Rural Energy Data

114 million people live in rural areas across Europe. These communities matter and need to be understood. To deliver a just energy transition, policy should reflect conditions in rural areas. However, data is often difficult to find.

This series of country-profiles provides a simple overview of the key rural energy challenges in selected EU member states and brings together important data points in an accessible review.

Rural Energy Matters

  • The Polish building stock is old. Most homes (43%) were built before 1969. Coal and heating oil are used more prominently in the oldest dwellings, which are typically less energy efficient and harder to upgrade.
  • Coal consumption is high in Poland. 51% of final energy consumption for heating homes is from coal, the most commonly consumed residential fuel in Poland.
  • Rural air quality is a significant health issue. 100% of rural air quality measurement stations reported particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions above WHO guideline levels. The EEA estimates that 45,000 people a year die prematurely from PM2.5 exposure in Poland.

Age breakdown of Polish buildings

Nearly half of homes in Poland were built before 1969

  • A large proportion of the Polish building stock (43%) was built before 1969. These older homes are more likely to be off-grid and heated using coal.
  • In rural areas, over 65% of homes are at a very low or low energy efficiency standard. A greater proportion of the properties in cities are built to high energy efficiency standards (15.2% of total) as compared to rural areas (8.6%).

Source: European Commission and IEE

Energy poverty in rural Poland

A greater proportion of households in rural areas face energy vulnerability

  • Energy poverty is an issue across the country in Poland, with 9.4% of the Polish population in thinly populated areas reporting that they couldn’t afford to keep their home adequately warm in 2016. This is above the average for Poland as a whole (9.1%).
  • 9.8% of the population in thinly populated areas also reported that they had been unable to pay their utility bills on time.

Source: EPOV


Source: DG Energy & ENTSO-E

The majority of final energy consumption for heating in Poland is derived from coal (51%) and natural gas (20%).

In rural areas, off the gas-grid, the consumption of coal is very high. Coal is carbon intensive and generates high local emissions.

Rural CO2 Trajectory

Off-grid household emissions have increased
between 1990 and 2017

  • Poland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions stand at 398 million
    tonnes (Mt) CO2e. This is down from 468 MtCO2e in 1990.
  • Per capita emissions are at 10.5 tCO2e, which is up 3% from
    2000 levels (10.2 tCO2e).
  • CO2 emissions from rural fuel* consumption have increased by
    2% since 1990, driven by increasing coal consumption. Coal is one
    of the most emission intensive fuels in terms of both GHG and air

Source: Eurostat energy balance data, GHG emissions, emissions per capita
* here defined as heating oil, coal, LPG and biomass

Rural air quality challenges

All rural air quality stations in Poland reported PM emission levels above WHO guidelines
Map of rural air quality stations reporting PM2.5 emissions above WHO guidelines in 2017

  • In the EU, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure has been
    estimated to reduce life expectancy by more than 8 months.
    These fine particles can enter human bloodstreams and have
    a significant negative impact on health.
  • 100% of rural air quality monitoring stations reported PM2.5
    background emission levels in exceedance of WHO guidelines
    in 2017 (emission limits of 10 μg/m3 per calendar year).

Source: European Environment Agency

Rural Energy Matters

Rural communities are often not connected to the natural gas grid. Indeed 44.5% of houses across Poland are not connected to the gas grid. As a substitute, coal is widely consumed for heating purposes.

Decarbonising heat will be necessary if Poland is to meet its climate change targets. To do this in a just and effective way, policymakers need to balance emission reduction, air quality and energy affordability challenges, all which impact Poland’s rural communities.

The Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative was created by SHV Energy in 2010 to promote the use of sustainable energy within rural communities. FREE is supported by a variety of stakeholder groups, together giving a voice to all those who believe that rural energy needs are important, and aiming to add new perspectives to the EU’s energy and climate debate. Identifying untapped potential in Europe’s rural areas to decarbonise and improve air quality in a cost-effective manner. Filling in rural energy data gaps. Engaging and supporting rural communities is essential if government energy, climate and environment policies are to be realised.