Pandemic, war show European steelmaking importance: Polish minister

The Covid pandemic and Ukraine war have clearly shown the importance of having a domestic steel industry in Europe and made Brussels aware of the dangers of depending on imports of necessary steel inputs. So said Polish state assets minister Jacek Sasin at the European Steel Congress in Katowice on Monday.

European steel production capacity has declined and been replaced by other regions over recent years, resulting in some steel shortages today and the need for imports. Poland imports over 7 million tonnes/year more steel than it exports. This shows the challenges ahead, Sasin said at the event attended by Kallanish.

State-owned Weglokoks is investing into a PLN 5 billion ($1.1 billion) steelworks in Ruda Slaska that will provide “new life” to Poland’s steel industry, setting it on a low-emission course, Sasin pointed out.

There will be no energy transition, strengthening of defence capability, or development of the construction industry without steel, Sasin commented, adding: “Europe understands today that the path to kicking industry out of the region was not a good one.”

Poland’s environment minister, Anna Moskwa, admitted that government decision-making is probably to biggest barrier to ensuring sufficient energy supply for industry. But the government is implementing measures to support domestic industry competitiveness, such as the state support package for energy-intensive industries. This should receive European Commission approval soon, she said.

In 2040, Poland will need – by conservative estimates – double the energy supply it has today, with zero-emission energy especially in demand. Construction of Poland’s first offshore wind farm is to start this year, with 18GW of offshore production expected by 2040. Construction of the first nuclear plant should meanwhile begin in 2026.

The EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), meanwhile, due to begin its transition phase from October, involves a too-rapid phaseout of free emissions allowances, which could hurt industry, Moskwa observed. Poland proposed unsuccessfully to Brussels that free allowances be kept during the transition phase, in case it turns out CBAM does not work.

Adam Smith Poland