EBRD says would back Poland's electric cars, anti-smog plan

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s plan to improve air quality and switch to electric vehicles could be financed with help from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a top EBRD official said.

Poland aims to have 1 million electric cars on its roads by 2025 as it seeks to cut emissions in its most polluted towns. It has offered tax and other incentives to make electric cars more accessible and is working on a Polish electric car prototype.

Air quality activist group Polski Alarm Smogowy says cities such as Warsaw, Katowice and Krakow are among the dirtiest in Europe.

“We will be delighted to support projects going towards electromobility, both in terms of public transport and other projects that could lead to the development of this sector,” Grzegorz Zielinski, EBRD’s Poland chief, told Reuters.

He said the EBRD could for example help finance the use of electric buses, rather than diesel ones, in some Polish towns.

Poland, which is highly dependent on coal, has not yet requested the money, nor specified how much it is budgeting for spending on the project.

Helping Poland become cleaner is one of the key elements of EBRD’s new country strategy approved earlier this month.

Zielinski also said EBRD was ready to provide financing for Poland’s first offshore wind farms. The two most advanced projects are developed by state-run utility PGE and Polenergia controlled by the Kulczyk family, one of the richest in Poland.

EBRD has helped financed many onshore wind farms in Poland in the past but has criticized government policies which have made them unprofitable.

In 2016 the government unexpectedly banned building wind farms too close to dwellings and imposed a higher property tax on wind farm owners. In its most recent proposal it has withdrawn from the tax though.

Zielinski said that these regulatory changes for renewables were one of the reasons why many foreign investors have put on hold their investment decisions in Poland.

The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) used to say that coal would remain Poland’s dominant source of energy for many years and saw renewable energy as unstable.

But more recently it has suggested Poland needs cleaner sources of energy, including nuclear power and offshore wind farms, to reduce emissions and meet EU targets.

EBRD sees its annual investment in Poland in the coming years similar to previous years. It spent 660 million euros in 2017 and 780 million euros in 2016.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Anna Koper