Poland has one of the strictest sets of regulations on wind farm development in the European Union, and relaxing these rules has been a major obstacle for the country in unlocking billions of euros of EU recovery funds. However, the Polish parliament recently backtracked on a proposal to boost onshore wind capacity, mandating that wind turbines be located at a minimum distance of 700 metres from residential buildings.
The current rules in Poland have essentially blocked investment in new turbines since 2016, when the ruling Law and Justice party mandated that a turbine should be a minimum distance of 10 times its height away from residential buildings. The government had proposed to reduce this distance to 500 metres last year in a bid to spur investment and unlock the EU funds, but the ruling majority in the lower house amended it higher to 700 metres last month without presenting an impact assessment of the change.
This move has disappointed critics who argue that the new version of the law does not go far enough to solve the problem of onshore wind farm development in Poland. Companies such as Google, Mercedes, IKEA, Amazon, Siemens, and Bosch have warned that the change will hold back Poland’s wind power potential and potentially expose its economy to a competitive disadvantage.
According to the Polish Wind Energy Association, which groups some 150 investors, the amendment will reduce potential onshore wind investments by 60-70%, effectively discouraging them. Alicja Chilinska-Zawadzka, the general manager at the Polish unit of EDF Renewables, expressed her disappointment in the new law, stating that it will have a huge impact on their portfolio of projects. In their case, the 700-800 MW projects will be reduced by about 40%.
The vote to reject the Senate amendment and seal the 700 metres rule was close, with 231 lawmakers voting against the 500 metre rule and 209 voting in favour of it. However, critics of the new law argue that it is hard to find a justification for why 700 metres should be a better rule than 500 metres.
Poland has the potential to become a leading market for wind energy in Europe, but its current regulations are stifling growth in the sector. The country has set an ambitious target of generating 23% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, but this goal will be difficult to achieve without more investment in wind energy.
The new law is likely to discourage foreign investors who may look to other markets with more favourable regulations. However, Poland’s government has stated that it remains committed to renewable energy and that it will continue to work with investors to find ways to make wind energy more attractive to investors. It remains to be seen whether the government will take any action to address the concerns raised by critics of the new law. Photo by Kalinka261015, Wikimedia commons.