This is an extract from a recent report titled “Change is in the Wind” by Ember. The lead author is Pawel Czyzak, Senior Energy and Climate Data Analyst, Ember.

Poland’s onshore wind law is among the most restrictive in Europe

Poland currently has one of the most restrictive onshore wind regulations in Europe, having introduced a so-called 10H rule in 2016. The rule assumes a minimum offset distance between settlements and wind turbines of 10 times the height of the turbine. This means that 99.72% of the country is excluded from building new onshore wind turbines and the available onshore wind capacity is limited to around 10 GW.

Analyses carried out separately by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and WindEurope show that the severity of wind restrictions in Poland is unprecedented, comparable only to regional regulations in individual states/counties in Germany, Austria, Estonia or parts of the UK, and a policy introduced in 2016 by Hungary that effectively banned onshore wind through several legal measures. On a national level, most countries assume a 500-1000m minimum distance between wind turbines and houses. The 10H rule in Poland also applies to national parks and reserves, and bans repowering of existing turbines. An amendment to the 10H rule is being discussed and a project entered public consultations mid-2021. The amendment proposes that municipalities could decrease the setback distance to 500m through a spatial planning process. This could increase the land availability 25-fold, increasing the potential to over 40 GW. However, several months after the public consultations, the amendment still hasn’t reached the parliament.

Current onshore wind policy is not compatible with EU climate targets

Poland is the second largest power sector CO2 emitter in the EU (after Germany), with the second highest emissions intensity (after Estonia) and a coal share in power generation still above 70%. What’s more, in recent years Poland’s power sector emissions have not been declining, but rising. The government is actively hampering the development of renewable energy – Poland’s renewable electricity target for 2030 is just 32%, almost two times lower than the EU-27 average (59%). Being a top CO2 emitter, Poland’s failure to replace coal with renewables can compromise the climate goals of the whole EU.

To assess the importance of onshore wind energy in reaching climate targets, Ember analysed 7 recent decarbonization pathways for Poland compliant with the EU’s emissions reduction goal of 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. According to the European Commission, to achieve that target for the whole economy, the EU needs to reduce power sector emissions by 69-76% between 2015 and 2030. In all the assessed scenarios, Poland’s contribution to this goal is lower than the EU average. Some of the scenarios even aim for the previous EU goal of achieving a 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction (GHG40%) or assume a purely economic objective (Least-cost optimization). Still, all of the analysed forecasts agree that the onshore wind capacity in Poland needs to increase to at least 17 GW in 2030, with the more ambitious pathways aiming for 22-27 GW. This is twice what is possible with the 10H rule in place. It is also two times more than what the government proposed in the NECP – 9.6 GW of onshore wind in 2030.

Poland’s wind restrictions need to be lifted immediately

Poland’s restrictive onshore wind law limits the deployment of new wind projects to a value that is not compatible with EU’s climate targets. An update to Poland’s problematic onshore wind law is already on the table, yet the government is delaying the amendment despite huge public support. Being the cheapest energy source, onshore wind could also help lower the extremely high coal-and-gas-driven electricity prices, currently wreaking havoc in the country’s economy.

Most importantly, Poland’s restrictive onshore wind law limits the deployment of new wind projects to a value that is not compatible with EU’s climate targets. This can have catastrophic consequences in a country that is one of Europe’s top CO2 emitters. With the success of the European Green Deal and Europe’s energy security at stake, the provision of state aid for Poland’s coal mining and power sectors should be conditional on a swift amendment to the onshore wind law.

The complete report can be accessed here.