Despite three decades of successful market reforms and strong growth since the transition from communism to democracy, Poland still uses coal to generate about 80 percent of its electricity. The country's thermal power plants are the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the European Union and a big headache for the European Commission, which has set a goal of reducing emissions by 55% by 2030.
According to Professor Piotr Skubal of the University of Silesia, located in the heart of the southern coal region, Poland would have had to start ditching coal decades ago in order to meet EU emission targets.
Poland's coal mines continue to provide more than 80,000 government-subsidized, politically active jobs and fuel a number of large state-owned utilities.
High mining costs and carbon taxes in the EU have made coal-fired energy uncompetitive, forcing Warsaw to reconsider.
According to Grzegorz Wiszniewski, head of the IEO's leading think tank for renewable energy in Poland, the average cost of energy in Poland is about twice that of the rest of the EU - around 50 euros per megawatt hour.
According to Climate Minister Michal Kurtyk, funds from the EU's Green Deal energy package are critical to helping Poland transform its coal regions and move towards green energy.
Kurtyka is optimistic that Poland's green energy sector, which currently covers about 16 percent of its needs, could grow rapidly over the next 20 years and create 300,000 new jobs, replacing those associated with coal mining.
The minister said that the launch of the first nuclear power plant by 2033 is also part of Poland's environmental agenda, although some Polish experts argue that the nuclear option will be too expensive to implement.