Poland needs the government to act now on providing cheaper energy to ensure the domestic steel industry remains competitive and survives, said panellists at the European Steel Congress in Katowice on Monday.

Steelmaking is energy intensive and needs to adapt to a host of new EU regulations. The issue must be tackled because energy-intensive industries account for 5% of Poland’s GDP and generate significant value and employment, Polish senator Gabriela Morawska-Stanecka said at the event attended by Kallanish.

A cure for the crisis is the transition to green energy by investing into renewables, but the state must provide incentives for companies to go green, she opined. Securing European Commission approval to access the currently blocked Recovery and Resilience funds, which include some €9 billion ($9.6 billion) funding for renewables, is also critical and will be a challenge for the next government, Morawska-Stanecka observed, referring to next month’s Polish general election.

Polish Steel Association (HIPH) chief executive Mirosław Motyka also said state support on energy is critical and that industry is pinning its hopes on Brussels approving Poland’s energy-intensive industries support package. However, if Germany implements its proposed €60/MWh energy price cap for energy-intensive companies, this would “kill” Polish industry, he added. “So, we’re hoping the Polish state will respond with a similar measure.”

As for the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), its implementation from October is a positive step, but it still needs a solution to support EU steel exports, which will become uncompetitive amid high production costs, Motyka explained.

Stefan Moritz, secretary general of the European Entrepreneurs “CEA-PME” confederation, meanwhile, said Europe’s main challenge is to maintain a strong industrial base amid high costs, with steel being an important material for many end-users but also small and medium-sized enterprises.

SMEs want to maintain European autonomy, meaning not to become dependent on other areas of the world, such as Germany was until recently on Russian gas, or the EU currently is on batteries and windfarm components from China. The taxpayer needs to share the cost of investing into new, cleaner technology, he added.

Member of the European Parliament and former Polish deputy energy minister Grzegorz Tobiszowski questioned if Europe’s green transition really will be green if the enabling components are imported from polluting countries. With Europe turning its back so quickly on the fossil fuel resources it has at home, countries abroad will eye exploiting this by supplying Europe with strategic resources at elevated prices, he warned.

“Ambitions are not enough – we need to think pragmatically,” he concluded, in reference to the speed of the energy transition being set by EU regulations.