WARSAW Oct 24 Poland will have to choose
between investing in shale gas exploration or a nuclear
programme to ensure future energy needs, the chief executive of
Poland's top utility PGE said on Wednesday.
State-controlled PGE is responsible for the planned
construction of Poland's first nuclear power station and is also
involved in financing exploration of Poland's potentially
lucrative shale gas reserves.
The European Union nation of 38 million is pursuing both
shale gas and atomic energy to help reduce dependence on gas
from Russia, which provides most of Poland's supplies, and on
highly-polluting coal, the source of 90 percent of its power.
But the high cost of each energy track makes it likely the
former Soviet-bloc nation will in the end only pursue one form
"These two programmes cannot be successful (at the same
time), one excludes the other," PGE Chief Executive Krzysztof
Kilian, who has close ties to Prime Minister Donald Tusk, told a
power sector seminar.
"You cannot drive on the left and on the right at the same
time, because it will have serious consequences."
Kilian's remarks come after Tusk failed to mention nuclear
energy in a policy speech from two weeks ago, opening the way to
speculation the country would drop atomic energy.
Tusk said in the speech he expected Polish companies to
invest 5 billion zlotys in shale gas exploration by 2016 and
foreign investors to contribute a further 50 billion.
Public and political enthusiasm for nuclear power has also
waned amid a slowing Polish economy and following the Fukushima
nuclear disaster in Japan last year.
Analysts have also been sceptical over PGE's ambitious
investment plans, which assume spending of around 330 billion
zlotys through 2035.
"I have never believed in nuclear power as PGE already has
plans to invest in conventional generation, distribution and
renewable power," said Maciej Hebda, head of research at
Warsaw-based broker Espirito Santo.
Poland relies on Russia's Gazprom for more than
half the gas it consumes. Warsaw wants commercial production of
shale gas to start as soon as possible so it can limit this
Poland has granted 111 shale exploration licences to foreign
companies such as Chevron Corp or Marathon Oil
and state-controlled companies PGNiG and PKN Orlen
Poland had high hopes for shale after a study by the U.S.
Energy Information Association in 2011 estimated its reserves at
5.3 trillion cubic metres, enough to cover domestic demand for
some 300 years.
But estimated reserves were slashed to about a tenth of that
in a government report published in March.