The government said yesterday that it hopes to attract 4.5 billion euros of energy investments by 2010 in an ambitious plan that aims at updating the sector and making it friendlier to the environment. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said that the government’s energy agenda will include boosting investments in natural gas and lignite development. «The investments will contribute significantly to regional growth, which is the central target of the economic and growth policy, and will create thousands of new jobs,» Sioufas said after a Cabinet meeting on the government’s energy policy. The plan will involve the tendering of licenses to develop lignite mining in Florina and Elassona, in northern and central Greece, respectively. An international tender will also be called regarding the setup of three natural gas companies to help expand the country’s gas network into northern and central Greece. The Greek energy sector is considered well behind many EU countries in adopting environmentally friendly fuels. Greece also has a high dependency on petrol as it has failed to substitute the fuel with other means. The plan approved yesterday also involves setting up a new system regarding the issuing of licenses for renewable energy sources, to take the place of the current lengthy and costly procedures. Two billion euros are expected to come from this energy branch alone, according to official estimates. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday that despite soaring gasoline prices, the government remains on course to reach its goals. «Due to rising international gas prices, we are on the alert but we are not worried regarding the goals we have set. This is because we have set realistic targets,» he said.