Capitulation of Germany on 8 May 1945 brought to an end a nearly six-year-long period of exploitation devastating power plants and the grid. Global losses in the power industry were estimated at 420 million dollars, which is close to the annual budget of Poland in the 1930s. The heaviest damage to electrical power engineering occurred in Warsaw where the generating potential virtually ceased to exist. No major damage to electrical power engineering was recorded in Upper Silesia.
Damage in other regions differed, ranging from 20% to 80%. Transfer of power from a power plant in Upper Silesia to Warsaw was not technically possible. A national system did not exist. Its beginnings had the form of unconnected local systems:
• 60 kV Upper Silesia bus;
• 100 kV Lower Silesia bus;
• 110/30 kV Poznań-Gorzów system;
• 60 kV Gródek-Żur-Gdynia-Pomerania system;
• 150 kV Rożnów-Tarnów-Starachowice line.
This being the case, reconstruction of electrical power engineering started with activation of small factory and tram power plants. Nationalisation of workplaces and large landed estates was spontaneous, for they were taken over by workers as soon as the Nazi forces retreated. They were formally and therefore, legally nationalised by virtue of the agrarian reform decree of 6 April 1944 and the act of 3 January 1946 on the acquisition of the basic branches of national economy by the state.
Public utility facilities as well as production and service companies acquired by Polish authorities began their activities under their old names in Polish with a suffix “under State management”. Due to the lack of another formal act of law, it was assumed that the facilities constituted property that was abandoned or deserted by their owners, or were former German property in which case the provisions of the decree of 2 March 1945 on abandoned property were applicable. This situation continued until February 1946, i.e. until the publication of the so-called “nationalisation act” of 3 January 1946 in the Journal of Laws.
In order to describe the status of nationalised power distribution enterprises we might, for example, refer to data collected by the Association of Polish Electrical Engineers, published in the “Power Distribution Companies’ Statistics”. 171 power plants with an installed unit power exceeding 1,000 kW, 386 power plants with efficiency between 101 and 1,000 kW, 439 public utility (municipal) power plants with a power of up to 100 kW operated in late 1937. 1,774 power plants with a unit power of less than 100 kW were in private hands. In addition, 20 hydroelectric and hydro-thermal power plants were in operation plus 4 hydroelectric power plants were under construction at that time. The largest utility power plants: in Chorzów and Łaziska had a unit power of approx. 100 MW. The few power plants existing until 1939 in the coal-mining area (Silesia, Zagłębie Dąbrowskie and Krakowskie) supplied power by means of district grids to facilities devoid of their own industrial power plants, and also to urban economies in the neighbouring cities and poviats and to local inhabitants.
Article 3 of the nationalisation act stated that the companies owned by local government, intercommunal, cooperative associations and cooperative societies were not subject to nationalisation. This made planned energy management throughout the country impossible, particularly as regards power administration and taking decisions on completing new energy-related investments. As a result, a new legal act had to be issued, namely the act of 4 July 1974 on planned energy management. Pursuant to Article 2 of the act, the Minister of Industry and Commerce in agreement with the ministers concerned established power unions which had a legal personality of state-owned enterprises.
14 district unions were formed in the districts of: Warsaw, Radomsko and Kielce, Łódź, Płock and Warsaw, Białystok, Lublin, Kraków, Upper Silesia, Lower Silesia, Poznań, Szczecin, Bydgoszcz and Toruń, Masuria and in the coastal region. Article 6 of the same act provided that power unions would include all electrical companies located within the area of a power district, irrespective of whose property they are. Companies not commercially selling energy or not connected with the national electric network were an exception. These chiefly included power plants owned by large industrial establishments (mines, steel and iron works). However, according to the provisions of the act, they were subject to technical, economic and tariff supervision of the power union in charge.
The end of the World War II brought fundamental changes in the economic and political life of Poland compared to the pre-war period. The country suffered economic and moral damage. Control was taken over by the communist orientation. The borders or Poland changed, thousands of people migrated to new places of residence. Electrical power engineering formed the basis for economic development and the ruling party was guided by the words of Lenin. War damage was enthusiastically removed and new Poland was being built. Despite post-war organisational chaos and spare parts shortages, 361 power plants with an installed capacity of 2,553 MW and annual output of 5.8 TWh were in operation as early as 1946.
The personnel employed within the occupied territory of Poland for the purposes of completing investments, operation of power plants and power grids was mostly of Polish origin. Thus, some of the power engineering personnel were able to survive the dangerous time of war. Still, mobilisation of the Polish Army, war and POW losses, as well as the Nazi terror severely depleted their number, especially engineers, technicians and master level workers.
The number of engineering and technical workers in the power industry in 1946 amounted to 2,305, which corresponded to only 6.9% of the global number of employees in this sector – which was also insufficient. Decimated professionals were facing the task of reconstructing the power industry not only in the territory of pre-war Poland but also in the Regained Territories. This could not be achieved but for a considerable inflow of new labour force recruited among the people who were zealous, yet inexperienced in energy generation-related skills.
The devastation of power generating equipment caused by its overuse began with the occupation and increased as the war years passed. Systematic destruction of German industry by allied air forces, advancing eastwards from the west, forced the Germans to move their strategic factories and plants. Many of them were located in Polish land, thus generating a significant increase in the demand for electric power. Painful restrictions in the consumption of energy by the population, consisting in hourly selective supply plans, were introduced. Despite this, power plants were more and more overloaded. The situation of the electrical power networks was similar. It was additionally aggravated by the fact that a considerable number of transformers had been removed by the occupying forces. Consequently, the power industry entered the stage of post-war reconstruction with a worn-out and prematurely physically aged stock of machines and equipment.
