Polish utility Tauron's green shift to start with gas

WARSAW, May 21 (Reuters) - Poland’s state-run utility Tauron will start a shift towards greener energy by investing in gas projects, the company’s new chef executive said on Friday.

Tauron generates energy mostly from coal but is looking at moving to low-emission energy sources.

“We have to start a green shift as soon as possible. This will be a blue shift at first,” Pawel Straczynski, referring to gas which burns with a blue flame.

Straczynski, who was appointed Tauron CEO in April, told a news conference that Tauron plans to have a capacity of 3-4 gigawatts installed in gas projects by 2030.

Tauron’s plans fall under a bigger scheme in coal-reliant Poland, which sees gas as a transition fuel before switching to nuclear and renewables. The country’s biggest power producer PGE has urged the European Commission to include gas in European Union rules on sustainable finance.

In April, Poland announced plans to create a special energy agency to take over coal power plants from the state utilities.

Straczynski said that a planned spinoff of coal assets from state-run utilities was a condition for Tauron to continue investment for the long term.

Before he joined Tauron, Straczynski was chief financial officer at Poland’s biggest power group PGE. He said that currently there are no talks over a potential merger of the two groups.

“Maybe, at some point in future, it would be worth starting such discussions,” he said.

PGE’s CEO said last year that Polish state-run utilities, including PGE and Tauron, should merge immediately after offloading their coal assets.

Tauron reported a 417% jump in first-quarter net profit to 839 million zlotys ($228.47 million), due to positive one-offs related to restructuring of the group’s carbon emission permits portfolio, which will not be repeated in the coming quarters.

Straczynski said that he expects the group’s EBITDA this year to be comparable to the core profit in 2020. He said the company should update its strategy by the end of 2021. ($1 = 3.6722 zlotys) (Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko. Editing by Jane Merriman)