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Going with the Wind

The EU's dramatic reduction last week of Poland's carbon dioxide limits has caused a political outcry. Energy experts, meanwhile, say the unexpected proposal to nearly double its emissions cap will throw the spotlight on the country's clean energy strategy and the reasons behind its woeful development compared to it's near neighbors.

Brussels' move to restrict carbon dioxide emission for the next two years were a bolt out of the blue. Government officials had confidently expected the EU to propose a five to 10 percent cut in the pollutant, so the Commission's demand for a 16.5 percent reduction caused raised voices around the capital.

Poland already meets its Kyoto emissions targets due to a slump in industrial production in the early 1990s, and its national emissions plan effectively projects pollution levels to allow growth in the energy, manufacturing, mining and metals sectors.

The government's response was immediate, saying it was considering all legal options to challenge the proposals. Further future reductions are bound to affect development, particularly in the energy sector, which is heavily dependent on traditional fossil fuels.

It will also highlight the country's relatively poor development of so-called clean energies, such as wind power, where a stark contrasts exists between Poland and Germany.

Winds of change
Having entered the European Union, Poland is now obliged to invest in renewable energy. The joint Directive 2001/77 of the European Parliament and European Council states that 12 percent of all local energy consumption in 2010 should come from non-conventional, renewable energy sources. Poland's recently passed Energy Law and the Strategy for the Development of Renewable Energy from 2001 both set the ambitious goal of generating 7.5 percent of all energy used from alternative sources. And it is not only these laws that Poland should be considering-traditional natural resources are slowly shrinking and, as the process continues, new, and at the same time environmentally friendly, ways of getting energy must be researched and developed.

Of all renewable energies, wind energy is developing at the fastest pace. It is safe, environmentally friendly, operating costs are low, and it can bring great opportunities to underdeveloped areas. People have used the wind as a source of energy since the 13th century, but after the industrial revolution it became obsolete. The renaissance of wind energy dates back to the early 1990s, with the introduction of installations enabling the production of energy on a large scale and at relatively low costs. According to the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA), in 2004 the joint capacity of all wind farms in the EU reached 47.6 gigawatts (GW), which represents a 20 percent increase on the previous year.

Driving force
Germany continues to dominate the world wind energy market-the installed capacity of its wind farms is one-third of the world total. However, it is Spain where the increase in new installations has been the most significant.

Estimates suggest that currently 72 percent (34.6GW) of the world's wind energy is generated in Europe. The WWEA predicts that in four years the global capacity of wind turbines will more than double to reach 100GW and that wind energy could supply around 12 percent of global electricity demand by the year 2020.

Hot air
While Germany continues to generate around 35 percent of the global wind energy market with a capacity of 16.6GW, Poland could claim only 0.079GW of wind farm capacity as of January 2005 (according to the Baltic Renewable Energy Center). Wind knows virtually no borders, and many of the German wind farms are located in areas where wind conditions are similar to those in central Poland.

In order for wind conditions to be considered 'favorable', it is assumed that its speed must be at least 5 m/s at the height of around 20-30 meters. Research from the Institute of Meteorology and Water Management (IMGW) shows that the coastal region from Koszalin to the Hel Peninsula, as well as the Wolin island and the Suwalki region in northeastern Poland, offer 'extremely favorable' wind conditions. In addition, a central part of the country covering most of Wielkopolska and Mazowsze voivodeships are considered to have 'favorable' potential. Conditions are also described as 'fairly favorable' in the Beskidy and Bieszczady mountains in the south.

The coast is where most of Poland's wind farms are located, including the three largest ones: in Zagórze, with a total capacity of 0.030GW, Cisowo 0.018GW and Barzowice 0.005GW. According to IMGW, one-third of the country has 'favorable' or 'very favorable' wind conditions. So why aren't we taking advantage of what nature offers us?

Generating interest
Katarzyna Michalowska-Knap, a wind energy expert at the Baltic Renewable Energy Center (EC BREC), said: "The main difference between Poland and Germany is the fact that wind energy has a fixed price set by the Bundestag." She added that the new Energy Law, which was just passed by the Sejm, introduces a new system of fees and could lead to the creation of a guaranteed price. However, that price still won't be regulated by the government, as in Germany.

Grzegorz Chronowski of the Polish National Energy Conservation Energy (KAPA) also claims that there isn't much support from the government's side for expanding the wind energy industry. The costs of building a wind energy farm scare off potential investors, as a turbine with the capacity of 1 megawatt (MW) costs around €1 (zl.3.8) million.

"Smaller investors are often discouraged by the need and costs of studying and measuring the local wind conditions," says Michalowska-Knap. She also mentioned that wind farm operators often face problems with connecting their installations to the electricity grid, which isn't as dense in the parts of the country that are rich in wind.

Unexpected objections
One might find it surprising, but another problem wind farmers face is that ecologists occasionally protest against setting up wind farms, usually claiming that they violate the local bird habitat. Michalowska-Knap underlines that biomass is and will continue to be the dominant renewable energy source in Poland. However, as far as electric energy is concerned, wind energy seems to be more useful.

The new Energy Law stresses the importance of Poland's obligation regarding substituting conventional energy with energy coming from renewable sources. However, with Poland's current share of renewable energies lingering at around 2 percent, it seems very unlikely that Poland will manage to reach its 2010 goal of 7.5 percent. However, as Mariola Linkiewicz from the Energy Security Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labor said: "The stipulations of the new law are already attracting investors willing to develop wind energy projects." The Ministry therefore expects a rise in investments.

Krzysztof Prasalek of EPA, which helped develop the largest wind farm in Poland in Zagórze, calls Poland's current capacity "ridiculously low for a country of our potential," but added: "However, the latest changes in legislation might have a positive impact on the market."

Green credentials
The law obliges electricity producers and providers to get a certain amount of their product from renewable sources. So called 'green certificates' have been introduced to certify the source of the energy sold by the electricity providers, which could inspire some energy companies to invest in creating their own renewable energy plants. The failure to obtain the required amount of energy from renewable sources will result in a so-called 'substitute fee', estimated at zl.240 per 1MW of electricity.

According to Roman Synowski of Windhunter SC, a company specializing in estimating wind potential, "This could be an incentive for developing wind energy installations in Poland." Indeed, a rise in the number of investments was seen in 2004 with 15 farms or single turbines opened.

Facing fines
However, Michalowska-Knap is skeptical as to whether we can expect a sudden influx of investors. She stresses that the Energy Law won't come into force until fall, and then some executive bills will have to be passed. She expects investors to wait and see how the new law will work. She calls the law "a step in the right direction," but asks why its provisions are being introduced now and not in 2001 when the Strategy for Development of Renewable Energy was passed. She warns that a failure to reach the 7.5 percent mark by 2010 could result in the European Commission imposing sanctions on Poland-the most severe of which could be a reduction in structural funds.

However, the high number of new farms built in 2004 and the fact that two others have already opened this year provide a glimmer of hope that things won't have to go that far -that wind energy will continue to develop in Poland, thus contributing to the overall increase in renewable energy use.

Due to stagnation in the corporate loans market, banks earned money mainly on deposits and individual credits fueled by a consumption boom. It is unclear, however, if consumer spending and asset levels could remain high for long. Wage levels fell in real terms, and economists agree that household spending will eventually cool down. To maintain growth, bankers are counting on corporate clients to finally start investing.

(WBJ 14.iii.05)

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