WARSAW, March 11 (Reuters) - Poland will be less dependent on gas deliveries from Russia next winter thanks to new gas links and a liquefied natural gas terminal that is scheduled to start importing gas next January, its prime minister said.
"We may say today Poland is sufficiently independent when it comes to the supply of gas, and Poland will never be subject to any blackmail in this respect," Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference on Tuesday.
Despite efforts to explore for shale gas, Poland still heavily relies on imports for roughly two thirds of its annual gas usage of 15 billion cubic metres.
Since 2009, when Russia supplied 91 percent of Poland's gas, Poland has doubled the capacity of a pipeline link with Germany and built a new link to the Czech Republic.
In the most recent development, construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, with a capacity to import 5 billion cubic metres of gas per year, is scheduled for completion by end-2014 in the north-western port of Swinoujscie.
From 2015, these alternative sources may be able to supply much of the gas Poland needs if Russian supplies are cut off, Tusk said.
"Not only can we effectively renegotiate the price of Russian gas, but we are able to spend next winter (safely), no matter what are the plans of our eastern neighbour," Tusk said.
At the same news conference, Tusk said his government had approved a new shale gas bill that would help encourage investors by reducing red tape and regulatory hurdles.
He said he hoped the law would go swiftly through parliament, as "secure gas deliveries are now a key condition of sovereignty". (Editing by Jane Baird)