Wind Energy In Poland. Polish Government liberalizes energy law

Current regulation:

Since 2016, wind power development has virtually stopped in Poland. The number of new power plants has declined almost to zero. This has happened due to the Wind Power Investment Act. According to Article 4 of this act, the distance at which a wind power plant and a residential building may be located and constructed is equal to or greater than ten times the height of the wind power plant measured from ground level to the highest point of the structure, including the technical elements, in particular the rotor with its blades. The above is the so-called 10 H rule.[1]

Such a restrictive regulation has significantly limited the areas where wind power plants can be located, virtually stopping the development of this branch of energy on land. The investments realized since then have almost exclusively been the completion of projects started before the regulation came into force.  [2]


However, the last few days have brought a breakthrough on this issue.

5 July 2022. The Council of Ministers adopted a bill modifying the 10 H rule. According to the new wording of Article 4(1), “In the case of the locating, construction or reconstruction of a wind power plant, the distance of that plant from a residential building or a building with a mixed function that includes a residential function shall be equal to or greater than ten times the total height of the wind power plant, unless the local plan specifies a different distance, expressed in meters, but not less than 500 meters.”[3]

According to the Polish regulation, a wind power plant can only be built under a local spatial development plan (LSDP). Until now, however, the obligation to draw up an LSDP referred to the entire area designated under Rule 10 H. It will now only apply to the projected area of influence of the wind power plant.

The 10H rule will remain a premise for the location of the wind power plant, but the LSDP will instead be able to specify a different distance of the wind power plant from the residential building, taking into account the extent of the impact of the wind power plant, not exceeding the absolute limit of 500 meters.[4]

According to the justification of the draft, the basis for determining the required minimum distance from residential buildings is to be, inter alia, the results of consultations or the mandatory strategic environmental impact assessment (which analyses, inter alia, the impact of noise emissions on the surroundings and the health of residents) carried out for the draft LSDP. An identical absolute minimum safety distance will apply to the siting of new residential buildings in relation to an existing wind power plant.

Prospects for wind energy development

This change has a very far-reaching effect, de facto unblocking the development of wind energy in Poland.

The total height of most wind power plants in Poland varies between 180 and 200 meters.[5] This means that until the amendment comes into force, the allowable distance between a new installation of this type and residential buildings must be a minimum of 1,800 – 2,000 meters. The adopted amendment will therefore dramatically increase the amount of land available for wind investments. According to Janusz Gajowiecki, President of the Polish Wind Energy Association, this area will increase 25-fold, enabling new power plants with a total capacity of between 6 and 10 GW to be built. [6]

According to the WISE Europe report, a steady growth of wind power capacity – up to a technically and economically feasible potential in Polish conditions – could reach the target of about 24 GW of installed capacity. However, according to the most optimistic scenario outlined in the McKinsey report, “Carbon neutral wind power in Poland, How to turn a challenge into an opportunity”[7]. , land-based wind energy may make a very significant contribution to Poland’s reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, and thus contribute to the goals set by our country, the European Union and the international community to combat global climate change. The report predicts that land-based wind power capacity could reach – 18 GW, by 2040. – 28 GW, and by 2050.  – up to 35 GW, which would account for 21% of the total installed capacity of the National Energy System.

Context of the introduction of the amendment:

It is difficult to consider this amendment without taking into account the context of its introduction. The cost of coal-fired electricity has experienced a sudden increase due to the war in Ukraine and is continuously rising. Data from 2020 shows that it is the main source of electricity in Poland (73.5 %). Electricity prices are therefore vulnerable to changes in the costs associated with this raw material. The direction of EU climate policy is also significant.

Thus, the following should be taken into account:

– sudden changes and increases in fossil fuel prices,

– the continuous rise in CO2 emission allowance prices,

– the emissivity of energy consumed in Poland is three times higher than the EU average, which makes Polish entrepreneurs bear higher costs of charges related to the implementation of the EU policy,

– the cost of generating energy from renewable sources is steadily decreasing due to technological advances according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, between 2010 and 2018 this was a decrease of 34% for onshore wind power plants.

All of the above-mentioned factors mean that maintaining the current energy mix in the long term would entail a significant increase in electricity prices and a failure to meet the obligations under EU legislation regarding the share of renewable energy in gross national energy consumption in 2030.

The most recent strategic documents on the projection of the national energy mix and energy system already recognize the above challenges. According to the ‘National Energy Policy until 2040’ adopted by the Council of Ministers (PEP 2040), domestic electricity consumption will increase by 22% by 2030 and by 37% by 2040. The average annual growth rate of this category is approximately 1.5% over the entire forecast period under consideration. [8]

Effects of the Polish amendment:

The liberalization of the law, and the consequent potential increase in the share of wind power in Poland’s demand, should to some extent make the Polish energy sector independent of factors such as changes in fossil fuel prices. It will also fit in with the EU’s climate policy. Unlike coal-based power generation, wind energy does not involve CO2 emissions and the associated rising prices of allowances and charges. In contrary, wind turbines are even considered to decrease overall CO2 emissions. [9]

In view of the above, it can be assumed that, in the long term, the development of this branch of the energy industry will result in lower energy prices for consumers. It will also make it possible for Poland to gain competitive advantages on international markets and reduce the influence of the power industry as a factor strongly contributing to inflation.

Other selected changes:

While the changes described above will undoubtedly play the biggest role, in terms of Polish wind energy, several other provisions are also worth mentioning.

The amendment introduces a number of provisions clarifying, and specifying certain technical details. First and foremost among them is Article 5, which sets out the methods of calculating the distances set out in Article 4, with the exception of the distances in Articles 4a and 4c.

Article 4a, introduces a minimum distance between wind power plants and high-voltage electricity networks.

The change in the distance regulations between wind power plants and residential buildings applies not only to the location of power plants, but also to residential buildings.

The requirements for MPZPs have also been altered. The amendment imposes additional consultation obligations, with respect to LSDPs locating wind power plants The added Articles 6b and 6c establish additional information obligations for the benefit of residents of nearby communes, defined in Article 2(5), which is a commune (pol. gmina) whose area is located in whole or in part within 10H distance from a given wind power plant located in another commune. In addition, according to Article 6e(1)(1), within 30 days of the adoption of the resolution on accession to the preparation of the LSDP, the mayor shall organize at least one public discussion.

In the context of the LSDP, the role of the strategic environmental impact assessment has also been increased. According to Article 5(1) of this draft, it introduces Article 48(8) of the Environmental Act, which indicates that it is not possible to refrain from conducting a strategic environmental impact assessment if the draft LSDP sets out a new framework for the construction or redevelopment of a wind power plant.

In addition, the prohibition to locate in national parks, landscape parks, nature reserves, Natura 2000 areas is retained. The distance obligation is retained for national parks (10h rule) and nature reserves (500m).







[7] Neutralna emisyjnie Polska 2050. Jak wyzwanie zmienić w szansę, McKinsey & Company (2020),ęp: 7 sierpnia 2021 r.).