March 29, 2012 / 4:05 PM / 7 years ago

Polish PGE: lower shale gas estimates boost nuclear

WARSAW, March 29 (Reuters) - A radical lowering of Poland’s shale gas estimates strengthen the need to develop nuclear energy in the European Union’s largest eastern member, the head of Poland’s top utility PGE, Krzysztof Kilian, said on Thursday.

Poland has embarked on a number of energy projects including shale gas, nuclear energy or liquefied natural gas, to reduce its nearly entire reliance on the highly-polluting coal for energy needs and wean off Russian gas supplies.

But Poland’s first official report into shale gas reserves last week showed the deposits at around a tenth of earlier estimates - still enough to improve the country’s energy mix, but denting hopes it could become a European gas player.

“Chances for nuclear energy are growing. These are absolutely justified interpretations,” Kilian told a news conference when asked if the shale disappointment provided a fresh boost for introducing nuclear energy in Poland.

Poland’s centre-right government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk wants to start a first 3 gigawatt station in early 2020s and double that capacity in 2030s and picked the state-controlled PGE to lead the project.

On Thursday Warsaw launched a two-year campaign aimed at convincing Poles to back the plan and presented a MillwardBrown SMG/KRC survey conducted earlier this year, showing 51 percent of Poles supported nuclear energy versus 45 percent against it.

But citizens of Gaski, one of three sites PGE had short-listed as potential locations for the plant, in February voted overwhelmingly against building nuclear power station in their neighbourhood.

“Introducing nuclear energy to Poland ... may become a flywheel for the whole of the Polish economy,” said Hanna Trojanowska, Poland’s Deputy Economy Minister responsible for the project.

“It’s not only about stable electricity supplies, but also about improved energy security and less CO2 emissions,” she said in launching the campaign due to cost some 18 million zlotys ($5.74 mln).

Poland is facing an uphill battle trying to align its economy to the European Union’s drive to curb greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020.

Westinghouse, a U.S. unit of Japan’s Toshiba, France’s Areva and American-Japanese GE Hitachi are competing to provide technology for the Polish plant.

$1 = 3.1360 Polish zlotys Reporting by Joanna Bronowicka; writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by James Jukwey

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