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Poland approves crucial law to unlock its onshore wind potential

The Polish government approved legislation that facilitates onshore wind projects. The new measures will amend the so-called 10H rule, introduced in 2016, which led to the collapse of Poland’s new onshore wind investments – previously among the highest in Europe.

The 10H rule assumed a minimum offset distance between settlements and wind turbines of 10 times the height of the turbine. This meant that 99.72 per cent of the country is excluded from building new onshore wind turbines and the available onshore wind capacity was limited to around 10 gigawatts (GW).

Whereas in 2015 – the last year before the rule was introduced – Poland installed 1,266 megawatts (MW) of onshore wind capacity (the second most of any country in Europe), between 2017 and 2019 it installed an average of only 34 MW annually.

An amendment was proposed in mid-2021, but then it kept getting delayed, however experts have warned that without changing the onshore wind law, Poland will likely compromise 2030 climate targets for the whole EU and disrupt Europe’s current efforts to reduce fossil fuel import dependency.

Under the new rules adopted by the Polish government, turbines would still have to be a minimum of 500 metres from existing buildings, but beyond that their location would be set under development plans decided by local authorities.

The government wished to introduce more flexible rules to enable the development of onshore wind energy and consecutively a decrease in energy prices while also strengthening the position of local communities regarding the development of these projects, according to the statement of the Ministry of Climate and Environment.

“The new law will unlock the new onshore capacity relatively soon and in a cost-efficient manner, said Tobiasz Adamczewski, Director of Renewables Program at Forum Energii adding that the industry will in particular benefit from access to low-cost clean energy. However, before this happens the law must pass through Parliament.

The government aims to unlock new wind installations with a total capacity of 6-10 GW, which would strengthen Poland’s energy security in face of the current crisis in the European energy markets.

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 per cent.

Furthermore, as energy prices soared amid the war in Ukraine and the European Union’s efforts to reduce its dependency on Russian energy sources, Poland’s prime minister expressed his support for higher production at the nation’s coal mines in order to bring down heating and energy prices.

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