Introduction

After the failure to adopt a bill on transmission corridors, Parliament recently adopted special legislation aimed at simplifying and speeding up investments in power transmission networks following only a couple of months of deliberation. The Act on the Preparation and Implementation of Strategic Investments in Transmission Networks entered into force on September 15 2015, although its lifespan has been limited to just over 10 years. The act's core provisions will expire on December 31 2025.

Strategic investment legislation

Unlike other development projects of strategic importance (eg, the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal in Swinoujscie or the first nuclear power plant in Poland) until recently investments in transmission networks did not enjoy the benefit of a single and comprehensive piece of legislation that set 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 EU Regulation 347/2013 on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure, which establishes the rules for the timely development and interoperability of priority corridors and areas of trans-European energy infrastructure as well as identifying 'projects of common interest' – that is, projects that contribute to the implementation of a strategic energy infrastructure.

New tools

The most significant new tools, which aim to keep the administrative burden to a minimum, concern the permit-granting process and the establishment of a so-called 'one-stop-shop rule', meaning the introduction of a comprehensive administrative decision regarding the location of a strategic investment in transmission networks. This decision will not be subject to any previously adopted zoning plans and aims to:

  • approve the boundaries of an area of land for strategic investment – these boundaries will automatically constitute the dividing lines for a defined area of land for strategic investment;
  • identify properties for the development of a transformer station; and
  • identify properties 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. However, as soon as construction work is completed, the investor will be obliged to restore the properties to their previous condition or, if that is no longer feasible, to compensate the owner.

The location decision will also provide for the expropriation of and compensation for land required for the development of a transformer station. The amount of compensation will be negotiated between the investor and the owner of the land based on an expert valuation. If the parties reach no agreement, the price will be determined by the governor of one of Poland's 16 provinces.

The governor of the province in which the longest period of strategic investment is planned will have the power to issue the location decision and the building permit for its development (ie, for the whole project or part of the project, depending on the scope of the investor's application).

The act also streamlines environmental proceedings by cutting the authority's time limit for reaching a decision to one month.

The above-mentioned improvements can only be applied to 23 strategic construction projects of 400 kilovolt lines listed in the annex of the act, which includes three groups of power network investment:

  • building a connection between Poland and Lithuania;
  • increasing the connection capacity with other neighbouring countries, Germany and the Czech Republic in particular; and
  • renewable energy services to feed electricity into the state transmission system.

An investor can choose whether it wishes to follow new procedures under the act or apply for the required permits in accordance with the other remaining procedures. Whether the new legal framework will serve this purpose is yet to be seen.

For further information on this topic please contact R Adam Kozlowski or Natalia Jankowska at Norton Rose Fulbright Piotr Strawa and Partners LLP by telephone (+48 22 581 4900) or email (adam.kozlowski@nortonrosefulbright.com or natalia.jankowska@nortonrosefulbright.com). The Norton Rose Fulbright website can be accessed at www.nortonrosefulbright.com.

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