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Flicking the Switch: UK plc is taking Poland’s power sector seriously

Summary:Since my arrival in Poland 30 years ago and through three tours of duty in Poland and one in Romania, I have watched with admiration the evolution of Central Europe from central planning and communism to market economies and democracy.

I’ve seen Poland transformed into a regional powerhouse across a range of industries and watched it become a manufacturing and logistics hub with a sizeable and fast growing consumer market.

For this country to continue on its remarkable journey one of the most significant challenges it faces is to source the energy it requires for powering its appliances, fuelling its transport, running industries and heating homes. Affordability will also be crucial – both for the individual consumer and for industry, as is the challenge to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels as we work to meet the EU’s targets and safeguard our planet. With the energy market regulator URE predicting blackouts by 2015, the pressure really is on to respond to the energy challenge of the future.

It’s against this backdrop that Poland, like the United Kingdom and many other countries in the EU and beyond, is making decisions now about its energy mix that will have far-reaching effects on generations to come. The decision to build two new nuclear plants is an ambitious step on a journey that will see nuclear play a key part in energy provision. Like Poland, the UK may have considerable unconventional gas reserves and although both countries continue to explore the true potential of their unconventional gas reserves, it is clear that it has a part to play in the future energy mix. Poland will also continue to develop its renewable potential, largely from wind, tidal and biomass.

With such ambitious plans, it is no surprise that the recent World Nuclear Power Briefing for Europe this year took place in Warsaw and attracted a huge number of academics, businesses and Government representatives from across the Emerging Europe region. In my speech to this audience, I outlined how we in the UK are addressing our future energy needs, the challenges this brings and where the opportunities for co-operation between us exist.

The building of a two new nuclear reactors is a huge undertaking. The UK has played a pioneering role in the global civil nuclear industry and we are working closely with the Polish Government to support Poland on its own journey. Already our regulators, scientists and companies engaged in the nuclear lifecycle are working together to identify mutually beneficial opportunities. Major British companies are actively engaging in the available tenders and with an industry covering 70% of nuclear build requirements. The UK has a huge number of companies that could help Poland to develop its nuclear plans.

That’s why in February 2013 we’ll be bringing Polish Government and PGE representatives to the Civil Nuclear Energy Showcase in London – a chance to meet with the UK’s world class nuclear industry and discuss new build, financing, decommissioning, waste management, regulatory and legal issues. Lord Howell, personal adviser to the Foreign Secretary on Energy and Resource Security, is a staunch advocate of the huge potential of the UK’s energy industry in Poland. This is one example of the engagement we’re bringing to this sector to ensure British business understand their potential in Poland and the surrounding region and there is plenty more to come.

In shale gas, the UK also has a huge amount to offer. Scotland’s oil and gas industry is world class and over the past 40 years it has developed to become an innovative sector with a diverse supply chain, expansive consultancy services, financing solutions and strong academic backing.

In total there are some 2,000 Scottish supply chain companies in the oil and gas sector with expertise in technologies, project management, installation, operations and maintenance. This is a strong base on which to move from offshore-based operations to exploring and exploiting unconventional gas reserves in Poland, whether it is in reservoir modelling, reservoir stimulation, extended reach and horizontal drilling or well completions technology. A number of UK investors are already here but there is much more we can and will be doing to help companies access the opportunity.

The UK will also support the Polish government and regions as they assess reserves and develop a legal and regulatory framework to drive developments in the sector. Next year will see the Embassy launch a series of events across Poland helping local communities to understand the impact of shale gas in their regions – another example of our clear desire to support Poland’s development in this sector. Teaming up with other nations – such as the US – will help get the best our expertise out here.

Renewables will continue to have an increasing share of Poland’s energy mix. A number of Polish companies and foreign investors are beginning to develop offshore wind farms on Poland’s Baltic coast and in the long-term offshore wind could generate up to 6,000 MW. Britain is a world-leader in this sector and indeed the world’s largest off-shore wind farm, the London Array, is in the UK. Offshore wind can help Poland reach its climate targets and enhance energy security. Biogas and biomass have significant long-term potential too - UK technology and expertise really can open significant export potential here and this is also true of solar energy.

With clear synergies for the UK and Poland across this sector, it’s important we help companies to develop their potential here and continue to work with our partners, particularly the British - Polish Chamber of Commerce, in the future. As elsewhere in the world, our Embassy in Warsaw is helping UK excellence in the power sector to develop its potential in Poland. Our Embassy Energy Unit provides companies with a wide range of intelligence and analysis, a far-reaching network across Governments, business and civil society both in the UK and in Poland and a first-class package of support services for companies. We are also doing much more to ensure companies coming to this country are made aware of the significant power opportunities across the Emerging Europe region by simplifying our support and setting up a one stop shop Energy service based in our Warsaw office. For more information contact the UK Trade & Investment Energy Unit by emailing patrick.ney@fco.gsi.gov.uk or calling 00 48 22 311 02 44.

We’re helping British companies to get the best bang for their buck when entering this market because for all of us there is nothing more important than having the energy to forge our economies’ futures.

Author: HM Ambassador to Poland, Robin Barnett Publication date: 2013-01-01 Price: 0