In its present form, Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE Group) was established in 2007 and today it is the biggest energy holding in Central and Eastern Europe. It provides energy for 5 million customers in Poland, which constitutes 1/8th of the country's population. One of the Group’s priorities is the security and stability of energy supply. However, the Group is also conscious of the importance of environmental protection.
Since its establishment, PGE Group has been focusing on improving the environmental sustainability in the various fields of its activity, including reduced emission of harmful substances (carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, dust), recultivation of post-mining areas, waste management, emphasis on renewable energy sources and the protection of animals, soil and water. In 2011, the Group set up the PGE Foundation with the intention of increasing its involvement in social matters. Except for its activity with regard to education, health protection and sport, the Foundation set out to improve social awareness about environmental issues by supporting research in green energy.
According to its motto, the Group does not only produce electricity, but also 'mountains, forests and lakes'. It means that, even though the exploitation of brown coal by use of the opencast mining method causes radical changes in natural conditions, it is still possible to restore the environment’s previous condition.
Within the scope of its main aims, the Group is recultivating post-mining areas, especially those in the region of Belchatow Mine in central Poland. In order to contribute to a healthy environment, the Group makes attempts to restore wastelands. One of the Group's biggest achievements in that respect is Kamiensk Hill, the biggest artificial mountain in Poland created as a result of accumulated waste rocks produced by the lignite mine in Belchatow. As an environmentally conscious entity, the Mine created the Kamiensk Center for Sport and Recreation and transformed the ugly mound of mine waste into a paradise for the active recreation aficionados. There is the longest ski slope (800 m) in central Poland and the biggest wind farm in the country. Furthermore, visitors can enjoy over 40 kilometers of bike routes and a diversity of plants and animals: hawk, buzzard, falcon, kestrel, hare, fox, raccoon dog, roe deer, boar and deer. The Center also offers extensive entertainment and training facilities as part of the venture.
Another example of PGE Group's contribution to the restoration of post-mining areas is the mound adjacent to the coal mine in Turow. As a result of their recultivation efforts, the wasteland was turned into a natural environment for many animal species, including protected ones: weasel and ermine. The Mine in Turow was also the first to introduce the innovative retrieval method that consists of mixing burnt materials with ground dirt.
The Group positively contributes to the natural environment by using sedimentation basins - water reservoirs that serve as the final stage for the treatment of surface water. Water is treated using plant filters in basins that serve as breeding 'bowls' for birds (swan, duck) and as a habitat for numerous water plants, frogs and fish.
Another area of PGE Group's environment-friendly approach is its focus on the modernization of its equipment. Recently, it has developed the Program for the Adjustment of Production Assets of PGE GiEK S.A. in accordance with the Environmental Requirements under the Directive on Industrial Emissions. The program describes a range of tasks aimed at reducing the amount of harmful substances during the energy production process. The total amount of expenditures for that purpose until 2016 will be 2 billion zlotys (0.6 billion dollars). The main advantages of the complex program will be the reduction of equipment failure, higher efficiency, reduced consumption of fuel required for the production of energy and reduced emission of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and dusts.
The company is also focused on the modernization, replacement and construction of protective devices, such as electro filters, and also installations for desulphuration and denitrogenation. PGE Group is also increasing the proportion of cogeneration (combination of thermal and electric energy), which leads to the improvement of production efficiency compared to the method of separate production.
As far as renewable energy is concerned, PGE Group is active in the area of wind energy. The main advantages of this kind of energy are: it is local, free and it will always be present in the natural environment. With respect to its extensive activity in terms of purchasing new facilities, in June and July 2013, the company took over the assets of Danish DONG Energy and Spanish Iberdrola at the price of 1 billion zlotys (0.3 billion dollars). In consequence, PGE gained five wind plants - Karnice (30MWW), Jagniatkowo (30,5), Galicja (12MW), Malbork (18 MW) and Kisielice (41 MW) - and almost doubled its production potential. To ensure that its new investments do not damage the natural environment, PGE Group regularly consults the local authorities and respects the requirements and environmental licenses. In the foreseeable future, the Company is planning to further invest in 1000 MW of wind energy.
Except for wind energy, PGE is also actively investing in water energy, which includes twenty-nine water farms with the total capacity of 291.5 MW. PGE Group has set out to be the leader in respect of renewable energy in Poland and reach the level of 40% of share in domestic production.
The dynamic development of the renewable source of energy contributes to the aims that are relevant with respect to the Poland: energy security, environment protection and liabilities accepted in the European Union package of energy and climate directive, including the increase of the share of renewable energy to 15% until 2020.
PGE Group is involved in the program aimed at the use of the byproducts of coal processing on the industrial scale. That particularly concerns gypsum, ash and slag. 1,500,000 tons of gypsum produced in that way by the industrial units related to PGE Group is used solely for economic purposes as ingredients of many construction materials.
PGE Group also strives to minimize the influence of mining on water found in the natural environment. The mines in Belchatow and Turow have a significant impact on local water resources as they lower the level of ground water that results in a lack of water in private wells. To counteract that effect, PGE is conducting activities so that local people can have access to the water supply system that provides water of a much higher quality. Moreover, waste produced by the mines undergoes a complex treatment process and afterwards it is transported to surface water level. The company also employs a closed circulation system that reduces the use of external resources.
To ensure that the company’s strategy is observed consistently, PGE Group is thoroughly monitoring the activity of all units under its control: PGE Górnictwo i Energetyka Konwencjonalna S.A extracts brown coal and produces electric and thermal energy; PGE Energia Odnawialna S.A produces electric energy from renewable energy sources, eventually by water farms; PGE Energia Natury S.A a company established on the basis of assets taken over from DONG Energy and Iberdrola, aimed at the consolidation of wind energy assets in the Capital Group of PGE; PGE EJ 1: prepares the investment process and the construction of the first nuclear energy plant in Poland; PGE Obrót S.A.: circulates electric energy throughout Poland; PGE Dystrybucja S.A.: distributes electric energy.
Author: Grzegorz Zawora / pr-controlled.com ©
Photos: Kamiensk Mountain and Lake by Jacek Poreba Lignite Mine Turow
by A. Uciechowska,
M. Kreibohm and Kamieńsk wind power plant by Hiuppo / Wikimedia