UPDATE 1-Poland's PGE to split coal assets by end of 2021

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WARSAW, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Poland’s biggest energy group PGE should separate its coal assets from other activities by the end of 2021, the company’s Chief Executive Wojciech Dabrowski said on Monday.

State-run PGE currently generates most of its electricity from coal and lignite, but earlier on Monday announced plans to become climate neutral by 2050 and said it plans to invest 75 billion zlotys ($19.3 billion) in building up renewable energy capacity by 2030 and other projects.

“Our strategy is a response to market changes. There is no way back from transformation. PGE will play a significant role in Poland’s reaching climate neutrality,” Dabrowski told a news conference.

By 0900 GMT shares in PGE were up by 6.3% as investors welcomed the group’s plans.

Poland is the only EU state that refuses to pledge climate neutral by 2050, with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party claiming that the country needs more time to switch its economy from coal to zero-emission sources.

“This is an exceptional and important day for Poland’s energy sector, because we have the first complex strategy by PGE, which falls under the country’s energy policy, a strategy, which moves to the direction of 100% of green energy in 2050,” Climate Minister Michal Kurtyka told the same conference.

PGE wants to become climate neutral through carving out its coal assets, which include lignite mines and power stations, and through investment in wind farms, offshore and onshore, solar power stations and in energy storages.

Separating coal assets will help PGE raise financing from banks, which are reluctant to provide loans to coal-related groups.

“In our opinion, it would be optimal to separate the assets by the end of 2021,” Dabrowski said. He added that PGE analyses show that banks and other financial institutions are open to financing PGE if it had no coal assets.

Dabrowski said PGE could potentially aim at up to 35 billion zlotys of extra debt.

But while investors welcomed the group’s plans, environmentalists rejected it.

“Transformation involving separation of carbon assets is not a transformation. From the perspective of the environment, Polish women and men, and the climate crisis it is just a transfer of dirty assets from one pocket to another,” Piotr Wojcik, an energy analyst at Greenpeace, said. ($1 = 3.8819 zlotys) (Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, Editing by Alan Charlish and Susan Fenton)