Poland ranks low on clean tech investment


Due to its heavy reliance on coal, Poland is often referred to as the country with the greatest potential for green energy. However, the country still lags behind its European partners in clean tech investment, EURACTIV Poland reports.

Poland has considerable potential to develop wind power as an alternative energy source.

Experts say conditions are favourable to developing wind turbines across a substantial proportion of itsterritory, especially near the Baltic Sea and in the mountainous South East, where wind speeds frequently exceed 5.5 metres per second at 50 metres above sea level.

At the turn of the millenium, wind power was hardly used at all in Poland. However, a steep rise was noted between 2000 and 2009, when the amount of power generated by Polish wind turbines multiplied 166 times.

The figure may appear high but in fact the starting level was low. In nominal terms, Polish wind power generation is not impressive. By the end of 2008, the power capacity of all the wind turbines in Germany amounted to almost 24,000 megawatts (MW) and reached nearly 17,000 MW in Spain. Meanwhile, in Poland, wind turbines were capable of generating a mere 472 MW.

Wind power forecasts in Poland are far more optimistic. In a recent report, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) predicted that by 2020, installed capacity will range between 10,500 MW (low scenario) and 12,500 MW (high scenario). This corresponds to between 12.5% and 14.8% of total energy consumption by 2020.

Funding still an issue

Renewable energy have many advantages and one weakness: it is still expensive, especially compared to coal, which is abundant in Poland.

To build a wind farm, a hydro-electric power station or a biomass power plant, companies in Poland may resort to European funding (Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment). Each application is eligible to obtain 30-70% of the investment cost, provided that total costs exceed 20 million zloty, or five million euro.

The development of green energy in Poland would not be feasible without foreign investment. Currently, there are ten renewable energy investment projects pending at the Polish Agency for Information and Foreign Investment. Their total value amounts to 700 million euro. LM Glasfiber, a global corporation which is the world's leading supplier of blades for wind turbines, recently invested 60 million euro in a new plant in Goleniow, in the north of Poland, creating 460 new jobs.

The development of Polish green business would be almost impossible without foreign partnerships. Kolo, a leading manufacturer of sanitary and bathroom equipment which won a national environmental prize last year, has benefited from its membership of the Sanitec group. This bathroom solution provider invested over 100 million euro in the modernisation of Kolo's plants and the development of environmentally-friendly strategies.

However encouraging, these examples nevertheless remain isolated against the background of an underdeveloped Polish green economy. Analysts say this is caused by a lack of investment and know-how, as well as the persistence of legal barriers. Indeed, it can take up to four years for a new 'green' investment project to be implemented.

How green is official government policy?

However, the real source of problem may originate from higher up, experts point out.

In February 2009, the deputy economy minister gave a national award to Polish power companies assembled in the Green Effort Group for their effectiveness and solidarity in implementing the EU's climate change policies.

The Green Effort Group, which brings together Polish power companies responsible for 90% of power generation, calls for the longest possible free allocation of emissions allowances under the European CO2 cap-and-trade scheme. It also fights against any new measures to ensure Polish compliance with national climate obligations.

The fact that the Green Effort Group was granted a national award demonstrates the government's close ties with industry and suggests that despite its public posturing, it will refrain from forcing a breakthrough on green policies.

Until this changes, no revolution in Polish green business can be expected, environmentalists say.

European leaders signed up in March 2007 to a binding EU-wide target to source 20% of their energy needs from renewables, including biomass, hydro, wind and solar power, by 2020. 

To meet this objective, EU leaders agreed a new directive on promoting renewable energies, which set individual targets for each member state (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on EU renewable energy policy).

In Poland, the share of renewables was 7.2% in 2005. The target for 2020 is 15% of all energy produced.

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