As “turbinegate” shook the Polish politics, 42 green NGOs appeal to the new ruling majority for “urgent adopting a bill allowing the development of wind energy in a way that is safe for both people and the environment.”
By Aleksandra Krzysztoszek, EURACTIV.pl
In their appeal the NGOs refer to the controversial energy prices draft bill by Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition and Poland 2050, which also included provisions liberalising establishing of wind farms. According to the draft in its original shape, wind turbines were meant to be allowed as close as 300 metres from single-family buildings and 400 meters from multi-family buildings.
The draft was criticised by leading politicians of the Law and Justice (PiS) party. It was not only about the distance of wind turbines from buildings. PiS accused the new ruling majority that the draft would would enable the expropriation of land owners near the planned power plants, and even claim that the project was prepared by lobbyists.
Both the wind energy sectors and the ruling majority MPs say there is no risk of the expropriation of residents of areas near windmills, and the provisions regarding this form of land acquisition apply only to narrow strips of the transmission network.
At the end of the day, coalition led by Donald Tusk gave in to PiS' pressure and withdrew from changing the wind energy law and announced the removal of provisions on this subject from the draft on electricity prices.
We need cheap renewables
“In its pre-election announcements and in the coalition agreement, the new parliamentary majority committed to unlocking the potential of renewable energy. This was the purpose of the project, which was submitted to the Sejm at the end of November and combined the issues of wind energy with the issue of freezing energy prices,” say the authors of the appeal, including Greenpeace Poland.
The organisations expects the draft on wind energy to be one of the first draft bills by the new government and that the government would take into account "requirements of nature protection and the interests of local communities, enabling the development of clean, cheap and safe wind energy.”
“Dynamic development of wind energy is the fastest and most effective way to ensure (the country's) independence from coal and natural gas,” the NGOs said, noting that only last year Poland spent about 200 billion zlotys (€46 billion) on importing fossil fuels.
The new draft on wind energy “should involve dialogue with the society and ensuring the highest legislative standards.”
The energy transition has been slowing down in Poland in the recent years, resulting in higher energy prices, but also environmental destruction, rising health costs, higher greenhouse gas emissions and limited development opportunities for the domestic wind industry, the NGOs insist.
“Enabling the development of wind energy is a must. Only in this way a dynamic and socially beneficial energy transition of the country can be ensured,” they said.
“The need to develop cheap and safe renewables is undeniable and urgent.” The new, updated draft should be prepared in the first 100 days of the new government, the organisations stress.
“Further delaying the process creates a risk of high energy prices in the country, increasing its dependence on the import of fossil fuels and resulting in environmental devastation.”
"Windmills a huge opportunity for Poland”
“Years of blocking wind energy by the PiS government have led to huge problems,” said Marek Józefiak, spokesman and expert on ecological policy at Greenpeace Poland.
"Instead of implementing a just energy transformation, the government preferred to bring huge ships with coal from Russia, Australia or Colombia to Polish ports.”
“Sheikhs and foreign companies supplying coal and gas to Poland are certainly happy with this, while Poles have to face high prices of coal-fired electricity and growing fuel imports.”
Developing wind energy is key to cheaper energy and enhancing Poland's energy security, Józefiak believes.
“This year, 14% of the Polish electricity was produced by windmills. If Tusk's government introduces the widely supported rule of 500 meters distance from buildings, we will be able to double the power of windmills in just a few years,” he said.
“Windmills are a huge opportunity for Poland,” he concluded.
In 2021, wind energy accounted for 9% of the overall energy production in Poland, which is still more than in the remaining Visegrad Group countries, according to WindEnergy think tank. In both Hungary and Czechia, the share of wind energy in the same year was 1%. In Slovakia, the wind energy was so low that the estimated percentage was 0%.