Investment in the programme is also significant in the areas of green investment, circular economy, energy efficiency, geothermal energy, district heating systems, ecosystem restoration, etc.

Iceland and Norway's experience in the field of climate, environment and energy

The discussion also discussed the experience and knowledge of Iceland and Norway in the field of climate, environment and energy. Participating in the discussions were, for example (on the picture) the moderator of the discussion, Anna Butrym, from Poland, André Kammerut, bilateral project manager at the Norwegian Environment Agency, Baldur Pétursson, international project manager at the National Energy Authority of Iceland and Björn Aule, director of the Department of Energy and Energy at the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate . 

The panel discussed what could be learned from the experience of the countries in various areas, which would be useful in the plan launched in Poland. This experience will be useful in the collaboration with Poland and the FMO in Brussels, in the preparation and design of this program and the focus and projects that were soon to be tendered. With the participation and cooperation of companies from Iceland and Norway with companies in Poland, this experience would result in a wide range of knowledge, specialization and structure of projects in Poland. In the case of the representative of Norway, it was stated that Norway had previously assisted with environmental projects in Poland which had been successful. However, this was the first time that the EEA Grants participated in an energy programme in Poland, but Norway had extensive experience in the operation of hydropower plants, small and large, which would no doubt be useful in projects in Poland.

Great opportunities and interest in geothermal cooperation in Poland

In Baldur's case it was stated that in Poland there was a lot of district heating systems that were heated by coal, but there was also geothermal heat available in many of these places. Therefore, there would be great opportunities and projects ahead in Poland to switch to geothermal heating that could reduce heavy air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, which would be of use to all countries regardless of borders in the face of climate change. This would increase air quality, cost-effectiveness, savings, energy security and improve environmental and living conditions. Iceland's economic benefits from the heating of houses with geothermal energy instead of oil are estimated to average about 2.6% of GDP annually and save over 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

He also noted that the EEA Grants would be €140 million, and the National Fund in Poland would provide loans and grants of €140 million. In total, this would amount to around €280 million in grants and loans. However, the total amount of projects would be higher or up to ISK 65 billion, as loans and grants are only part of the amount of the projects.

Baldur said that the National Energy Authority of Iceland has worked with similar projects in the EEA Grants in other countries, such as Romania, Portugal (Azores) and Hungary with good results. Icelandic companies have since undertaken projects in these areas in collaboration with companies and towns in the countries concerned.

The National Energy Authority of Iceland has also worked on and managed other European geothermal programmes, in collaboration with many European countries such as the ERA NET project on geothermal policy in Europe and then Geothermica where the focus is on large geothermal research projects between European countries.

These projects have resulted in increased knowledge, improved strategy and increased focus and resources on geothermal energy within the EEA and the European Union. In recent years, the National Energy Authority has also worked on analyses and strategies in several countries, including Poland, in collaboration with companies in Iceland, towns and cities in Poland and the Ministry of the Environment. There has also been cooperation with Norwegian institutions in some of these projects. Reports of these projects can be found here, in Poddebice and other towns and cities of Poland that could benefit companies in preparing projects in Poland. A conference was also held in Iceland in October 2019 with presentations from representatives of towns, cities and companies from Poland, which could benefit the parties in the preparation of cooperation between companies in Iceland and Poland. From the National Energy Authority, Harpa Þ. Pétursdóttir Legal Advisor attended also the meeting. 

After presentations and discussion, we received short presentations from companies from Norway and Iceland. The following companies from Iceland were present at the meeting: Mannvit, EFLA, Verkís, Artic Green, Ýmir and Vatnaskil. More companies have already started preparations for collaborative projects in Poland. Following the presentations of the companies, they met with representatives of companies, towns and cities in Poland and discussed possible cooperation in relation to the projects being tendered. There was a great deal of interest among the parties on cooperation between Iceland and Poland and great opportunities lie ahead in this area.

Thorleikur Jóhannesson, Verkís

Eric Bragason, Arctic Green

Piotr Gburczyk, Ispol Project, EFLA

Eric M. Myer, Vatnaskil

Throstur Helgason, Mannvit

Sigurður Ingólfsson, Ýmir

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and participants from Iceland at the meeting

A number of media representatives were present at the meeting

Beata Kepinska, from MORE PAS Poland, Gerard Pokruszynski, Polish Ambassador to Iceland and Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, President of Iceland

Part of meeting participants in post-meeting cooperation