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With one of Europe’s lowest social capitals, outdated cooperative legislation more than 30 years old and dating back to deep communism era, chaotic and unstable energy law and lack of political support for small-scale RES, Poland is not the ideal incubator for community energy projects. At the moment there is only one such initiative under development, which in time may become an example of a solution to decentralising and democratising the energy sector in Poland.

Poland’s first and so far only energy cooperative was established in June 2014 as an initiative of a private energy company BioPower, in collaboration with another ESCO and four local municipalities in the eastern region of Lubelskie voivodeship. Spółdzielnia Nasza Energia (Eng. Cooperative Our Energy) plans to build up to 15 small energy and heat producing biogas installations (0.5-1 MW each) in all of the member gminas (Polish local municipalities), based on an innovative project proposing a local system of „energy knots“, connected with each other by an autonomous grid.

The main idea behind the creation of the coop is ensuring the availability of locally produced, cheap, green energy to the local communities. The coop will support local development, creating jobs and a stable market for biomass, by using the abundant locally grown energy materials. Offering lower energy prices and higher energy security, it will benefit the local communities, as well as potential investors.

Membership in the cooperative is open to every individual and company in Poland, and every member has one vote at the General Assembly, regardless of how many shares they own. The cooperative plans to finish the investment project within 7 years and by then supply energy to the local public infrastructure, including buildings and lighting, as well as to private consumers.

The success of Nasza Energia cooperative, as that of any future community energy project in Poland, will depend highly on the legal set-up as well as the public system of support, which at the moment favours large state-owned energy companies over small renewable energy projects (e.g. only 0.01% of Polish renewable energy produced in 2012 came from PV, compared to 41% from co-firing of biomass with coal). A continuing challenge is the legislative chaos and the instability of the legal system, with new, revolutionary changes to the RES law proposed by the government almost every year.

Source: CEE Bankwatch Network, Poland

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