PGE, Poland’s largest power group, has decided to abandon its leading role in building the country’s first nuclear power plant and will instead focus investment on offshore wind energy. According to Reuters, state-owned refiner PKN Orlen could take over PGE’s stake in the nuclear project, while the latter concentrates on a $10bn offshore wind power development.
The move into renewables and nuclear represents a major change in Polish energy policy. Up until now, the country has relied on coal for around 80% of its energy but this made the country one of the EU’s major polluters.
Unnamed sources told the news agency PGE could not fund both projects, and cheap technology had swung the decision in favour of wind. PGE could still play a smaller role in the nuclear project which has been delayed and still needs government approval.
A proposed law is currently before the Polish parliament aiming at facilitating the construction of wind farms. If the law is passed, several other large wind farm projects could also proceed.
Polenergia has said it would like to build a wind farm in the Baltic by 2022. PKN Orlen is also considering building one.
In January, PGE’s renewable energy unit PGE Energia Odnawialna started a two-year wind measurement operation for the planned 1GW offshore wind farm project. The project site is located some 32km from Leba in the Polish Exclusive Economic Zone of the Baltic Sea.
PGE said in March that it wants to build offshore windfarms with a capacity of 2.5 gigawatts (GW) by 2030.
Analysts and investors say that offshore wind farms are the easiest and fastest way for Poland to fill the expected capacity gap from coal and reduce CO2 emissions in line with EU’s 2030 targets.
The decision to open up the offshore power industry could also draw in outside investors. Statoil said in April it would join Polenergia’s offshore project which has drawn interest from other international wind companies.
The Polish Wind Energy Association (PWEA) estimates that offshore windfarms with a total capacity of 6 GW would help create around 77,000 new jobs and add around 60 billion zlotys to economic growth.