Poland’s lawmakers agreed to relax the rules for installing onshore wind turbines, a move encouraged by the European Union to promote renewable energy in the coal-reliant country.
Members of the Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament, voted 231-209 with two abstentions late Thursday to allow turbines to be erected no closer than 700 meters from houses. The current rule, which was introduced by the current government in 2016, requires a distance of at least 10 times a turbine’s height.
With no locations meeting that requirement found, the height formula practically stalled wind energy development in Poland. The EU, which is holding up the nation’s pandemic recovery funds over a number of legislative issues, had called on the government to come up with a less restrictive measurement.
Almost all of the lawmakers who voted in favor of the new rule were from parties in the governing coalition.
The conservative government that took office in 2015 halted development of wind farms, arguing that residents were concerned turbines would bring noise, ground vibrations and other discomforts.
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By contrast, the government has supported solar energy and planned significant offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea. It is also supporting through subsidies Poland’s coal mining, a major employer in the southern Silesia region.
Climate and Environment Minister Anna Moskwa said on Twitter the new law “strengthens Poland’s energy security” and “increases the power coming from renewable sources” while respecting the views of local communities.
The law, which still needs the approval of President Andrzej Duda to take effect, also gives residents more say in the location of turbines and a 10% share of the energy produced.
Critics said the bill approved Thursday still overly limits the number of potential locations and the amount of power Poland could derive from wind. They argued that renewable sources should be promoted as much as possible given soaring energy prices and to reduce the reliance on Russian energy.
In January, some 73% of Poland’s energy came from black and brown coal, 15% came from wind energy, 9% from natural gas and 1.4 % from other renewable sources, according to rynekelektryczny.pl, a website dedicated to Poland’s energy market. Poland also imported some energy.
Brussels expects Warsaw to create the conditions for wind energy growth, as well as to meet a number of other benchmarks, before the pandemic recovery funds worth billions of euros will be disbursed to the country.
Other key milestones include improving Poland’s rule of law record and revising the rules for disciplining judges.