FIGHTING AGAINST WINDMILLS
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with Anna Zalewska about the vague policy of the government concerning the future of renewable energy in Poland, big money, old wind turbines and growing protests
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: - You are fighting against windmills like Don Kichot, aren’t you?
ANNA ZALEWSKA: - I am fighting against windmills, but I am not the novelistic hero, who is inefficient and is imagining everything all the time. I have 7 years of experience in this fight and a suitable professional knowledge (post-graduate studies in environment protection), I have organized over 120 meetings in Poland, in towns where there were protests connected with localizing wind turbines there.
– Can it be said that you are a coordinator of this civilian protest?
– I only considered people, whose life conditions were drastically hindered, so that they would not be helpless and would unite together in associations being a party in a conflict with the extremely strong lobby o windmill, and they would take advantage of specialists’ help. The nationwide association has already been established which, within the so-called social consultations must be informed about the actions of the government in this issue.
– And these actions are rather bland for some strange reasons….
– The strategic Act about the renewable sources of energy has been postponed in time for two years (it was to be obliging already in January 2013!). The Ministry of Economy responsible for it, announces every month that next month the Act will be presented. However, it is not all about….It can be supposed that it is under the pressure of the lobbyists who are aiming at having wind-powered energetics more subsidized.
– Or, maybe the government thinks that it is the wind-powered energetics which should dominate all other sources of the renewable energy in Poland, which will provide us with the so-called energetic mix required by the EU?
– In my opinion no conception of the Polish government is visible in this issue. Instead, aggressive actions of lobbyists of wind-powered companies are visible. For example, there were ‘consultations’ in Sheraton, to which companies invited the representatives of the Ministry of Economy and deputies. Whereas, I did not hear that during the last years any discussions on this issue had taken place in the governmental forum. As if nobody cared about the logical arranging provisions.
– As it seems, the wind-powered lobby is also running a very intensive ‘promotion campaign’ in the area….
– That is true. This lobby is very rich, pays big money for legal opinions, for preparing statements of claim against those inhabitants of communes who ‘did not allow for achieving stipulated income’ by wind-powered companies. Intimidation is used and a very hypocritical promotion of wind-powered farms is run. Wind-powered companies are reaching to self-governors in various ways; all opinions of local councils are written only with the language of lobbyists.
– Not with the language of the policy of the government?
– No! Neglect of the government favors lobbyists. The government did not order to do any investigations, no research center is working to define what mix of renewable energy is useful and possible in Polish conditions. In the media space there are expertise paid by lobbyists, praising Poland as a country perfect for the development of the wind-powered energetics.
– Poland was evaluated as the 10th most suitable place in the world for placement of projects from wind-powered energetics (Ernst&Young)!
– Indeed, there are this kind of expertise and they are convenient for the extremely developed sector of wind-powered energetics in the EU. There is a belief in the West that wind-powered energy is not cheaper or effective at all. Many countries are rejecting it and, as a result, Poland is simply becoming an outlet market for devices which have already been amortized there. In addition, also in Western Europe there are more and more protests against the toxicity of wind-powered companies.
– Why is not wind-powered energetics good for us? Why are people protesting?
– It concerns a discomfort of living near a wind-powered turbine (noise, ultrasound).Whereas lobbyists in Poland are mocking at the fact that a vacuum cleaner or a baby’s cry are more harmful….And some scientists issue expertise about non-harmfulness, holding posts in supervision councils of wind-powered companies! The simple Act of the Law and Justice party – the project of novelization of building law and an Act about space planning and management, submitted in Sejm in summer 2012, and in the beginning of 2014 submitted to another consideration in Sejm commissions – distances wind power stations from people’s habitats by 3 km.
– It will completely exclude wind-powered energetics – say its supporters.
– It is not true. Similar standards are obliging in other countries which are even starting to use safer , the so-called micro-installations (turbines of power to 40 KW). This should be mentioned also by the Polish Act about the renewable sources of energy, unfortunately, it does not exist for unknown reasons…
– The present protests against big wind-powered turbines do not have to mean exclusion of ecological wind-powered energetics….
– Certainly, they don’t! Firstly – big wind-powered farms have nothing in common with ecology. And, secondly – in the perspective of the nearest 7 years we have 60 milliard zlotys to spend on renewable energy (from the so-called cohesive funds. Agreeing to big wind-powered farms, we cause a situation that most of this amount will return to the countries of the old fifteen as a payment for unwanted windmills there. Poland needs a completely new technology and provisions allowing inhabitants to use structural funds, and all this to make it possible for them to develop renewable energy themselves, for example, by installing small wind turbines or solar batteries and also…..liquidating roofs of asbestos cement harmful for health. Unfortunately, the Act about the Renewable Energy Sources prepared, by the government, does not stipulate preference for small installations. On the contrary, the system of auction is suggested, which means that biggest investors from other countries, not Poland, will win. However, it is even difficult to dispute with this idea because it has not been submitted to any constructive debate. It looks as if the government did not care about it….
– Apparently experts stated that in Poland there are good climatic conditions for development of wind-powered energetics.
