New legislation in Poland to accelerate development of power networks of strategic importance

Publication October 2015

After a failure to adopt a bill on “transmission corridors”, the Polish parliament – after only a couple of months of deliberation - has recently adopted special legislation aimed at simplifying and speeding up investments in power transmission networks. The Act on the Preparation and Implementation of Strategic Investments in Transmissions Networks (the “Act”) entered into force on 15 September 2015, although its life span has been limited to a little more than 10 years. All of the core provisions of the Act are set to expire on 31 December 2025.

Unlike other development projects of strategic importance, (for example construction of an LNG terminal in Świnoujście or of the first nuclear power plant in Poland), until very recently, investments in transmission networks have not enjoyed the benefit of a single and comprehensive piece of legislation setting out the simplified rules for their construction. The Act is poised to change that. It will also allow Poland to meet its obligations under EU law, particularly Regulation No 347/2013 on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure, which lays down the rules for timely development and interoperability of priority corridors and areas of trans-European energy infrastructure, and also identifies so-called “projects of common interest”, meaning projects contributing the most to implementation of the strategic energy infrastructure.

The most significant new tool, aimed at keeping the administrative burden to a minimum, concerns the permit-granting process and the establishment of the so-called “one-stop-shop rule”, consisting in the introduction of a comprehensive administrative decision on the location of a strategic investment in transmission networks (the “Strategic Investment”, and the “Location Decision”). This decision will not be subject to any previously adopted zoning plans and is intended, among other things, to:

  1. approve the boundaries of an area of land for a Strategic Investment (these boundaries will automatically constitute the division lines for a defined area of land for the Strategic Investment);
  2. identify properties for the development of a transformer station;

    The Location Decision will also provide for expropriation, for consideration, of the land required for the development of a transformer station. The amount of consideration will be negotiated between the investor and the owner of the land, based on an expert valuation. If the parties do not reach an agreement the price will be determined by the voivode (a governor of one of 16 Polish voivodeships).

  3. identify properties with respect to which the investor will be granted access to enable it to construct any structures (power lines, equipment and other structures) required for the transmission of electricity. As soon as the construction works are completed, however, the investor will be obliged to restore the properties to their previous condition or, if this is no longer feasible, compensate the owner.

The voivode in the voivodeship in which where the longest part of the Strategic Investment is planned will have the power to issue both the Location Decision and the building permit for its development (the whole project or part of the project, depending on the scope of the investor’s application).
The Act also streamlines the environmental proceedings by cutting the authority’s time limit for reaching a decision to 1 month.

The above-mentioned enhancements can only be applied to 23 strategic construction projects of 400 kV lines listed in the annex to the Act. This list includes three groups of power networks investments: (i) building a connection between Poland and Lithuania, (ii) increase of capacities of connections with other neighbouring countries, Germany and the Czech Republic in particular, and (iii) those necessary for new RES feed electricity to the State Transmission System.

It is also worth noting that an investor can choose whether it wishes to follow new procedures under the Act or apply for required permits in accordance with the other, remaining procedures. Whether the new legal framework will serve this worthwhile purpose is yet to be observed.

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