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Ahead of COP24, Poland's Wind Market Starts to Thrive Again

From 3 to 14 December, the world will look to Katowice for the next world climate summit. The city in southern Poland is one of the country's coal strongholds, where the electricity mix is still dominated by fossil fuels. However, in the run-up to the summit, the Polish government is now surprisingly making some concessions towards the EU.

Poland's onshore wind market starts to thrive again (Image: Pixabay)Poland's onshore wind market starts to thrive again (Image: Pixabay)

It was only in September that Polish Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski took a cautious first step towards the unpopular EU: he announced his intention to reduce the share of coal in the country's energy mix to 50 percent by 2050 (Windfair reported). Now the national conservative Polish government under the PiS party even wants to get the market for onshore wind energy up and running again.

The party itself has been responsible for the de facto halt to wind energy expansion. In 2016 a regulation to ensure that newly erected wind turbines had to be built in a distance ten times their height from residential buildings was introduced meaning that a turbine of 200m in height must be at least 2 kilometres away from the nearest residential building. The same regulation had already demonstrated its effectiveness in Bavaria/Germany in levering the expansion of wind energy. Another hurdle for the Polish onshore market was introduced in 2017, when municipalities were allowed to levy taxes on the mechanical parts of the installed turbines.

In the meantime, however, the pressure on Poland has increased. The world climate summit COP24 to be held in Katowice next month will draw the attention of the global public to the climate balance of the host country. In addition, the EU is increasing pressure on Poland, because all member states must secure an expansion of renewable energies to at least 15 percent by 2020 with severe penalties waiting for those who fail to achieve this goal. Poland was only able to present a share of 11.3 percent in 2016, the last time official figures were collected - and the forecasts for 2020 did not look promising.

Apparently, this pressure has made the government rethink their decisions. The Polish wind energy market has already been in a state of flux in recent weeks, although the focus was initially exclusively on the offshore market due to the aforementioned restrictions. Poland has suitable waters in the Baltic Sea for the development of its own offshore industry, as the European Wind Energy Association WindEurope recently stated. The Polish transmission grid operator announced that the grid could certainly accommodate 4 GW of offshore wind by 2026. "Offshore wind power will definitely become an important part of the mix," Energy Minister Tchorzewski hastened to stress accordingly. "We are doing everything we can to ensure that the decision on the first offshore wind farm is taken before 2020."

But that is not enough to satisfy the EU. Further measures must follow. On Monday, a tender was launched for licences for 1 gigawatt of onshore wind. In addition, the government has promised appropriate subsidies for renewable energy projects. "We are on the right track", Janusz Gajowiecki, Chairman of the Polish Wind Energy Association PSEW, told the French press agency AFP.

Poland must quickly increase its share of renewable energy, otherwise the EU will induce penalties. (Image: Pixabay)

Two further tenders for a total of 2 gigawatts are to follow as soon as possible. This is obviously also due to a change of opinion within the governing party PiS, as Anna Ogniewska of Greenpeace Poland explains: "There are different trends within the PiS and there are people who support renewable energy. But the majority still favours coal, gas and geothermal energy that are more 'tangible'; they distrust 'elusive' sources like the wind or the sun".

Whether it's the pressure from the world climate summit, the EU or just the bad air from emissions, what counts is that Poland's wind energy market has started to grow again.

Katrin Radtke
COP24, Poland, onshore, wind market, offshore, WindEurope, pressure, teaxes, subsidies, EU, government

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