University classes to go online as energy crisis deepens in Poland

Facing massive hikes in electricity prices in 2023, Polish universities are putting plans in place to switch to online lectures and cut access to facilities on weekends, but they remain hopeful the government will step in to help ease at least some of the burden.

Poland is bracing itself for an unprecedented energy crisis brought upon the country of 38 million people by heinous Russia’s war against Ukraine which has pushed up commodity prices, including coal. Despite more recent investment in renewable sources of energy, coal remains the staple fuel of Poland’s electricity generation.

Expensive coal and gas are inflating electricity prices – and not only because of the war. Generating electricity from emissions-heavy coal requires Polish electricity utilities to pay extra to cover the purchase of carbon dioxide emission permits, with their price hovering around €70 (US$68) per tonne for a year now and triple its cost in 2020.

The end result is that Polish electricity prices – as they apply to supply in 2023 – are currently at around PLN1,100-1,300 (US$220-260) per kilowatt-hour on the Polish Power Exchange, TGE. That is between three and four times the supply contracts rate for 2022.

Locally, the hikes could be even more precipitous as energy distribution and retail companies add on their own costs and margins.

Poland’s oldest university, the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, is facing a 700% increase in its electricity supply bill next year. In nominal terms, the university will need to find PLN182 million (US$36 million) to cover its electricity bills next year, compared to PLN27 million (US$5 million) in 2022.

The University of Bialystok has plans for online lectures and classes lasting a full month, between 7 January and 6 February, as the university also faces a 700% electricity bill hike.

The University of Gdansk is to reduce lighting on its campus, turn down heating, and will delay construction of a sports centre.

The Catholic University of Lublin is mulling the idea of restricting students to fewer buildings to keep lights off – literally – elsewhere.

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