Poland, one of Europe’s biggest polluters, hopes switching to shale gas could help the country wean off coal, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spur economic growth.
"I am very optimistic about the (prospects) of shale gas in Poland," said Marcin Korolec in an interview with Reuters that took place ahead of UN climate talks to be held in Warsaw next week.
Despite having signed the Kyoto Protocol, Poland, dependent on heavy Soviet era industry and outdated coal fired-power plants has been struggling to meet the carbon emission reduction targets set by the EU to be achieved by 2020.
Lacking the financial resources needed to switch from coal-fired plants to renewable energy resources, such as wind, Poland has been investigating other options, including upgrading its obsolete coal-fired plants to be able to run on shale gas.
However, enthusiasm for shale gas in Poland has faded after a number of global players including Exxon Mobil pulled out of prospective projects, stating the red tape and Warsaw's lack of effort to cut bureaucracy to be the major obstacles preventing such a venture to become commercially viable.
According to Marcin Korolec, investment in new coal-based power units gradually replacing the existing ones could help Poland considerably cut CO2 emissions.
"Our goal is to have a solution which is as competitive as possible as to the price but also as environmentally friendly as possible," Korolec said.
"That is why the number of new investments we are promoting also in the coal sector will bring CO2 reduction, because we will change technologies from old-fashioned to new ones."
Plans for new units include construction of a 1,075-megawatt plant in Kozienice, central Poland by 2017 – a project expected to be carried out by the country's third-biggest power producer Enea.
Poland's grid operator expects that 6.6 gigawatts of the current 37 gigawatts of installed capacity will be taken off the grid by 2020 as outdated power plants close.