Poland to invest 24 billion euros in energy by 2020

Up and coming EU member Poland will invest 100 billion zloty in its energy sector by 2020, the prime minister said summing up plans Wednesday.

An EU nation of 38.2 million, Poland currently relies on its vast coal reserves to produce about 90 percent of its electricity. Annual natural gas consumption stands at around 14 billion cubic metres, a third of which is supplied by Russia.

Poland is Central Europe's largest economy and ranks sixth in Europe. It has sustained growth each year over the two decades since it shed communism, this despite the downturn in much of Europe since 2008.

To fuel that growth, Warsaw is developing alternatives from scratch in the nuclear and shale gas sectors. It is also keen to meet EU targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to assure strategic energy independence from Soviet-era master Moscow.

"It's the beginning of a large wave of investment in the Polish energy sector, which including our nuclear projects, will exceed 100 billion zloty (24 billion euros, $31 billion) by 2020," Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters.

"These investments have a strategic dimension," Tusk said, adding that "today, energy is the key to politics".

Eight new power plants that will cover about 17 percent of Poland's annual energy needs are in the offing -- half coal-fired, half to run on natural gas -- worth a total 40 billion euros, he said.

Forty million zloty is also earmarked for Poland's first nuclear reactors due to be up and running by 2024.

Three nuclear power giants have expressed interest in building the atomic facility, including the French groups EDF and Areva, and the US and Japanese firms Westinghouse Electric and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas.

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on its Baltic coast and natural gas pipeline connectors to neighbours worth 18 billion zloty are also planned

Five billion zloty are earmarked to explore and develop shale gas at home, where some estimates suggest Poland could have up to 1.92 trillion cubic metres (67.8 trillion cubic feet) of exploitable shale gas deposits, possibly the third largest reserves in Europe behind Norway and the Netherlands.

Global groups Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Talisman Energy are involved in the Polish shale gas exploration programme.

Total investment in exploration and development of the sector in Poland by both domestic and foreign companies could reach 12.5 billion euros.

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