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Owner of Poland's ZE PAK energy group plans green push

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WARSAW (Reuters) – A Polish billionaire owner of a brown coal-fuelled power station, Zygmunt Solorz, said on Monday he would invest in greener sources of energy generation, as a shift away from polluting fuels slowly gathers pace in the country.

ZE PAK is Poland’s fourth biggest energy producer. It generates power largely from burning lignite from its open-pit mines and has been regularly criticised by environmentalists — most recently for the impact of its mines on drought in the region.

“ZE PAK has started the process of reducing the share of coal in energy production and development of projects related to renewable sources. Transforming ZE PAK from coal energy into green energy will take some time, but this is an irreversible process,” it said in a statement.

Renewable sources account for 7.5% of ZE PAK’s current energy production. According to the statement it plans to build a photovoltaic plant and increase its investment in biomass.

“Today we all need clean air… I have already asked the companies which I am involved in to look at what we could do,” Solorz, one of Poland’s richest men and also the owner of media and telecommunication group Cyfrowy Polsat <CPS.WA>, was quoted as saying in an e-mailed statement sent by his spokesman.

The spokesman did not immediately responded to a request for further details of the transformation plan and its costs.

Poland generates most of its electricity from coal and sustaining the coal industry has been one of the main industrial policies of Poland’s ruling nationalists, the Law and Justice party (PiS).

But the government has signalled it might need to embrace renewable energy sources, under pressure from a society that’s is becoming increasingly aware of the effect burning coal has on air quality.

Also surging carbon emission costs are forcing many utilities to turn towards cheaper sources of renewable energy.

Solorz’ plans follow an announcement by state-run utility Tauron <TPE.WA>, which said in May it would replace most of its coal-burning power plants with renewable sources of energy in the coming decade to adjust to global trends.

Last month Solorz, who owns 51.55% of ZE PAK, announced a tender for the remaining shares in order to take sole control of the company.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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