Prof. Maciej Chorowski, President of the Management Board of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management: When will we achieve climate neutrality?

Prof. Maciej Chorowski, President of the Management Board of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management: When will we achieve climate neutrality?

The main goal of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management (NFEP&WM) is to finance investments in climate protection and energy changes. What challenges does the institution face?

Established over 30 years ago, the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management is a unique institution in Europe. From the beginning, it has performed the tasks entrusted to it under the environmental policy on the basis of active intervention in various areas. For years, the overriding goal was environmental protection and elimination of the enormous degradation of the natural environment inherited from the economy of socialism. The activities financed by us were to reverse the adverse changes and improve the condition of the environment by returning to the original status quo. That is, the goals of environmental policy were defined statically and invariably over time. This activity is now undergoing some revision as we see environmental policy in the broader context of climate policy, which is dynamic in nature. The transformation of the energy sector resulting from climate policy must also be oriented towards dynamic actions. So we need to change significantly the way we think about how we achieve our goals. We need balanced actions, very well thought out in technical terms, which will bring the intended effects, especially through the use of the funds from the EU Reconstruction Plan and the Modernization Fund. They provide a huge impetus and opportunity for the rapid launch of investments of key importance for the transformation of energy, transport and other related areas.  The challenge here will be mainly time – it will determine whether we can find the optimum that will reconcile the necessary pace of transformation with the expected process excellence.

CSR should be an integral part of every company’s strategy, and the National Fund pays great attention to this area. What measures does the institution take to implement CSR principles?

Indeed, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been an important element of the National Fund’s activities for many years. We were the first public institution whose good practices in the field of social responsibility were presented in the Report for 2011. The fact that the Fund is an organisation which finances activities related to environmental protection, and thus contributes to improving the lives of all Poles, imposes special obligations on us. The basis, of course, is to support the financing of key pro-environmental investments.

In line with our mission, “to effectively and efficiently support environmental protection activities and the transition to a low-carbon economy (…)”, we implement programmes and projects, including those which go beyond our statutory activities, and we apply good practices ourselves. We actively participate in the work of the Team for Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility at the Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy. Following the “start with yourself” principle, we reduced energy consumption by installing solar collectors to heat hot water. We installed automatic sensors to turn lights on and off, automatically turning off sink faucets. We have reduced the amount of office materials used. We segregate waste carefully, used paper is recycled. We take environmental and sustainability aspects into account in public procurement. All publications (books, brochures, leaflets) – if they must be printed on paper – are printed on ecological paper, and when ordering promotional items we set requirements regarding ecological and biodegradable materials from which they are to be made. We also require delivery of products in bulk packaging. In addition, the promotional items we ordered serve to protect the environment and promote pro-environmental behavior – these included eco-washing balls, waste segregation containers, water consumption meters, PET bottle and aluminum can crushers, reusable cotton bags, canned trees, solar toys, ecological games, etc. When purchasing computer equipment and other office equipment, we make a requirement on the energy efficiency of the equipment. For catering services, before the pandemic of course, we used only reusable tableware (china, glass) and water in glass bottles. In the case of construction work, we require compliance with certain principles of managing waste generated during the execution of the work, obliging the contractor to legally remove and store it. Not only do we apply environmental principles, but we also share our knowledge and experience: we have provided the provincial funds for environmental protection and water management with examples of requirements applied by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in public procurement, which constitute the so-called environmental clauses and “green” public procurements.

We promote improvement of environmental quality through campaigns supporting care for green areas in cities. For example, during the campaign “100 thousand trees for the 100th Anniversary of Poland’s Independence” together with the Provincial Funds we distributed nearly 100 thousand tree seedlings for waste. One of them – a pedunculate oak – grows in front of our building. In informational and educational actions, such as: “ENFOŚ friend of children and the environment” or the competition “School with climate” we teach children and young adults how to deal with waste. A year ago, a PET plastic waste recycling machine with a loyalty program was set up in front of our headquarters in Konstruktorska Street. We have already collected over 4.5 thousand pieces of PET waste! For three seasons we have also had our “own” bicycle station. We take professional care of over 100 swifts living on the roof of our headquarters. I could go on and on about the activities undertaken by the Fund and individual employees, but perhaps it is worth noting that by demanding from others, we started with ourselves.

