The liberalization of the distance act must include a minimum distance of 500 metres. Otherwise, there will be no new wind investments in the short term, and the law will be a pseudo-liberalization – says Janusz Gajowiecki, President of the Polish Wind Energy Association in an interview with BiznesAlert.pl.
A wind turbine. Picture by Pixabay.
BiznesAlert.pl: A bill liberalizing the 10h rule is getting closer. Does the industry believe that this is finally the end of the legislation that is blocking the development of onshore wind farms?
Janusz Gajowiecki: The industry absolutely believes that the liberalization will eventually happen. In fact, we have no other choice, because if the development of renewable energy sources, in this case offshore wind, is thwarted further, it would be detrimental to the state. Any type of energy produced in Poland, that does not require imported fossil fuels is worth its weight in gold not only for the energy sector, but also for security. There are currently no arguments against wind energy. Today, the public support for wind energy is at an all time high – over 80 percent of the people are expecting new onshore wind investments – no political party in Poland has even come close to this level. The energy crisis is increasing support for investments that ensure energy sovereignty, and wind turbines do just that. Wind is the cheapest source of electricity, which is confirmed by energy auctions, and in addition permanently reduces the final bill for the recipient, by lowering the merit order based on coal in Poland. It is also worth remembering that unlocking the development of wind farms in Poland is also one of the milestones that Poland needs to meet to receive funds from the National Recovery Plan. Nowhere in Europe are there such strict regulations affecting the wind industry as in Poland.
However, there are still places and people who talk about the harmful effects of wind turbines on health…
There is no data to support this thesis. With a minimum distance of 500 meters, there is no impact on the body. This was confirmed by this year’s research by scientists from the Polish Academy of Sciences, who showed that the rules establishing a minimum distance from buildings fully protect the interests of people living near such investments. This is something that we as an industry have known for years as a result of research by foreign scientists, including from the World Health Organization and other international researchers. This year, Polish scientists also expressed a similar opinion in an extensive publication.
What will the liberalization mean for wind energy?
I estimate this potential at about 22 GW in 10 years, including what we have at the moment. Another 12 GW could be produced in the next decade. This is a figure that doubles the capacity of existing wind turbines.
According to the official data of the Energy Regulatory Office (URE), this is 7 GW, because they look at the issued concessions. PSE (Polish grid operator – ed.) recognize sources that have been connected, which amounts to 9 GW.
Even without liberalizing the 10h rule, PSE believes 15 GW will be added to onshore wind in the coming decade.
Unfortunately, this is a myth that needs to be corrected or clarified. Having been in the industry since 2008, we have seen many connection agreements and connection conditions that were ultimately not implemented. Although there are precise deadlines, network operators do not cancel these conditions, because they are afraid of litigation with investors. In my opinion, this works to the detriment of the electricity system, because new sources that want to receive conditions and want to actually build themselves are not accepted. These statistics should be verified, because they distort the picture. PSE says that we don’t need to worry about blackouts, because they will connect these sources by 2030. However, in our opinion, all these conditions should be reviewed, new ones issued where the old ones have lost their validity, and then we as investors can commit to the pace of the transformation.
Some claim that the liberalization hit a pause, because of the debate on the minimum distance between the turbines and buildings…
The 500-meter condition must be maintained. This is how land-use plans are prepared today, and any other distance, presumably bigger, will make the liberalization law a bad piece of legislation that will not unlock the potential of onshore wind energy. It takes at least seven years to prepare and complete a new development project. If the distance is 500 meters, then we have a chance to cooperate immediately with municipalities that are interested in investing in onshore, where new megawatts in wind farms can be created within two years. It is a short time in the realm of professional power generation. This energy, which is brand new, will enter the system at a critical time for the energy sector. According to the Energy Regulatory Office, the years 2024-2025 will be critical due to the schedule of decommissioning of coal-fired power plants. We need to keep this in mind, so it’s not worth messing around with increasing the distance.
The new law also provides for extensive public consultations with residents. Does this change the approach to consulting from an investor perspective?
This provision de facto extends, in a positive way, the duration of the investment by several months, but gives investors a chance to get in touch, get to know local communities better and adapt to their expectations and needs. The new law provides for at least three consultations with local communities with the participation of independent experts. Professional investors have always done this, so we expected it from the lawmakers. Unfortunately, there are also black sheep in the industry that negatively affect the perception of the entire industry. They wanted to take shortcuts, but this law removes such threats, so we are not afraid of this, and we are glad that such provisions will help us fight pathologies. The approach of local governments is also crucial here. Today, they, along with the industry, are waiting for the 500-meter rule and new wind investments in their area, because the financial support that goes to the municipalities along with new projects is simply necessary for them.
Interview by Mariusz Marszałkowski