Several years after the creation of the first energy clusters in Poland, the Polish legislator conducted a comprehensive review of the existing rules for their operation. It was noted that the rules for cooperation within energy clusters require further statutory clarification. On 08 May 2023, the Sejm received a government bill amending the Act on Renewable Energy Sources and Certain Other Acts (hereinafter: the Amendment), regulating the above matter. In this article, we present the main changes resulting from the Amendment.
Modification of the definition of an energy cluster
As part of the Amendment, the Polish legislator decided to expand the statutory definition of an energy cluster to include energy storage and to add the objectives of energy cluster activities, which include:
- providing economic, social or environmental benefits to the parties of an energy cluster or,
- increasing the flexibility of the electricity system.
A requirement has also been added to the definition of an energy cluster according to which the parties to an energy cluster must include:
a) a local authority or
b) a capital company established under the Municipal Management Act by a local government unit with its seat in the area of operation of the energy cluster or
c) a capital company that holds a majority share in the share capital of the company referred to in point b.
Extended catalogue of participants of an energy cluster agreement
The catalogue of participants of an energy cluster agreement is open and includes natural persons, legal persons and organizational entities that are not legal persons, but are granted legal capacity by a separate act. Thanks to the above solution, partnerships can also become a party to an energy cluster agreement, which was not provided for in the previous legal status. On the other hand, the requirement that the parties to the agreement must include least one entity under the control of a local government unit is intended to ensure that the local government plays an important role in the operation of energy clusters in Poland.
Local nature of the energy cluster
According to the Amendment, energy cluster activities can be carried out in the area of one county or five neighbouring municipalities. In addition, the entire energy cluster must operate in the area of one electricity distribution system operator. The Polish legislator justifies this requirement with the fear of attempts to set up energy clusters in areas of municipalities far away from each other, what would be contrary to the principle of local cluster operation.
Register of energy clusters
The Amendment also introduces a register of energy clusters, which will be maintained by the President of URE. The register is to be open and maintained in electronic form. The Amendment sets out the rules for the operation of the energy cluster register, including the type of information to be included in it, the rules for submitting an application for entry in the register, and the content of the application. Entry in the register is to be voluntary, but its acquisition will enable – after fulfilling other conditions – the use of the support system designed for energy clusters.
In the opinion of the Polish legislator, the legal solutions proposed in the Amendment meet the need to ensure transparent rules for cooperation within energy clusters, including administrative and legal improvements and a dedicated support system, as well as to support an increase in the share of RES in the national energy mix. Undoubtedly, the Amendment will enable a wide range of entities to participate in energy clusters. At the same time, the modified provisions provide for an important role of local government in the operation of energy clusters in Poland.
Norbert Czerniak, Lawyer
Karolina Barałkiewicz-Sokal, Attorney-at-law (PL)