A difficult problem for the power industry emerged in the Regained Territories, where the Germans carried technical documentation away to the Reich at the critical stage of the war. Reproducing the documents was a labour-consuming and technically difficult task, especially with regard to the insufficient number of high-skilled power industry workers. Saving the industrial Upper Silesian Basin from destruction resulting from direct warfare and the concurrent devastation of the power industry in the central and northern regions of pre-war Poland as well as in the Regained Territories, had a decisive role in establishing the Upper Silesian Basin as the base of power industry supplies not only in coal but also in measurement, operation and laboratory equipment, in tools and repair materials, etc. Still, procurement was one of the most difficult problems. Procurement difficulties were at that time further intensified by ineffective operation of rail transport and the Motor Transport Company (PKS) managing a depleted fleet of small lorries. Regions distant from Upper Silesia consequently suffered the most.
In September 1944 an energy section was created in the Lublin area at the Industrial Division of the Polish Committee of National Liberation. It was subsequently upgraded to a department at the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland. The department catalogued war losses, determined the degree of damage, undertook coordination of the reconstruction process and organised local administration in the energy industry. Further supervision of reconstruction of the power industry was the task of the Central Power Administration (CZE) established within the structures of the Ministry of Industry. The act on planned energy management passed on 4 July 1947 marked the end of the first stage of the formation of power administration authorities in Poland. It established the Central Power Administration as a body coordinating and managing the activities of district power unions which had spontaneously emerged before, still without a legal basis (like before the war).
The Central Power Administration (CZE) prepared a draft of the first Three-Year Plan of National Electrification. It set out the following basic directions:
• supplying electricity to the capital district, industrial centres and ports;
• installing additional boilers in power plants to enable using the full capacity of the turbines;
• widespread electrification of rural areas;
• generating electricity at high-duty coal-fired power plants with high power and low unit costs of investment;
• limiting the construction of hydroelectric power plants to cases where multipurpose hydrotechnical systems create advantageous conditions for the location of a power plant nearby;
• accepting ultra voltages for transmission lines to secure economical transmission of energy.
A draft of the Three-Year Plan of Electrification developed by CZE was discussed at the National Energy Conference in Łódź in November 1945. Many objections were raised and the following additional postulates were put forward during the conference:
• developing of a hydroelectric power plants construction plan jointly by the power industry and water management sector with the power of CZE to build and operate the electrical part;
• developing cooperation between the power industry and co-operatives covering electrification of rural areas;
• advancing the organisation of the vocational school system for the purposes of the power industry;
• establishing the Electrical Power Engineering Institute and Power Engineering Institute as well as the Power Industry and Electrical Power Engineering Committee attached to the Ministry of Industry; also, publishing a periodical dedicated to the power industry and electrical power engineering issues.
The conference in Łódź approved the draft plan of CZE but only as the “minimum programme”.
In connection with the anticipated economic development of the country it was assumed that the production of electricity in 1948 would amount to 7.5 TWh at the power working time of 2,580 h. The installed capacity should reach the level of 2,900 MW. In order to fulfil the objectives, a new power unit of 510 MW had to be put into operation and the steam capacity in new boilers had to be increased to 1,600 t/h.
The network construction range covered 1,400 km of ultra high voltage lines. Establishment of three electrical power engineering systems was stipulated: Southern and Central system, Northern system covering the area of Poznań, Bydgoszcz and Gdynia, and Lower Silesian system. The estimated cost of the planned investment was 422.5 million zlotys according to prices applicable in 1939.
A revised Three-Year Plan of Electrification was discussed in the Polish People’s Republic at the 1st Congress of Polish Technicians in Katowice in December 1946. The resolution passed by the Congress provided for developing a long-term plan of supplies of all utility forms of energy, which in fact was a plan of energizing the country. The Congress in Katowice put an end to a period of widespread discussion on the draft of the utility power industry development plan between 1947 and 1949. The final version of the plan stipulated:
• electricity production reaching 8 TWh in 1949;
• installed capacity of 2,900 MW by the end of 1949;
• use of installed capacity reaching 2,750 h/a in 1949;
• length of ultra high voltage grid (110 kV and 220 kV) amounting to 2,082 km by the end of 1949;
• construction of approx. 6,200 km of medium voltage grids and approx. 5,000 km of low voltage grids;
• joint participation of the power industry and co-ops in the electrification of 2,500 villages and allocating 100 MW of power for use in rural areas.
The estimated cost of the plan was 640 million zlotys according to prices applicable in 1939. The three-year plan was accomplished as follows: electricity production in 1949 reached 8.3 TWh, exceeding the plan by 0.3 TWh; installed capacity at the end of 1949 reached 2,632 MW, thus it was 268 MW below the planned figure; the number of hours of use of the installed capacity reached 3,150 h compared to the planned 2,750 h; the planned length of the ultra voltage grid amounting to 2,082 km was exceeded by 288 km.
Failure to fulfil the plan of increasing installed capacity by 268 MW, i.e. 9.3%, led to an increased share of uneconomical units in the global production of electric energy. A deficiency of new economic power was a forerunner of the deficit present in the national electrical power engineering system for many years after, causing losses in the national economy resulting not only from an increased consumption of fuel but much more severe: limiting energy supplies for industrial production.
The industry and its demands were decidedly prioritized in the first period after the war. Fast and steady development of electrification was not provided until the act on common electrification of rural areas was passed on 28 June 1950. The electrification was much applauded in the villages which took an active part in the process by supporting the work teams (transporting and erecting the poles, digging the holes, providing accommodation for the teams, etc.). Polish countryside benefited from the electricity to a small degree. After the war the number of electrified villages amounted to approx. 1,830 on Polish lands and approx. 1,680 on the Regained Territories, which constituted 9% of villages in Poland and 2% of farms.