– It is often said by specialists who are often related to interests of wind-powered companies, and we can simply look at the opinions of meteorologists in order to find out that in Poland it is windy for only one-third of a year and, not necessarily according to parameters required in wind-powered energetics. Today in Rymanów other propellers are breaking off…. We do not have such conditions, unlike in Germany or Denmark – nor we have windy or distance conditions. Poland is a country which is quite evenly populated, there are not enough uninhabited spaces.
– Why can wind turbines appear in nearly every place?
– And even in the most beautiful landscapes (Warmia, Mazury and Bieszczady!) We urgently need a definite policy of the country. Whereas our ministries avoid these restrictions which are obliging in EU countries: in our country everyone is allowed to put up a windmill even on his own yard!
– Maybe it is a way for meeting the EU commitments – 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources to 2020? Maybe it is the reason why the government is doing nothing in order to refrain this uncontrolled development?
– And maybe because it declared in its energetic policy even 19.9 percent from the Act of the Renewable Energy Sources, as befits an EU primus…?
Whereas, it is worth thinking about how these today’s big wind investments will be co-funded after the year 2020. Looking into the energetic future of Poland, it would be necessary to choose such solutions – I have spoken about it for 6 years – which would not cause social conflicts, would not devastate the landscape, would not deplete the acreage of good farmland (which the Agriculture Ministry is thoughtlessly subordinates to de-farming). And, finally, in order to prevent piles of scrap from accumulating with which owners of parcels will have to cope one day, when signing contracts with companies about placement of windmills.
– Despite the protests, as Poland is long and wide, there is a rumour from communes that wind-powered farms are, first of all, a golden interest.
– Indeed, lobbyists of wind-powered companies are already in every Polish commune. They waste money on various events, a piece of a road, pavement – until they gain required localizations. And they do not find it difficult to convince people of signing contracts for leasing an area, especially, when they are successful – one can even suspect corruption here – gain the favour of a mayor, commune councilors, who ignore civilian objections. Protesters are considered as eco-terrorists in these communes, but these are only people fighting for their patrimony, who will not allow for being bribed by others; one of associations in Kaszuby was offered a million zlotys for withdrawing from the protest!
– Is leasing an area to the wind-powered company is really very beneficial?
– Lobbyists show only benefits – approximately 2 thousand zlotys monthly for lease – and people do not pay attention to the fact that they sign a contract full of stars, various kinds of unclear statements, do not secure themselves against the bankruptcy of the company and they do not know that they will be get their pay, depending on what will be blowing….They often do not know that, according to the criminal and civil law, as owners of a land they will be responsible for what may happen, for example, a broken off propeller will cause devastation and an accident will happen.
– However, it is not easy today to convince them that it is not the best interest…
– That is true. Those who feel deceived often come to me because in their village there were to be 50 contracts but it turned out that there will be only 3 of them…They do not understand that in one place it is impossible to put up even 50 windmills. And, what is worse, they do not understand that the whole village will have a problem because of them, that people will be moving out until tourists will stop coming here even because of these 3 windmills. In such a region we cannot say about agro-tourism.
– What benefit will communes have?
– Rather not much. It turns out that it is not the best interest also for communes, for example, communes in Warmia and Mazury, where a dozen windmills were located, compensation grant was taken away and they hardly managed to come out of problems, and, anyway, they reached only about 100 thousand zlotys of the income…In Kobylnica (in Pomerania) and in Margonin (in Greater Poland), where gigantic wind-powered farms appeared, people are leaving their habitats, they are trying to sell them, but for a song….
Today it is a nationwide problem, which comprises 500 municipalities and concerns about 2.5 million people. Lobbyists, however, are unremitting, and know very well that Poland is a real Eldorado for them with its legislative chaos.
– Why is the Law and Justice party so definitely against wind-powered energetics, if – as political competitors remind – in the electoral program of 2005 the party opts for promoting and using the renewable sources of energy in Poland?
– I say again: we have never been and we are not against wind-powered energetics. I also remind that the Act about the promotion of renewable energy in Poland was implemented during the cadency of the Leftist Democratic Alliance, in autumn 2005. And, then, for a year and a half of the cadency of the Law and Justice party, the problem of wind-powered energy did not exist, and there was not any discussions on this issue! Today we think that Poland should arrange this energetic mix required by the EU on its own, according to its own interest. It is very essential that in the age of crisis, EU countries started returning to carbon energetics; high-energetic boilers, security and technologies are considered, which allow for capturing and transforming harmful substances. Wind-powered energy has already been recognized as too expensive. Whereas, in our country everything is the other way round. The Law and Justice party opposes to such an absurd and unclear policy of the government.
– However, the prime minister expressed his approval about the idea of the Law and Justice party concerning introducing restrictions of wind turbines localizations…Is it a good sign?
– I am afraid that it is connected not with a good will but with this year’s elections to the European Parliament and self-governments. Finally, it is all about support of about 2.5 million of protesting people who have been fighting for years with governmental and self-governmental clerks… It seems that both this approval of the prime minister and slowness of governmental works in this issue is just this electoral trap, promise that one day reasonable regulations will come.
– And won’t they come?
– They must come but rather not thanks to this government, but thanks to people fighting against windmills. It must be successful because Poles are not Donkichots.