by Staff Writers
Warsaw (AFP) Oct 24, 2012
Poland must choose between developing its first nuclear energy plant or pushing ahead with a programme to tap potential shale gas reserves, the head of Polish state-owned utility PGE said on Wednesday.
"Pursuing these two programmes at the same time cannot be crowned with success. One rules out the other. We cannot put two-way traffic on a one-way road without dramatic consequences," PGE chief executive Krzysztof Kilian was quoted by the Polish news agency PAP as saying.
A nation of 38.2 million people, Poland currently relies on its vast coal reserves to produce about 90 percent of the electricity it consumes. Warsaw is scrambling to find alternatives to meet EU targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The government also believes that tapping its own shale gas deposits could assure strategic energy independence from Soviet-era master Moscow.
Poland is believed to have up to 1.92 trillion cubic metres (67.8 trillion cubic feet) of exploitable shale gas deposits, possibly the third biggest reserves in Europe behind Norway and the Netherlands, a recent state study found.
Kilian, a close associate of Poland's centrist Prime Minister Donald Tusk, made the statement during debates by a panel of energy policy experts in Warsaw.
PGE is Poland's largest energy provider.
Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski told parliament on Wednesday that Poland would focus for now on meeting its energy needs with fossil fuels.
"Regarding nuclear energy, the final decision will be made (...) in late 2014 or in early 2015," he added.
Last month, four leading Polish companies led by PGE joined forces to work on plans for a three gigawatt nuclear energy plant.
The plans call for Poland's first nuclear power generator to come online in 2024 at an estimated cost of 9-12 billion euros (11.3-15.1 billion dollars).
Three nuclear power giants have expressed interest in building the facility, including the French group EDF/Areva and the US and Japanese firms Westinghouse Electric and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.
In an earlier bid to diversify Poland's energy mix, the same four Polish firms joined Polish oil and gas giant PGNiG in June in a 1.72 billion zloty (409 million euros, $515 million) joint venture to tap the country's shale gas reserves by 2016.
Global groups Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Talisman Energy are involved in the Polish shale gas exploration programme.
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