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Energy risks in the face of drought in 2020 in Poland

A hot and dry summer is usually more demand for electricity. In Poland, energy is generated by coal-fired power plants, where river water and other water reservoirs are used for the cooling system. Is this situation as serious as in 2015, when power plants had to decide on a reduction in electricity supply?

What do we know after interview with Transition Technologies’ CEO, prof. Konrad Świrski? (source:

Getting to the point, here are the questions that concern us:

  • can too little water affect energy production?
  • do individual recipients have anything to be afraid of?

This year the situation is special: warm, snowless winter provided a smaller supply of water flowing from the mountains to rivers and lands. Still, professor Konrad Świrski from the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering of Warsaw University of Technology — the president of Transition Technologies — reassures, that energy demand will not exceed our capabilities. Why?

  • Due to coronavirus, the energy consumption has fallen — as in all other countries that have taken radical measures to combat a pandemic
  • The import of electricity will break records this year — which will limit the role of Polish power plants
  • The importance of renewable energy sources in electricity production is increasing
  • Power plants with flow-through cooling systems have modernized water intakes and are prepared for low water levels in rivers
  • Currently, Poland has surplus power in power plants, compared to the predicted level of energy consumption. Alo,o the coal reserves are record-breaking
  • Demand Side Response (DSR) — a voluntary, temporary reduction of electricity consumption by consumers or postponing it during consumption in exchange for payment.

Are we threatened with a blackout?

According to professor Świrski, a blackout (uncontrolled shutdowns of energy supplies in a large area) is highly unlikely. In Poland, a classic blackout can only occur as a result of a major accident that will cut off an area from electricity.

Which situations could threaten us with power shortages?

  • High demand for energy — hot summers, increasing energy demand from 9 am to 1 pm, lack of wind — which results in low or almost zero wind energy production.
  • High water temperature in rivers. Some of the conventional power plants use river water to cool their systems. If the temperature is too high, the possibility of heating water during cooling appears — some of these power plants could not work at full capacity.
  • Potentially, no possibility to import energy from other countries (caused by network problems or extremely high energy consumption, as well as lack of wind generation in other countries).
  • Possible failures in large power plants

If all these factors happen simultaneously (like we had in 2015), the situation can be difficult — says professor Świrski. According to him, the classic blackout could not appear, and we could only deal with reducing energy consumption by industry.