WARSAW Poland's top utility PGE is looking for technology and financial partners for a long-term project to build Poland's first nuclear power plant, expected to be worth up to 60 billion zlotys ($19.5 billion), it said on Wednesday.
Poland, which now generates nearly all its electricity from ageing, coal-fired power plants, wants to make its energy sector more efficient and cut carbon emissions.
"We now have the period of searching for a partner to provide the technology and a partner to participate financially," PGE's chief executive and Poland's former energy market regulator Marek Woszczyk told a news conference.
State-controlled PGE, the project's coordinator, has until end-2016 to pick a site and find a technological partner.
The government's strategy is to build a 3 gigawatt nuclear power plant, with the first block to be finished by the end of 2024 and the whole project to be finalized by 2030.
The nuclear project has had a series of setbacks. PGE has voiced concerns over its financing, especially as the group is also involved in a costly search for shale gas in Poland.
But eastern Europe's largest economy is battling to limit its energy sector's dependence on Russia, which only two weeks ago signed a deal to expand the only nuclear power plant in Hungary.
PGE said it wanted to control the special investment company set up to run the nuclear plant's construction. Possible partners include Polish state-controlled Tauron, Enea, and KGHM, but no deal has yet been signed.
"PGE wants to have a controlling stake in the company, at least 70 percent," PGE's Woszczyk said. "We do not rule our the scenario of adding partners - financial or strategic."
($1 = 3.0747 Polish zlotys)
(Reporting by Karolina Slowikowska; Writing by Adrian Krajewski, editing by David Evans)