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Polish energy minister outlines nuclear build timeline

Kiev — Poland still plans to build its first nuclear power stations by adding 6-9 GW of capacity by 2043, with the first of six units of up to 1.5 GW to be online by 2033, its energy minister said.

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Units are then scheduled to be added every two years, to replace coal-fired capacity, Tchorzewski said.

"The deadlines are a result of the balancing capacity in the national power system. It is at this time that exploited generating units will be withdrawn," Tchorzewski told a meeting of the parliamentary energy committee late Tuesday.

"In the first place, a strategic decision on the financing method is required," he said.

Tchorzewski said the government was holding talks with several potential partners for the investment, with a partner to bring at least 30% of the capital as well as the technology.

"Linking these two elements is the most important thing in our talks," he said. "The construction of a nuclear power plant is very expensive. It would be best if we obtained a significant contribution to the loans. This topic will basically determine who will work with us."

Tchorzewski said he expected the government will approve the Polish Energy Policy 2040 during the summer.

Market participants have submitted around 1,800 comments to the document during consultation. The PEP 2040 policy has been criticized by the Polish Wind Energy Association for almost phasing out onshore wind, which currently accounts for most of Poland's renewable energy production.

The policy foresees onshore wind capacity falling to just 800 MW in 2040 from 6.4 GW in 2020, and wind generation dropping to 1.8 TWh from 14.7 TWh.

Others have criticized the planned policy for an insufficiently rapid withdrawal from coal, which accounts for up to 80% of power generation in Poland. The policy foresees coal's share falling to 60% by 2030 and to 32% in 2040 through the construction of nuclear and offshore wind.

Polish officials have said the country may miss an EU binding target of producing 15% of total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 despite plans to hold auctions this year to support the construction of 2.5 GW of onshore wind and 750 MW of PV capacity.

Tchorzewski said he hoped those auctions demonstrated the country's goodwill towards meeting the target.

"The signals we are getting from the European Commission indicate that good will also matters. That is why if we have the right amount of contracted capacity, we can count on the fact we will not meet too stringent restrictions," he said.

The minister said talks with the European Commission on a controversial new law that caps Polish retail electricity prices in 2019 for both business and households at the level they reached in mid-2018 were ongoing but they were not easy.

The European Federation of Energy Traders says the new law breaks Poland's constitution and EU rules because it effectively suspends the Polish power market.

The law was not notified to the Commission before it was passed in December. Under the law power traders are entitled to compensation for capping retail prices and that has raised concerns that it may be considered illegal state aid. Last month, the energy ministry published draft amendments to the law.

-- Adam Easton,

-- Edited by Dan Lalor,