* EBRD could buy stake in utility Energa
* Providing loans for distribution projects
* Renewables and shale gas also targeted
* Ready to talk about investing in PIR
By Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Florkiewicz
WARSAW, May 27 (Reuters) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) plans to shift its focus in Poland from the financial sector to the funding of energy projects to help the country to reduce its reliance on coal.
Coal-fired power generation provides 95 percent of Poland’s electricity, but the country has been trying to expand production of alternatives including nuclear power, renewables and shale gas.
EBRD was set up in 1991 to help countries of the former Soviet Union to develop market economies, but it has gradually extended its reach.
About half of the 700 million euros it invested in Poland last year was in the financial sector. Though it says less will be forthcoming this year, energy projects will receive a bigger slice.
“To a large extent, 2013 will be a year of investment in energy,” Lucyna Stanczak, the EBRD’s top executive in Poland told Reuters. “We are working on a few projects in renewable sources of energy and distribution.”
As well as providing loans to help utilities Enea and Energa to improve their distribution networks and support the so-called smart grids, the bank also has its eye on Poland’s shale gas ambitions.
Poland had hoped to become Europe’s top shale gas producer, though foreign players such as Exxon Mobil and Marathon Oil quit their Polish projects because of poor results from some test wells and an unclear regulatory environment.
The EBRD, however, will include financing for unconventional gas-related projects in its new strategy for the years 2014 to 2016.
“Shale gas is one of the priorities of Poland’s energy policy and we cannot ignore that,” Stanczak said.
The bank may also consider buying shares in Energa when Poland sells a part of its stake this year, she added. It is also ready to talk about buying a stake in Poland’s investment vehicle PIR, which together with state bank BGK was designed to support investments in energy and infrastructure.