Coal-dependent Poland is killing off its stalling wind power sector, it’s been claimed, despite it being the most power-polluting country in the EU.
A new law, brought in by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party last summer, bans the building of new wind turbines less than two kilometres from residential areas.
Critics say the restriction excludes 99 percent of Polish land from wind farm development, a move which is helping to kill the sector.
Poland’s wind industry was one of the strongest performers in the EU in 2015, second only to Germany.
“The current government, in my opinion, is trying to kill the sector,” said Michał Kaczerowski, founder and CEO of Ambiens, a Polish renewable energy consulting firm.
“We’re trying to educate them and we want them to understand that renewable energy sources are the future and we should develop this area because it’s good and cheap. We have a lot of problems with smog in Poland and wind farms could help with this.”
The European Environment Agency says 47,300 premature deaths were attributed to air pollution in Poland in 2012.
One of the reasons for this is the country generates around 85 percent of its electricity from coal, according to data from the World Bank.
It has to meet an EU target of producing 15 percent of its final electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020; it had reached 11.4 percent in 2014, the last year for which Eurostat figures are available.
But coal, claimed to be the deadliest air pollutant, has an almost mythical status in Poland, according to Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network Europe.
“There’s a long history of having been dependent on coal [in Poland], when you compare to the Nordic countries or France and Belgium that actually don’t have that history, or that history has been gone for a long time,” he told Euronews.
“At the moment the current Polish government is quite reluctant to move to renewables, that’s still a challenge we have.
“But we see things are changing more at a local level where certain local communities see the advantages of renewable energy and see advantages for the health situation of their citizens to reduce the use of coal.”
Kaczerowski said the Polish government was still strongly behind coal but, in terms of renewables, it prefers other renewable energy sources over wind power.
“They prefer biogas and biomass because they believe it gives a lot of work to Polish people, because it uses Polish technologies rather than foreign technologies like with wind turbines, which mainly comes from abroad,” he said.
“We prefer coal because we have coal,” he added. “But as we see coal will be finished in not more than 30 years now we should try to change our whole energy sector because in my opinion we’ll have huge problems in the future.”
Euronews asked Poland’s Ministry of the Environment to respond to this article, but it has yet to send us a comment.