Poland has relaxed 2016 restrictions on onshore wind energy ahead of the Cop24 climate conference on December 2-14 in the southern Polish city of Katowice (pictured), a coal-mining hub.
The Polish summit is seen as the most important moment in climate change negotiations since the Paris agreement in 2015.
On October 22-24, ministers and heads of delegations from 37 countries met in Krakow to accelerate the negotiation process ahead of Cop24.
In Poland, wind reforms have spread optimism about a changed approach in the right-wing Warsaw government.
“We’re on the right track,” said Janusz Gajowiecki, chairman of the Polish Wind Energy Association. The nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) government plans to add 1 gigawatt (GW) of wind energy to Poland’s 6.4 gigawatts of installed wind power, compared to Germany’s estimated 56 GW.
A wind farm licence auction to add 1 GW of production capacity is set for today (Monday) and subsidies will be available under a PiS plan to meet EU goals for renewable energy use.
Biomass dominates Polish renewable energy and accounted for more than two-thirds of the total in 2016, according to government data.
Poland, with a population of around 38 million and an expanding economy, remains heavily dependent on coal.
The EU wants 20 per cent of energy to come from renewable sources by 2020 and Poland must reach at least 15 per cent by 2020.
The debate has been given renewed urgency by the publication of the much-awaited report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said efforts of an unprecedented scale, speed and magnitude were necessary in order to keep global warming below 1.5°C.
Renewables supplied about 11.3 per cent of Poland’s energy in 2016 and is poorly placed to reach its 2020 target.
PiS is planning two more auctions for wind energy contracts, which should add another 2 GW of capacity.
PiS legislation in 2016 effectively blocked land turbine construction by requiring that they are built 10 times their height from any housing.
Last year regional governments were allowed to impose taxes on the turbine equipment, which was axed in January this year. But continuing restrictions on locating turbines near homes mean major challenges remain.
If Poland fails to meet its renewable targets by 2020, PiS will have to buy carbon credits in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, meaning polluters will need to pay for their emissions, which often increases prices.
Environmentalist Anna Ogniewska told AFP: “There are different trends within the PiS and there are people who support renewable energy but the majority still favours coal, gas and geothermal energy that are more tangible. They distrust elusive sources like the wind or the sun.”
Katowice. Picture credit: Pexels