‘Basically no connections being granted’: Polish solar sector facing grid headache


Panellists during this week’s Solar Finance & Investment Europe event in London. Image: Gareth Davies.

The considerable expansion of Poland’s solar PV market looks set to continue, with interconnection issues standing as the only impediment to growth, according to panellists speaking at the Solar Finance & Investment Europe 2023 conference.

Agnieszka Kulinska, partner heading the renewable energy team at law firm Dentons, said: “It’s an issue that basically there are no grid connections being granted right now. The operators are saying we don’t have any capacity, we don’t know when there’s going to be capacity.”

The European Investment Bank recently firmed up a US$449 million financing agreement to support the development and modernisation of the Polish distribution network last month, to furnish the system with investments through 2025.

That’s yet to take effect, however, as Albert Winid, senior investment manager at finance company Abrdn reiterated: “We’ve tried to approach the operators looking for proactive solutions, whether we put in storage or pay for upgrades. We haven’t been successful. The challenge is that it’s such an enormous problem.”

He added: “In a way, it’s not even a Poland-level issue, but it’s almost a regional issue. There are parts of Poland where these relationships are much smoother, and there are parts of Poland where these relationships are much more difficult.”

Outages have also been an issue in Poland. Records from the Polish Power Exchange show fairly regular outages, both planned and unplanned, across a number of power plants. “The outages are getting longer and bigger. We’re acutely aware that the issues with the grid are there,” Winid said.

However, wider awareness of capacity constraints and the need to address the issues were discussed during the panel, and relations between utilities and PV stakeholders seem set for improvement. “Polish state utilities…want to partner with established international operators. It’s notable that there is a shift at the utility level that now we really are taking this seriously,” Winid said.

The trend seems to be that the Polish PV market has accelerated and grown far quicker than the grid operators expected or have been able to keep up with. According to SolarPower Europe’s end-of-year report, Poland installed 4.9GW of solar PV capacity in 2022, the third highest in Europe after market leaders Germany and Spain.  

SolarPower Europe said in the report that in November 2019 the country had around 2GW of solar installed; November 2022 saw almost 12GW total capacity.

“I think the speed of the transition absolutely caught everyone unaware,” said Winid. “And I think the speed at which people became comfortable with the Polish market was really remarkable.”

One solution to the capacity shortage is energy storage, which all of the speakers said was a priority, with significant demand across Poland. The PV and renewable energy markets are unlikely to slow their remarkable growth from 2022, leaving necessary solutions to be found.

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