• Lawmakers seek to stall expansion of new renewable capacity
  • Parliament drops proposals that would boost maintenance costs

Poland’s parliament approved a bill that introduces extra requirements for building wind parks as the country aims to curb the booming industry in a bid to help prop up its loss-making coal industry.

The governing Law & Justice party bill forces new turbines to be located further away from homes, a rule that developers have said would halt some new projects after a record expansion of wind energy last year. Lawmakers removed regulations for detailed audits and more technical supervision over the turbines, which would have increased costs for wind-park owners.

Poland, Europe’s top coal producer and a staunch defender of the fossil fuel in the European Union, notched up the continent’s second-highest number of wind-power installations last year. Developers installed 1.26 gigawatt of new capacity before an expected change to subsidies and planned auctions for renewable support. The country now has 5.6 gigawatts of installed wind capacity.

“We want to eliminate the import of used, outdated turbines from western countries,” Deputy Energy Minister Andrzej Piotrowski said in parliament on May 18. Unlike coal-fired power plants, wind generation is not a reliably stable source of electricity, he said.

Coal Dependent

Compulsory paid audits every two years would have cost the industry as much as 150 million zloty ($25.3 million). The amended law, which now will be discussed in the Senate and has to be signed into law by the president, also scrapped a proposal envisaging potential jail terms for using wind farms without permission.

The country’s six-month old cabinet says that Poland, which generates some 85 percent of its electricity from coal, has been too quick and generous in stimulating wind generation while its coal power plants are struggling. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, a miner’s daughter from southern Poland, pledged to keep the country of 38 million dependent on coal for decades to come.

The ruling party surprised the industry in December, two months after it swept into power, when it suspended the introduction of a new law regulating subsidies for renewable energy. The government also plans to rework an earlier plan to introduce renewable energy auctions in an attempt to reduce support for wind and solar power.

The regulatory uncertainty “is spooking investors and banks,” according to Giles Dickson, chief executive officer of the European Wind Power Association, a lobby group. Investors eager to secure debt funding for wind investments at Polish banks are charged from 9 percent to 10 percent, compared with 4 percent in neighboring Germany, he said on May 18.

“They look at the regulatory picture and they don’t like what they see,” Dickson said.

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