There has been a lot of talk about the current issue of the Polish-Czech dispute and calls to halt lignite mining at the Turów mine. What are the implications of the decision?

Indeed, this is a hot topic and the whole matter must be handled wisely to the end. I hope that the situation will be soon resolved through bilateral, and if necessary trilateral, talks. The issue of environmental impact assessments is regulated by the Act of 3 October 2008 on providing information about the environment and its protection, public participation in environmental protection and environmental impact assessments. I do not want to go into the details of the dispute or the interpretation of the CJEU judgment, but I think it is worth emphasizing that decisions of this kind should be made taking into account both environmental, technical, social, and economic considerations.

The year 2020 was very good for renewable energy sources, which dominated investments in the power industry. In your opinion, how do the next years in this area look like?

Let us remember that in the power industry there is an old rule: watt for watt. If a watt, as a unit of power, is installed in renewable energy, and we want to have a stable supply, we should install a second watt in, for example, gas power, which has similar dynamics to RES sources. Moving away from coal and wanting to maintain autonomy and energy security at the national level, we should develop nuclear energy. We should also pay more attention to cogeneration, which is becoming more and more popular and is actively supported by the European Union. We must remember that with such dynamic development of renewable energy, prosumers will be introducing more and more energy into the grid, which should be stored and consumed as close to the place of its generation as possible. So we are working on such solutions and financing to balance prosumer expectations and at the same time stabilize the operation of distribution networks.

Europe is striving to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. In your opinion, is Poland able to achieve such goal?

We need to think about transformations of whole areas of the economy, but above all energy, which is crucial for both the individual consumer and the macroeconomy. In the concept of the European Green Deal, industrial policies have been subordinated to climate targets, of which the EU has basically made its identity. The European Council has decided to increase the greenhouse gas reduction effort by 55 percent by 2030. So we have a huge challenge ahead of us. We should not try to falsify the assumed reduction target, but a plan for its implementation is necessary.   We must quickly decide on what we will replace the stable base of our energy industry, which is coal today. In fact, the answer is already in the Polish Energy Policy until 2040.  The document adopted by the Polish government indicates nuclear energy as such a base. This means that although many variables may determine the pace of the transformation, our path today should be simultaneous development of stable energy – nuclear and RES, with a simultaneous program to stabilize the grid currently vulnerable to fluctuations resulting from the unregulated supply of electricity from RES. We have had concrete successes, such as the “My Current” and “Clean Air” programs, which are related to green but unstable energy. Now it is time to regulate these energy streams. As the Fund we are currently working on a number of solutions that will allow us to “keep” green electricity, especially PV, in the place where it is generated, i.e. in hundreds of thousands of households and their close environment.

Every year during the winter months, the problem of low air quality index returns. How did the pandemic flow on CO2 emissions? Has anything changed this year?

Although the data do not indicate significant changes in indicators due to the pandemic, we can speak of two phenomena. The restrictions aimed at counteracting the spread of the pandemic have had the effect of partially limiting the car transport traffic and thus lower emissions of nitrogen oxides and ozone and particulate matter. However, it should be remembered that transport is responsible for about 10-15% of smog in cities. The main source of smog remains the heating of buildings. Here our answer is the flagship programs “Clean Air” and “My Current”.

