Litgrid: Baltic electricity system should be decoupled from Russian system earlier

  • 2022-11-15
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Liutauras Varanavicius, head of strategy at the Lithuanian network operator Litgrid, says it has now become clear that the energy infrastructure essential for connecting the Baltic and Polish electricity systems to the frequency area of continental Europe will be completed already by the end of 2024 and, therefore, the switch could be brought forward by one year from the previously agreed deadline without incurring any extra costs.

The decision to bring forward the transition deadline is stalled in the absence of interest on the part of the Estonian system operator Elering, according to Varanavicius.

Under the current agreement between Poland and the Baltic states, the countries will decouple from the electricity grid of northwestern Russia and synchronize their frequency networks with that of continental Europe by the end of 2025, once sufficient transmission capacity has been built.

"Technically, leaving the Russian frequency network and synchronizing with that of continental Europe is possible, figuratively speaking, even tomorrow. For example, if Russia were to unilaterally decide to disconnect the frequency areas of the Baltic states immediately. This would create a certain turbulence in the electricity market and entail significant costs, but we would not be without electricity," Varanavicius said when speaking at an energy conference of the Nordic Council of Ministers last week.

He said the emergency synchronization would take place within hours, unnoticed by the end user.

Lithuanian Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys also told reporters a week ago that the greatest opposition to the Baltic states' faster synchronization with Western European electricity networks comes from Estonia. The Lithuanian minister said he didn't know why Estonia was opposed to accelerating the project: "The reasons are unknown because there are no technical reasons." 

Elering spokesperson Elo Ellermaa told BNS that earlier synchronization is a possibility that is being discussed between the countries involved.

"We have agreed with the other Baltic countries that further analyses and studies are needed to identify the conditions, costs and risks involved in bringing forward the end date of the project. People are working hard on this every day. If the analyses show that bringing the deadline forward does not increase costs or risks, then we are in no way opposed to bringing the deadline forward. At the moment, we are considering that all the preparations for the synchronization will be finished by the end of 2025," Ellermaa told BNS.

At present, the electricity system of the Baltic countries is part of the electricity system of Russia, which constitutes a geopolitical and energy security risk, since Russia controls the frequency of the power system and can thereby influence the operation of the power system in the Baltic countries.

The switch of the Baltic countries to a different frequency system costs an estimated two billion euros, 75 percent of which will come from European Union funds. Most of the money will go towards the construction of transmission infrastructure, which, according to Varanavicius, creates the prerequisites for the growth of renewable energy production.

"With this investment, we are not just freeing ourselves from energy dependence on a hostile state, but also creating opportunities for exponential growth in the deployment of renewable energy capacities. So, in this case, one plus one equals three," the head of the strategy department at Litgrid said.