Poland, the eighth-biggest consumer of coal in the world, may outlaw wind power. New draft legislation from the right-wing government doesn’t ban wind turbines outright, but as you’ll see, its terms make building new turbines almost impossible.
The law would prohibit new turbines from being built within two miles of any buildings or forests, which in densely-populated Europe means pretty much everywhere. Even if you can find a spot to erect a turbine, you’ll need to get a permit, a process so tied up in red tape that it appears to be deliberately designed to make it impossible. The permits then only last for two years. And if you need to do maintenance on existing turbines, you need permission to do that, too. There are also service fees and inspections to deal with. "Non-compliance with any of these processes could result in a hefty fine or even imprisonment of up to two years," says the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
"The draft law proposed is deeply troubling," says EWEA CEO Giles Dickson. "It will tie new projects up in red tape and make life hard for existing wind turbines that do not meet the legal demands."
Last year, Poland was the second-biggest installer of wind power in Europe, after Germany. Its industry generates around $160 million per year, and—says the EWEA—supports more than 8,000 jobs.
Poland is currently ruled by the right-wing Law and Justice Party, which is skeptical on climate change and has already started to dismantle the country’s democratic process, and taken control of public TV and radio.
"This draft law is a detailed plan to shackle the industry’s prospects in Poland," said EWEA spokesperson Oliver Joy. "It has been designed to stop deployment and will likely damage investor confidence. It is a very concerning development, particularly for a country that was one of Europe’s strongest performers last year."
It’s hard to see this as anything other than an extreme right-wing government using its power to protect the fossil-fuel industry. The Law and Justice Party also wanted to ban Russian coal imports before it came to power, to boost domestic production.
Greenpeace agrees, calling Poland a "prisoner of the coal industry." The country’s possibly illegal support for the coal industry has already gotten it into trouble with the European Union, and that’s likely to get worse.