Reduced mobility has also led to less seasonal migration (winter holidays), which has meant that tourist destinations have not experienced a seasonal, significant increase in building heating, resulting in greater pollution output. As far as I remember the data, e.g. in Zakopane there were “only” 24 days with exceeded particulate matter norms, i.e. the first time in the norm for many years, the highest recorded index was incomparably lower than in previous years and amounted to 153 mg / m3 PM10. However, what is most important in the city in 2020, 213 outdated heat sources were eliminated or replaced. Regardless of the scale of this phenomenon, the structure and condition of heat sources in households remain a problem. Therefore, actions aimed at thermal upgrading of buildings and replacing boilers that do not meet emission standards are key to improving air quality. The “Clean Air” programme serves this purpose, in which we have allocated over PLN 100 billion. I believe that the scale of the programme, in which we currently process between 3 and 4 thousand applications per week, will soon allow us all to feel the effects in the form of cleaner air. Its beneficiaries will benefit additionally by simply paying lower bills. 

The institution supports Polish electomobility, which is of great importance for the environment. What are the solutions?

Last year we already implemented 3 pilot programs supporting purchase of electric cars and of course this year we plan to introduce system of incentives for purchase of such vehicles. We will take into account experience and knowledge from previous editions on one hand and postulates of users on the other.  We also want to launch a program to support charging systems, focused on public space, which will be based on fast charging systems. The idea is to provide access to charging outside the immediate vicinity of one’s home, for example while traveling. Popularization of access to electric car charging stations may be a breakthrough in increasing the number of decisions on purchase or use of such a vehicle, because we want to finance the ecological effect, i.e. avoidance or reduction of emissions, by using an electric car. Support will be directed both to individuals, entrepreneurs and public entities.

Please also do not forget that we realize grants for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles in urban transport under the program “Green Public Transport”. We also finance the purchase of new electric school buses under the program “Kangaroo – Safe and clean way to school”.

Prof. dr hab. inż. Maciej Chorowski

Prof. dr hab. Eng. Maciej Chorowski is a graduate of the Faculty of Mechanical and Power Engineering at the Wrocław University of Technology. He received his doctorate at the Institute of Thermal Technology and Fluid Mechanics of the Wrocław University of Technology in 1990, and habilitated at the Faculty of Mechanical and Power Engineering in 2000. He received the title of professor of technical sciences in 2009. In 1996-1998 he worked at the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN in Geneva, participating in the design of the cryogenic system of the Large Hadron Collider LHC. In the period 2005-2012 he was the dean of the Faculty of Mechanical and Power Engineering at the Wrocław University of Technology. He was one of the initiators of the establishment of Wrocław Technology Park SA, of which he was president in 2002-2012. In 2016-2019 he was the director of the National Center for Research and Development. In 2015-2020, he was a member of the National Development Council at the President of the Republic of Poland. Prof. Chorowski is an honorary member of the International Institute of Refrigeration in Paris and a member of the International Cryogenic Engineering Committee ICEC in Zurich. Cooperates with, among others with institutions such as MMR Inc (Mountain View, CA, USA), Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA, USA), National University of Singapore, Inter-University Accelerator Center in New Delhi, ITER International Organization in Cadarache, France, Fusion for Energy F4E in Barcelona, FAIR GmbH in Darmstadt or ESS AB in Lund. Prof. Chorowski is the initiator of the involvement of the Polish industry in the construction of large research devices such as: the Large Hadron Collider LHC at CERN, the ITER thermonuclear reactor at Cadarache, the XFEL laser in Hamburg or the FAIR accelerator complex in Darmstadt. He has served many functions in international organizations, incl. he was a member of the CERN Finance Committee in Geneva, Executive Committee at F4E in Barcelona, chairman of the Gas Liquefaction Committee of the International Refrigeration Institute in Paris. Currently, as the President of the Management Board of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, he supervises the work of the Director of the Office and Departments: Audit and Internal Control, IT and Departments: Promotion and Social Communication, Office of the Management Board and Supervisory Board, Human Resources and Payroll, as well as Independent Positions: Classified Information, Personal Data Protection and COVID-19 Prevention.

Last Updated on June 15, 2021 by Karolina Ampulska