Interview | Janusz Gajowiecki, President, PSEW (Polish Wind Energy Association)

05 February 2020

The Polish Wind Energy Association (PSEW) was established in 1999. Its mission is to create advantageous conditions for investment in wind energy in Poland and to systematically increase the use of wind energy as a clean source of electricity. PSEW members stem from across the value chain, including investors, developers, turbine and component manufacturers, both from Poland and abroad.

According to one of your recent reports, wind energy in Poland can reach 10 GW in a stagnation scenario, and 24 GW in a growth scenario. What needs to happen for the country to end up in the second circumstance?

The numbers shown in the report you mention coincide with the potential of onshore wind in Poland given in other studies. For instance, the Institute for Renewable Energy sets the minimum potential at 11 GW and maximum potential at 22 GW. In turn, analyses performed during the LIFE Climate CAKE PL project (prepared by the National Centre for Emissions Management) demonstrate onshore wind potential of approximately 21-23 GW in 2030, and 26 GW in 2040. All numbers are consistent and show huge potential of wind in Poland.

 

Wind energy is the cheapest RES technology in Poland and will reduce the wholesale price of electricity. Auction results from 2018 and 2019 further confirmed the cost advantage of onshore wind over other electricity generation technologies.

 

The only real barrier we see presently to develop this potential is the distance rule (10H). Other than this, wind conditions are perfect and with the new generation of turbines we can become very competitive price wise. We believe this piece of legislation will come to fruition in 2020, hopefully in the first half of the year.

Education is another crucial aspect in countries like Poland or Romania, where renewable energy is still a rather new concept. We made huge efforts during the past year to grow the understanding of this field among ordinary citizens. The interest we noticed is massive, for instance our social media platforms receive over one million of viewers every month. This shows a hunger for such knowledge but also points to a lack of education.

What are you counting on when you say that the 10H rule will be removed?

I count on a  simple fact that there is a huge need for green electricity in Poland. The plans submitted to the European Commission cannot be attained in short term without onshore wind.This technology has the advantage that it can be developed very quickly. 

 

Ms. Jadwiga Emilewicz, Minister of Development, has already announced that the act revising the 10H rule will be submitted for public consultations in the first half of this year, and by January 1st 2021 the act will enter into force.

 

We have projects in Poland that are already developed up to certain stages so when the rule is removed we can finalize them with relative ease. Offshore wind also represents a fantastic business opportunity for Poland and Europe, but it is a longer term prospect.

What gave rise to recent negative associations with renewable energy, and how are you tackling the issue of mass education?

There has been some opposition to wind energy from certain organizations which leverage people’s fears, but they can only work if people remain uneducated. This is why we are treating this subject as a priority.

 

As representatives of the wind energy sector we feel responsible to help post-mining areas. PWEA prepared a project to implement a training center for coal miners, as part of the Coal Regions in Transition initiative.  

 

Our messages tend to be simple and focused on providing basic knowledge (unlike what we are sharing with experts). Social media is a strong tool but we also drive other types of campaigns. In 2019 we organized an educational roadshow in different holiday resorts of the Baltic coastline. During this roadshow we shared educational brochures, made ecological quizzes and games providing information about wind energy during play. 

In 2020 we are also launching a short movie for children titled “Let the wind blow” about the causes, the effects of climate change and possibilities of counteracting them. This film will be broadcasted on national television.

It sounds like you have a great set up in place, and the elements that are missing are related to government action. How do you assess the collaboration between PWEA and public authorities?

We had some ups and downs in the past but we have been communicating very well with the government in recent years. Through our studies we are able to show the impact of wind industry on various dimensions of economy, for instance in terms of lowering prices for end consumers. The price of electricity is something that the government is very sensitive about, and an aspect which allows us to have open and constructive dialogue with decision makers.

We found huge enthusiasm surrounding offshore wind development. When do you expect the first capacities to be active?

The draft of Offshore Wind Act has been published recently. At the moment we count on an efficient legislative process. If the act is passed by the end of June 2020, the first turbines could start producing electricity in 2025. With offshore wind in place we can answer the domestic demand, which is increasing, and also become an exporter of energy in Europe.

 

The Baltic Sea potential in the Polish zone is estimated at almost 30 GW, which is truly outstanding. Furthermore, our studies show that offshore wind can operate 90% of the days in a year, and the load factor can get up to 60% (higher than onshore, where the load factor is typically 40%).

 

Hard work is still needed to get there though, for instance we still need investments across the supply chain. For onshore wind we have a robust setup in place and we are able to produce ALL necessary components here in Poland. This helps the offshore wind segment because manufacturers tend to produce components that are applicable to both. GE, for instance, has the LM Wind Power Blade manufacturing facility in Goleniów, close to Szczecin, and MHI Vestas produces elements for turbines in several locations in Poland. 

What do you credit for the development of such a robust supply chain for onshore wind?

The steel industry in Poland is very strong and helped us greatly. There was also a strong feeling on the investor side, from the early days, that Poland has great potential onshore and this motivated them to invest. 

What next steps do you have planned to further support RES development in Poland?

One priority is to develop tools that allow financing of new installations. Corporate PPAs are already in place but we want to work on merchant rules as well, and we are discussing with state-owned agencies and banks to facilitate financing.

 

Offshore tends to be more complicated because it is new to Poland. Regulation is one thing that needs to take final shape, but perhaps even more challenging is figuring out the zoning plan for the sea areas. This is the first plan in our history and it will set the stage for many years to come. 

 

Poland has huge appetite to become a leader in the Baltic Sea (we have the biggest potential among the countries in region according to WindEurope studies) and whether we fulfill this potential depends on actions we take now.

How did the COVID-19 outbreak impact the RES sector in the short term?

Logistics delays in the European supply chain come on top of the earlier slowdown in Chinese industrial production. In addition, with increasing number of people in quarantine, we also expect delays in service and installation works. That is why the Polish Wind industry, currently developing the RES capacity additions in history after the auctions of 2018 and 2019, was forced to ask for postponement of statutory deadlines for first delivery of electricity to the grid. 

One thing is certain. Despite the economic slowdown we are already experiencing, we cannot abandon our ambitions related to the transformation of the Polish energy sector. Only increasing the share of green energy in the national energy mix, including a constant growth in the cheapest wind sources, can ensure future competitiveness of the Polish economy.

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