The Polish Government is expected to publish legislation later this year that will pave the way for the large-scale roll-out of offshore windfarms in the country, but there are still many other challenges to address
Increasingly seen as a new and potentially large offshore wind province, Poland has challenges to overcome before projects will get underway. But a bill being developed by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s administration will help a great deal.
The bill, expected to be published by the end of 2019, will address three key issues:
“Basically, the aim of the act is to make offshore wind in Poland possible,” Polish Wind Energy Association president Janusz Gajowiecki told OWJ. “We know that the bill has the support of the government, that the Minister of Energy Krzysztof Tchórzewski is fully behind it and that there is a special team within the ministry that is working on it. They have been visiting the major offshore wind countries in Europe to study what is best practice and help them fashion the best approach for Poland.”
Grid connection is undoubtedly an issue in Poland, and as in other countries such as Germany, at issue is not so much whether power from offshore wind can be connected to the grid, but that the grid onshore needs to be reinforced to take the electricity injected into the system to be transmitted to energy-hungry industry in the south of the country. The Polish transmission system operator is working on a plan to provide another 5 GW of grid capacity, Mr Gajowiecki explained, but that is quite a big ask.
“We can build offshore wind in Polish waters for sure,” said Forum Energii president Joanna Maćkowiak-Pandera. “The problem is that at the moment we cannot get the power to where it is needed.”
As are other countries in Europe, Poland is also working on a marine spatial plan for its maritime space. Along with the bill working its way through the Polish legislature, the designation of special maritime zones for offshore wind is another key piece of the offshore wind puzzle in the country.
Then, there is what form of financial support best suits the situation in Poland. As Mr Gajowiecki put it, auctions such as those that have taken place in Europe in the last 2-3 years have clearly demonstrated that they are probably the best way to ensure that consumers get value for money. They might work in Poland in due course, but for the time being there are not enough players with viable projects to make auctions viable.
In the absence of auctions, Mr Gajowiecki and Ms Maćkowiak-Pandera both believe that a contract for difference (CfD) of the type used successfully in the UK will be the most suitable approach – at least until more players and more projects are ready to compete in auctions.
“We have companies and we have potential projects,” says Mr Gajowiecki. “The problem is that they are all at different stages of development and they are not aligned, so an auction is not possible.”
“The existing legislation in Poland regarding support schemes for renewables was not designed with offshore wind in mind. It is essential that it is updated,” Ms Maćkowiak-Pandera says. A CfD scheme would have a lot to recommend it, she believes. “There are one or two companies – such as Polenergia and PGE that have permits. They are clearly much further advanced with their projects. There are others who are interested but there just aren’t enough projects ready for an auction.”
Forum Energii’s president tells OWJ that she believes offshore wind energy in Poland would also be advanced if the government comes forward with new capacity targets. There has been talk about a target of 10-12 GW or more, which is somewhat more than the 8 GW that has been discussed in the past, but these plans “need to be made concrete.”
The bill being developed by the ministry of energy and the marine spatial plan are important, but there is another issue Ms Maćkowiak-Pandera says also urgently needs looking at. That issue is permitting.
“Poland does not have a permitting process designed specifically for offshore wind that is enshrined in law,” she says. “Developers need a clear regulatory process they can work with.”
Ms Maćkowiak-Pandera and her colleagues at Forum Energii believe that 8-10 GW of offshore wind capacity is achievable by 2035, as long as the government reaches a decision on each of the challenges outlined above.
Work on a development plan of offshore areas is ongoing. The total area made available so far is approximately 2,000 km2 and includes the Oder Bank area (380 km2), Słupsk Bank (1,210 km2), and Middle Bank (390 km2). This would be sufficient for 8-10 GW overall, with development in stages, which would allow for the gradual acquisition of experience by domestic companies, facilitate integration into the Polish network and help to reduce levelised costs.
“The most urgent task is to reflect the unique properties of the offshore wind sector in Poland’s renewable energy sources act,” Ms Maćkowiak-Pandera concludes. “We also urgently need to reduce the time it takes to prepare the way for an offshore windfarm to be built. It can take anything up to 14 years. In order to accelerate the process and secure permits in a more realistic timescale, legislation is required and public administration bodies need to be much more efficient and effective in their work.
“We also need to reduce regulatory risk in order to reduce the cost of capital for investors. If we can do that, that implies lower energy costs from offshore wind.”
Strengthening and expanding the high voltage network in the northern part of the country is another ‘must,’ she continues. Improvements are needed to enable offshore wind to be connected to the grid and to enable energy brought ashore to be transmitted from northern Poland to the southern part of the country.
“Last, but by no means least, Poland needs to strengthen international co-operation in the Baltic. One way that it could do so would be to participate in the construction of cross-border interconnectors that would enable it to trade energy from offshore wind with neighbouring countries.”
Polish offshore wind – project status
‘Administrative fees’ for the use of nine locations for offshore wind in Polish waters have been paid by companies interested in developing them. The locations in question would allow around 10 GW of capacity to be developed.
The companies in question are Polenergia; Polenergia and Equinor (two locations); Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE, three locations); PKN Orlen; Baltic Trade & Invest and DEME; but the progress made with projects varies widely.
Polenergia and Equinor have obtained environmental decisions for two projects with a total capacity of 2.4 GW and signed a grid connection agreement with PSE for 1.2 GW (to be implemented in two stages of 0.6 GW each). PGE is expected to secure an environmental decision for two projects with a total capacity of 2.55 GW and has already signed a connection agreement for 1.05 GW.
Baltic Trade & Invest is applying for an environmental decision for 0.35 GW. PKN Orlen recently begun preparatory work for a project of 1.2 GW, but other projects are being developed much more slowly.