A massive investment of 300 million euros into construction of a two-block brown coal electricity plant in the town of Nováky is hoped to bring relief to soaring unemployment in the region, with two existing blocks of state-owned power utility SE's Nováky plant facing decommissioning in 2005.
Swiss company Advanced Power's new plant will not only use the latest, environmentally friendly technologies to reduce what are currently emissions far above agreed EU limits, but will create more than 2,000 jobs at the local Nováky mine.
The mine would have to close were there no one to buy the coal after the blocks are shut down. However, Advanced Power has pledged to buy most of the coal after the two blocks are decommissioned.
František Verbich, a specialist for strategies at the country's largest coal mine, Hornonitrianske bane Prievidza, which operates three mines in the Nováky area, said that the Swiss company's pledge was a life-saver for the electricity company and mining in the area.
"We don't have any other customers who would take as much of our coal as the electricity plant does. If Advanced Power hadn't decided to come here we would have had to close down our mine, threatening more than 2,000 jobs," Verbich said.
"Our mines still have at least 20 years of supplies left. The new plant will give enough time for the local authorities to think about developing other industries in the region before our mines shut down," Verbich added.
Nováky's mayor Dušan Šimka was equally positive on the new investment. "It's absolutely key for the region's economic and social functioning, and will help to stop Nováky's unemployment level rising above its current 11%," Šimka said.
The Economy Ministry has said that the benefits will affect more than just the town of Nováky.
According to Ondrej Studenec, general director of the energy section at the Ministry of Economy, the private plant will positively influence electricity prices, which have been kept artificially high by the state-owned electricity monopoly Slovenské elektrárne.
"The Swiss company's investment will bring vital competition to a monopolised sector. It's important to put pressure on electricity prices so the local market is ready for the end of [Slovenské elektrárne's] monopoly and market-oriented European Union prices," Studenec said.
The energy sector is expected to be fully liberalised in 2003.
11. Jun 2001 at 0:00 | Peter Barecz