Deloitte: Poland enters the phase of economic expansion

The divergence of economic moods in Poland...

Two Years On: War in Ukraine and Its Global Impact

On February 24, 2022, a full-scale Russian...

Poland Breaks Renewables Records, Yet Faces Hurdles: Wind Regulations and Grid Upgrades Needed

ENERGYPoland Breaks Renewables Records, Yet Faces Hurdles: Wind Regulations and Grid Upgrades Needed

In recent times, Poland has been setting successive records in electricity generation from renewable energy sources (RES). “However, we still have a very large potential for growth,” notes Krzysztof Cibor from Greenpeace Poland. Currently, this potential remains largely untapped, in part due to regulations hindering the development of onshore wind energy and the poor state of the electrical grid, which results in a high number of refusals to connect new renewable sources or the need to temporarily disconnect them. The expert points out that these are the two most important tasks for the new government, which has already announced the liberalization of the so-called wind turbine law in June of this year.

“In recent days, we have recorded new highs in energy production from wind and solar sources. There were several days when daily production from renewable sources even reached about 40 percent of all energy obtained, and photovoltaics alone provided us with more electricity than brown coal. This shows that renewable energy is not doing badly, although there is still a lot to be done. According to experts’ calculations, by 2030 we could be producing even 70 percent of our daily energy from renewable sources, which would affect energy prices, air quality, emission reduction, and generally improve the quality of our lives,” Krzysztof Cibor tells Newseria Biznes.

On April 9 this year, another record for electricity generation from photovoltaic panels was set. According to data from PSE, the transmission system operator, between 12 and 1 PM, photovoltaics delivered 10,530 MWh of energy to the grid, covering over 50 percent of national demand at its peak. In daily terms, solar panels generated almost 19 percent of all electric energy.

2023 was also a record year for energy production from RES. According to the Energy Market Agency, last year Poland produced a total of over 166.4 TWh of electric energy, of which more than 26 percent came from RES (14 percent of the total generation was provided by onshore wind farms, 6.8 percent by photovoltaics, and 2.9 percent by biomass). This means that RES significantly increased their share in the national energy mix over the year (from about 20 percent in 2022) while the share of coal simultaneously shrank from 73 percent to 63 percent, reaching its lowest level in history.

The growth in RES generation is driven by a rapid increase in installed capacity – currently, renewable sources represent over 43 percent of the total installed capacity in Poland, reaching 66.4 GW. In photovoltaics alone, almost 4.9 GW of new capacity was launched last year (a 40 percent year-over-year increase) – the most in the history of Poland’s RES market. According to ARE data, by the end of last year, the total installed PV capacity in Poland had already reached 16.9 GW compared to 12.1 GW a year earlier. The second-largest source was onshore wind energy (9.3 GW of installed capacity at the end of last year).

“We still have a very large growth potential. There are still places where onshore wind turbines could be built, and of course, there is also offshore wind energy, which does not yet exist in Poland but will be a stable and very important source in the future,” says the expert. “We expect the new government to return to fulfilling this electoral promise as soon as possible and unlock the potential of onshore wind energy so that it can develop and be established throughout Poland, which in recent years has been greatly limited by regulations introduced by the Law and Justice party. Now we hope that these regulations will be fixed and that wind turbines will indeed be able to be built in many new places.”

In Poland, since 2016, a law has been in effect that virtually stopped the construction of new wind turbines on land. It introduced the so-called 10H rule, which specifies the distance from buildings at which wind power plants can be built. According to the rule, the limit was 10 times the height of the wind turbine, approximately 1.5–2.5 km. According to the Instrat Foundation, this excluded about 99.7 percent of the country’s area from the possibility of erecting wind turbines.

In March of last year, the liberalization of this law was passed, setting the new minimum distance of wind turbines from buildings at 700 meters. However, investors and the Polish onshore industry have long pointed out that this does not allow for the full unlocking of the potential of this energy sector and propose that the regulation includes 500 meters. The Polish Wind Energy Association estimated that this could allow for the construction of over 10 GW of new onshore wind energy capacity by 2030 (compared to a maximum of 4 GW of capacity with the 700 m rule maintained).

Loosening the regulations for onshore wind energy and reducing the minimum distance of wind turbines from buildings by 200 meters was

one of the pre-election promises of the Civic Coalition, included in the so-called 100 specifics. The Deputy Minister of Climate and Environment, Miłosz Motyka, has already announced that the government will deal with the amendment of the wind turbine law in June of this year.

“What is very important is the improvement of the quality of the networks through which this electricity from wind turbines is later transmitted to consumers, to our outlets. The quality of this network will determine whether we will be able to fully utilize this renewable energy,” emphasizes the Greenpeace Poland expert. “It is important to adapt the energy network so that it can accommodate an increased amount of energy from renewable sources so that this energy is not wasted and that we are able to store and use it to a greater extent when weather conditions are not favorable.”

Underinvestment in outdated transmission and distribution networks is currently one of the biggest barriers to the development of the RES market. It results, among other things, in a large number of refusals to connect new renewable sources. According to the President of the Energy Regulatory Office, in the years 2021-2022 alone, the office received over 9,000 notifications of refusals to connect RES facilities to the network.

“In recent days, there have been instances where there was so much energy from the sun and wind that it was necessary to shut down these sources. This means that we could have had even more clean, cheaper energy in our outlets, but – because our network cannot cope, we are not prepared for this – it had to be limited,” says Krzysztof Cibor.

Electrical networks are the basis of energy transformation. According to URE data, in 2022, the investment expenditures of the five largest distribution companies and the transmission network operator, Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne, amounted to nearly PLN 9.4 billion, compared to PLN 7.2 billion the previous year. This is far too little, as the Polish electrical network – worn out and not adapted to RES sources – requires comprehensive modernization: about 40 percent of overhead lines and 33 percent of power stations are over 40 years old. Moreover, most lines in Poland are overhead lines, which are very susceptible to damage due to weather conditions.

At the end of 2022, URE and the five largest distribution companies (Enea Operator, PGE Dystrybucja, Energa Operator, Tauron Dystrybucja, and Stoen Operator) signed the so-called Charter of Efficient Transformation, an agreement according to which investment expenditures for modernization, development, and comprehensive digitalization of the network and its adaptation to the dynamically increasing number of renewable energy sources are expected to reach approximately PLN 130 billion. The implementation of the KET assumptions by 2030 is expected to, among other things, increase the installed capacity of RES to 50 GW (i.e., by about 230 percent), achieve a 50 percent share of renewable sources in the energy mix, and connect approximately 2 million new customers. PSE investments are described in the Network Development Plan (PRSP) agreed with the President of URE. According to this document, the value of the already implemented and planned investments of Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne by the end of 2036 is expected to reach nearly PLN 62 billion.

Check out our other content
Related Articles
The Latest Articles