"The investment made in Uniejów could be a model for the whole of Europe". This is the view of representatives of the Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy of the Committee of the Regions of the EU. They had the opportunity to learn about the Uniejów project for the exploitation of geothermal water in the course of an ENVE Commission study visit on 11 June this year.
The town of Uniejów, with a population of just over 3 000 and located in the Łódzkie Region, has become Poland's leader in the use of alternative energy sources. This is thanks to the innovative technologies introduced in Uniejów, including a system for obtaining heat from two completely environment-friendly sources: geothermal water and biomass. The members of the ENVE Commission, invited to Uniejów by the Marshal of Łódzkie Region, Witold Stępień (EPP/PL), and the Mayor of Uniejów, Józef Kaczmarek, learned about the exploitation of hot geothermal springs, viewed a power plant using thermal water and biomass and visited a geothermal spa complex and the Jeziorsko hydroelectric generating station, located nearby Uniejów. A dam was built on the Jeziorsko reservoir, constructed in 1986, which is used to generate electricity at a hydroelectric generating station with a total power of 4.89 MW.
"Visitors from other European countries are impressed by the way we have invested EU funds and how efficiently we are dealing with environmental protection issues" says Witold Stępień, summing up the reaction of the Commission members. "We have shown them our pearl, Uniejów, which was once one of the poorest municipalities in the region and which is now a model for others."
Michel Lebrun (EPP/BE), rapporteur for the opinion on A resource-efficient Europe, acknowledged that Uniejów is an example of "local, regional and European investment", and admitted that he had been deeply impressed by the cooperation between local authorities during the realisation of the Uniejów project. "The Mayor and the Marshal are people from whom other authorities in other European countries can learn. Here we can see how, with help from the region, the town was able to carry out a project of great importance for it. This is an exemplary solution which makes maximum use of geothermal sources and biomass. It is a model which can be applied elsewhere", Mr Lebrun says.
Part of the study visit was devoted to regional aspects of the use of water resources and geothermal energy. The high quality of the discussion was ensured by the participation of experts: Prof. Krzysztof Jóźwik from the Technical University of Łódź, Dr Aneta Sapińska Śliwa and Prof. Maciej Zalewski from Łodź University and the UNESCO European Regional Ecohydrology Centre in Łodź. To sum up, the purpose of the study visit was to demonstrate multiple aspects of the use of geothermal water resources for obtaining heat (the heat obtained from the thermal water is provided to private houses and flats as well as to 18 public buildings); it is also used for electricity generation and in healthcare – Uniejów has been awarded health resort status.
At a press briefing Neil Swannick (PES/UK), rapporteur for the opinion on Monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, said: "What we have seen here is an excellent example, which is worth sharing with others and showing to the rest of Europe".