Green Bear Corporation is a renewable energy market operator, with competences in the construction of wind farms at all development stages – from finding suitable locations and obtaining administrative permits to constructing the actual power plant. The company was established in January 2017.
You have been doing business in Poland for more than 10 years now. How have you seen the renewable energy sector evolving during this time?
It has been quite an unstable journey over the years. We dealt with serious ups and downs around 2008 because of the financial crisis, and hit another wall in 2016 when PiS came into power and implemented the 10H rule. The impact on the wind sector was devastating: we had to cut our employees from 23 to only 5, and of the 700 MW that we had ready for development we only managed to save 67 MW. This is because all projects that did not have the building permits in place by July 16th 2016 were scrubbed.
Things are not as bad presently though. The government changed their view and some of their policy on RES. We are in the process of building 51 MW, though is it worth mentioning the project is partially based on auctions, PPA and on market prices.
Poland just had the largest auction in Europe on December 5th - why do you think the auction system does not make for an ideal framework?
Because prices are far too low. Developers are often desperate to bring their stuck projects to life and are willing to bid very low prices to win this opportunity. We have too many old technology projects competing in the auction with low productivity. In previous years it was also unclear whether additional auctions would be held, so there is also this psychological aspect that came into play.
The 10H rule is a major concern among wind energy producers in Poland. Can you explain what were the grounds for passing this law?
It was mainly ideologically driven, based on a desire to maintain support for conventional energy, i.e. coal. During the election campaign in 2015 the message sent out was that wind energy is damaging and expensive. Even though PWEA (Polish Wind Energy Association) did a good job defending the industry, our voice is no match for coal lobbying which is still very powerful in Poland. However, recent announcements by the ministry of development make us believe that the 10H rules will be modified to enable onshore wind development again.
What do you see as possible solutions to overcome these hurdles?
One aspect has to do with educating people and dismantling negative stories associated with wind energy. Secondly, the building permits law needs to be improved. In the current scenario developers must specify the type of turbine they will use and it is difficult to change it at a later point, meaning one is stuck with a certain manufacturer and equipment. The prices for turbines are typically 5% higher than in Western Europe because of this. If the rules were based on the parameters that you need to fit in, then you would be able to organize real competition between providers and get better prices.
Despite the many challenges you have remained active in this market. What is fueling your interest in Poland nowadays?
I do see reasons to be optimistic about the future, in Poland and generally in Europe. The new set up of the European Parliament does not include a clear majority, which means there is more room for discussions with the green and liberal parties and better reasons to engage in climate concerns. In Poland, PiS seems to have had a change of heart towards renewable energy - prices for coal-fueled energy keep rising and they realized it is impossible to keep RES out of the mix.
I am also noticing a positive shift in people’s perception about RES. Stories about renewable energy being expensive or spreading diseases are starting to fade out and there is more awareness when it comes to fighting climate change and pollution, a particularly stringent issue in Poland.
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