Solar power is driving Poland’s push for clean energy

Relaxed consenting for solar projects and an offshore wind sector deal are set to make Poland a major European energy player by 2030. Our Polish sector specialist Lea Kuvalja looks at the state of play in Eastern Europe’s biggest renewables market.

Lea Kuvalja of leading renewables recruitment consultants Taylor Hopkinson says that relaxed consenting for solar projects and an offshore wind sector deal are set to make Poland a major European energy player by 2030.

The global transition towards low-and zero-carbon energy is well underway, with governments around the world committed in law to net zero emissions targets.

In Europe, where the European Union has set a net zero deadline of 2050, one of the countries investing most heavily in clean energy is Poland. Historically dependent on fossil fuels, Poland has seen a greater shift towards renewable energy generation in the past 10–15 years than some of its Eastern European neighbours, with both public authorities and private investors leading the way.

Poland had previously been one of Europe’s leaders in installing onshore wind capacity, but a 2016 ruling by the government blocked new onshore projects wherever there are buildings within a distance of 10 times the turbine height. The government has recently made moves to end this rule, which effectively banned onshore wind construction, but in response, the solar power market has boomed and the government has encouraged investment in offshore wind in the Baltic.

Solar farms aren’t subject to the strict 10-times-height ruling, so investment has been pouring into the Polish solar sector. In the last renewables auctions in June 2021, the country’s Energy Regulatory Office (ERO) allocated 2.2GW of solar contracts and set aside just 300MW for onshore wind.

These conditions have made solar pv an attractive option for investors, with large-scale farms between 5–50MW appearing across the country. Poland is also making headway in attractive smaller-scale residential and community projects. Analysis from the Instytut Energetyki Odnawialnej (IEO) forecast that small-size residential solar pv systems will account for around 2GW of new capacity.

The IEO’s data also shows that more than 6GW of solar capacity is already installed, with preliminary grid connection concessions totalling 4.4GW, and the market is forecast to grow to 30GW by 2030. Installations are being driven by homegrown utilities like PolenergiaPGEPKN Orlen and Tauron, but international energy giants like IberdrolaEDPR and RWE are sensing an opportunity to build their presence too. And the strength of the market means that several IPPs and investment funds including R.Power RenewablesLightsource bp and Obton have acquired significant assets and are developing strong pipelines in the country.

Many of these assets are likely to be sold on once constructed, but we’re seeing long-term power purchase agreements being struck that are fuelling development – the industry is in a good place and looks set to grow for years to come.

As PV Magazine recently pointed out, the rising number of unsubsidised, large-scale power plants has demonstrated the increasing attractiveness of the PPA market here, and there’s enormous potential to reduce energy prices and reliance on fossil fuels by ramping up solar deployment.

Looking offshore, the Polish government has recognised that offshore wind, as well as solar pv and onshore wind, will be essential in to transition away from oil and gas and achieve its clean energy targets. Poland doesn’t currently have any operational offshore wind farms, but in September 2021 it announced its first Offshore Wind Sector Deal, a government-industry collaboration committing to a new auction system from 2025 and the creation of 60,000 wind industry jobs by 2040. It’s expected to install 5.9GW of offshore wind by 2030, and upgrades to Baltic Sea ports are being planned to enable this expansion, creating significant opportunities throughout the domestic supply chain.

Poland is already an attractive market – but with the direction of travel, we can expect that once stakeholders agree on long-term prices and conditions, it will be one of the most exciting, vibrant renewables sectors in Europe for investors: creating jobs and opportunities throughout the supply chain in Eastern Europe and reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels.

At Taylor Hopkinson, we’re working with the biggest players in the market to build, develop and consolidate their teams in the region to take advantage of the new opportunities being created by Poland’s energy transition.

Lea Kuvalja – Consultant, Taylor Hopkinson

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Get in touch with our specialist team to discuss how we can support your renewable energy talent plans in Poland, in solar pv, offshore wind, onshore wind and energy storage, in 2022 and beyond.

 

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Lea Kuvalja, Consultant – Key Accounts in the Onshore Renewables – Iberia & LATAM team at leading renewable energy recruitment consultants Taylor Hopkinson.

Lea Kuvalja
Key Account Consultant – Onshore Renewables
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