Polish Biogas Industry Poised for Growth if Regulatory Hurdles Eased

Poland’s biogas sector is very much in its infancy, but the sector is poised for explosive growth in the coming years. At least 300 agricultural plants are thought to be in advanced planning stages, and the Polish Government is targeting an ambitious uptake of 2500 projects by 2020. With a vast resource potential and an attractive certification scheme for electricity, heat, CHP and pipeline gas produced from biogas plants, the Polish opportunity will alert companies present in more saturated European markets. I recently caught up with three of the speakers at the upcoming Biogas Poland conference, which will serve as a timely meeting place for industry stakeholders to work towards the growth of the Polish industry.

Grzegorz Brodziak is the president of Poldanor, who built the first agricultural biogas plant in Poland in 2005, and today operates 8 plants of total capacity 7.4 MWe, representing approximately 40% of total production capacity in agricultural biogas in Poland. Norbert Kurczyna is from the Waste Management Department of the City of Poznan. The city’s landfill biogas plant started in 1996. It was third such enterprise in Poland and currently one of the biggest in the country. Jagoda Sumicka is a Trade Policy Analyst in the Trade and Agriculture Directorate of OECD.

Regulatory Hurdles

Regulatory factors can be attributed to Poland’s small level of development. “Biogas projects, like other RES projects, are hindered by unclear law regulations and various interpretations by different local authorities,” said Brodziak. “Problems with getting connection to the grid, long investment procedures and often protests of local communities arising from lack of knowledge about the industry are probably the challenges that every investor in the branch has to face. A well prepared education campaign is needed in order to change the negative attitude to biogas which is prevailing in some circles of the society, thus affecting the attitude of local and regional authorities.”

Regulatory issues also affect the growth of landfill and municipal projects. “A factor adversely affecting landfill biogas plants are the plans to build incineration plants. In the current proposal for the amendment of the Waste Act, there is a provision that thermal treatment of solid municipal waste is the aim of energy recovery, and this will be the process for waste recycling,” Poznan’s Kurczyna remarked. “Such a legacy will not motivate communities to create systems for selective biowaste collection, for example: food and kitchen waste from households; gastronomy and catering; retail unit; companies producing or selling foods.”

He added that introduction by the European Commission of quantity goals, connected to regulations on the selective collection and biowaste treatment, could improve the situation. “Such a system of collection would cause the replacement of existing power generation from landfill biogas with new units, powered by biogas created in anaerobic digestion plant for food and kitchen waste.”

Great future potential

Jagoda Sumicka firmly perceived the future of the industry to be focused on the development of agricultural biogas plants. “Currently Poland utilises about 2 percent of its potential to produce biogas energy from agricultural waste. This potential, however, can only be fully utilised if the industry can overcome substantial, and sadly mainly bureaucratic, barriers to investment.”

Poldanor’s Brodziak stated that developing an optimal size for biogas plants could be the answer for scaling up the industry. “The latest proposal of a new bill on RES in Poland promotes so called micro biogas plants. Having seven years’ experience in operating biogas plants I have an opinion that 1 MWe plants could be regarded as optimum size and capacity both in terms of practical operational aspects and especially in terms of profitability. I expect that we will see a number of projects with capacity around 1 MW and bigger.”

For landfill biogas projects, the situation is somewhat different. Kurczyna explained: “In recent years, the difficulty in developing more biogas plants was that there were too many medium-sized landfills. Most of them are too small to obtain biogas, which makes it impossible to use them for incineration either. In 2011, there were over 630 landfills, and only 55 of them were facilitated with plants for energy recovery.

Attracting investment

Brodziak concluded by explaining the crucial hurdles for leveraging the necessary finance to kick-start the industry. “The biogas sector, as well as the whole RES sector, needs a clear and stable legal and financial framework in order to attract investment, which is very difficult to obtain without a good business plan based on reliable legal and financial foundations. A good nationwide information campaign is also necessary in order to change the negative attitudes in the local societies. I do not regard the current situation in Poland as good in this respect.”

Poldanor, The City of Poznan and OECD are just three organisations that will be participating in the discussions at Biogas Poland, 15-16 May 2012, The InterContinental, Warsaw. The meeting will assess in depth the critical issues needed to drive the nascent industry forward, including regulatory hurdles and finance, whilst exploring the experiences of successful pioneering case studies and the government vision for the industry, including the green certification scheme.

The conference will provide the only annual industry meeting place specifically for the Polish biogas sector. Further details can be found at www.greenpowerconferences.com/biogaspoland.

Image: Matt Gibson via Shutterstock

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