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Poland is a relatively new market for wind energy. The installed capacity in 2005 was 73 MW; it reached 152 MW in 2006 and 276 MW in 2007.
The Polish Wind Energy Association (PWEA) identifies the main administrative barriers as:
- The lack of transparency in the decision-making process for authorising grid connection;
- Badly defined requirements for the environmental impact assessment process, the spatial planning permission and the grid connection process, which vary throughout the country;
- The Natura 2000 certification process is slowing down the realisation of wind farm projects. Candidate areas for Natura 2000 status are added permanently to a list which is subject to unexpected changes. In these areas, development is generally not allowed and can thus lead to the failure of a project.
One of the main administrative barriers that developers are confronted with is the fact that neither the timeframe nor the costs involved in the building permit application process can be accurately estimated. This is due to the fact that the application process is structured heterogeneously and varies from project to project. The number of authorities involved in the building permit application at community and local level does not only depend only on the capacity of the individual project but also on the possible impact it may have on the environment and whether it endangers any species protected within the Natura 2000 network. According to the PWEA, developers are not given specific guidelines for environmental impact assessments and are often required to submit additional, time-consuming information at a later stage, which often results in the general application procedure being delayed. In the worst case scenario, this time delay and the opposition from environmental organisations or local residents can lead to the failure of a project. Depending on whether the project is perceived as having a large, small or non-existent impact, the developer contacts the local and/or community authority. The bigger the anticipated impact, the higher the number of authorities and organisations for nature conservation involved in the environmental study. In case of a low expected impact, the developer may or may not be required to provide additional input.
Moreover, the procedures to be followed to obtain all the necessary permits in Poland are felt by stakeholders to be highly unclear and ill-adapted to the requirements of wind turbines. The investor is obliged to contact the bodies responsible for grid connection, spatial planning and environmental concerns individually, which may lead to confusion and delays as these bodies do not cooperate effectively with each other. Nevertheless, the lead time for the authorisation procedure is around two years, which is relatively short in comparison to the other countries assessed in this chapter.
In terms of obtaining grid connection, the PWEA identifies four crucial barriers for wind energy projects in Poland:
- The reserving of connection capacity, or 'the queue for the connection point';
- The initial charge made by the system operator on the developer when obtaining connection offers
- Te process’ lack of transparency and the lack of published data
- The limited validity of offers, which often expire between their being made, and the start of the construction of the wind farm.
When applying for grid connection, the Polish distribution companies (DSOs) do not provide the developer with a specific deadline by which they will be granted grid access. This makes it uncertain as to when the wind plant will become operational. Moreover, the Polish grid has a limited capacity. Since developers do not receive information in terms of grid capacity available, and are unaware of their interconnection acquisition, many apply in advance for more capacity than actually needed in order to anticipate potential land gains for the project. This leads to the so called 'queue for the connection point', in which the DSO treats all applications in the same way, without verifying the feasibility of MW applied for, and resulting in long time delays. Moreover, transmission and distribution operators can curtail production from wind, arguing that wind generation poses a threat to the security of the smooth functioning of the grid. The PROGRESS report confirms that, in Poland, more than 50 per cent of the planned projects encounter serious problems due to the constraints of the existing grid capacity. The same is valid regarding priority grid access. The PWEA claims that, despite the Polish law granting priority grid access to renewable energy, neither the transmission system operators (TSO) nor the distributors commit to this piece of legislation. This is because the legislation is not well-defined, which creates a loophole in the system: due to the numerous exceptions to the law, the TSO has the power to decide that including electricity from wind energy in the grid is not imperative. Furthermore, the situation in terms of transparency for connection costs seems rather controversial. The PWEA confirms that these costs differ widely between investors. In this context, in order to deploy wind energy successfully in Poland, it is necessary to establish effective central and local grid systems.
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