Lower Silesia uncompromising in the fight against smog

In the interest of clean air, the voivodeship is taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by anti-smog resolutions. Particularly restrictive rules will apply from 2028 in Wrocław and spa municipalities, because it will no longer be possible to heat buildings with coal. 

Poor air quality is a problem in the region. Particularly in the winter season there are high concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene. The condition of soil is also unsatisfactory, with breaches of permissible levels of heavy metals and benzo(a)pyrene found in about 30% of the surveyed locations. The latter compound is also a problem for surface waters. Moreover, in terms of groundwater resources, Lower Silesia is classified as a water-scarce area (it is ranked 11th in Poland).

The inhabitants of the region are also confronted with excessive road noise. Standards were found to be exceeded both during the day (over 70% of the measurement results) and at night (over 90%). Industrial noise is also a problem - standards were exceeded in almost 40% of the inspected plants.

Instead, Lower Silesia can be proud of good groundwater quality. In 2016-2017, in the framework of various monitoring study programmes, good chemical status was found at almost 90% of the surveyed locations.

In 2020 Wrocław was awarded in the Eco-Miasto competition for urban greenery in the category of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Polkowice was also awarded in the same competition for sustainable mobility in the category below 100,000 inhabitants.

Better air every year

In recent years, the fight for clean air has been one of the most important priorities of both the European Union and the local government of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship. Since 2014, more than PLN 2 billion has been allocated for this purpose, of which up to 85 percent has come from the Lower Silesian Regional Operational Programme. As of today, under Priority Axis 3 LOW-EMISSION ECONOMY, Lower Silesia has already used more than 80 percent of the available funds. This is a total of 475 projects totalling more than PLN 2.3 billion. 377 of those projects are already complete and settled.

The remaining amount is mainly local and national government funds. These efforts are producing visible results, as air pollution levels are decreasing year on year. However, there is still much to be done, which is particularly important in the current epidemic situation. According to scientists, airborne dust particles and liquid droplets can carry bacteria and viruses. This greatly facilitates the transmission of viruses and makes the battle against epidemics even more difficult.

The most important areas of the voivodeship government's activities are mainly the fight against so-called low emissions, replacement of heat sources, as well as investments in renewable energy sources and thermal modernisation of old and newly constructed buildings.

The most important of the measures taken is certainly the adoption by the Lower Silesian local government assembly of three anti-smog resolutions in November 2017: for Wrocław, for the Lower Silesian spas and for the rest of the voivodeship.

The Resolution for Wrocław covers: residents, business entities, owners of multi-family buildings, cooperatives, communities and local governments, if they have in use solid fuel installations (boilers, cookers, fireplaces) with a capacity below 1 MW. Pursuant to it, as of 1 July 2018, a prohibition on using the worst quality solid fuels came into force, i.e.:

  • lignite and solid fuels produced from lignite,
  • coal sludges and coal waste,
  • coal dust (hard coal in loose form (fines) with a grain size of less than 3 mm),
  • moist wood (solid biomass with a moisture content in the working state of more than 20%).

These are not all of the restrictions. From this date on, newly commissioned boilers may only burn gas or light fuel oil and may not be fuelled by solid fuels. An exception is where it is technically impossible to connect to the district heating or gas network, as confirmed by the network operator - in such circumstances solid fuel boilers complying with ecodesign requirements are allowed. In addition, all recreational fireplaces, including those already in use, must meet the emission requirements for particulates (dust) set out in the ecodesign. Those that are the primary heat source and distribute heat are treated as a boiler. The resolution prohibits heating buildings with solid fuels from 1 July 2028.

The spa resolution covers the spa municipalities located in Lower Silesia (e.g., Jelenia Góra-Cieplice, Duszniki-Zdrój, Jedlina-Zdrój). From 1 July 2018, it introduced restrictions on fuels that can be burned in installations.  The resolution prohibits heating buildings with solid fuels from 1 July 2028.

The resolution for the rest of the voivodeship prohibits, among other things, the use of:

  • coal sludge and coal flotation concentrate and mixtures produced using them,
  • lignite and solid fuels produced from lignite,
  • hard coal in loose form with a grain size of less than 3 mm,
  • solid biomass with a moisture content in the working state of more than 20%.

Moreover, from 1 July 2028, the obligation to use only modern, low-emission boilers that meet the Class 5 requirement will come into force.

Education and funding

In 2017, a regional "Working Team for Air Quality and Energy Efficiency in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship" was also established, consisting of scientists, local government officials and social activists, with the task of developing further recommendations to improve air quality.

Together with the Voivodship Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, in October 2019 the provincial government trained 235 Lower Silesian municipal and district officials, municipal guards and activists, who will carry out inspections throughout Lower Silesia to verify residents' compliance with the anti-smog resolutions.

Another tool in the fight for clean air is an information campaign conducted in January. The time of its implementation was not chosen by accident - in conjunction with global warming and local atmospheric phenomena, it is in January and February that the air quality in Lower Silesia is the worst. March is the last month of the heating season, when many Poles decide to change the way they heat their homes.

For this purpose, residents of Wrocław can take advantage of the city's KAWKA Plus programme. It is a programme of subsidies for exchanging furnaces for environmentally friendly sources of heat. When replacing a furnace which does not meet ecological standards with one that does, you can get up to PLN 15 thousand as a refund. You do not even need to have your own contribution. It should be remembered that 2021 is the last year of the highest subsidies.

Funding from the KAWKA Plus programme is available for:

  •  owners of a flat or house in Wrocław (natural person),
  • tenant of subsidized social housing,
  • a person who rents a flat or house in Wrocław, but the consent of the owner of the premises is required.

Flat (house) must have a working solid fuel furnace (coal, wood, pellets, ecopowder, etc.).

The subsidy may be used for:

  • dismantling of solid fuel heating,
  • purchase and installation of an ecological heating system,
  • modernisation or construction of the exhaust system necessary for the proper functioning of a new heating system,
  • installation of light fuel oil tanks, liquid gas tanks in the absence of access to the municipal gas network and installations to connect such tanks to the central heating boiler;
  • installation of light fuel oil tanks, liquid gas tanks in the absence of access to the municipal gas network and installations to connect such tanks to the central heating boiler.

Restrictions must also be borne in mind. The subsidy cannot be used, for example, for the purchase of heating equipment which does not constitute a permanent fixture in the property or for the adaptation of rooms for the heating substation.

Author: TOGETAIR Editors