Lithuania brings out new trump cards to convince neighbors to speed up synchronization

  • 2023-04-18
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Lithuania may withdraw from the post-Soviet BRELL agreement with Russia and Belarus next year if this week's power system isolated operation test is successful.

Lithuanian politicians and energy officials are planning both steps in an attempt to persuade Latvia and Estonia to speed up the synchronization of their electricity grids with the Continental European system.

For now, the status quo on synchronization remains in place as Latvia and Estonia want to stick to the earlier agreed target date of 2025, despite Lithuania's efforts to persuade them to complete the process in 2024.

In a sign of disagreement over the date, Lithuania will carry out Saturday's isolated operation test alone as Latvian and Estonian say they are not yet technically ready for it.

If the test is successful, Lithuania is considering exercising an option in the BRELL treaty, which regulates the participation in the post-Soviet energy system, to withdraw from it in February 2024.

If it misses the opportunity, the treaty will allow Lithuania to do so again only in 2025, which could hamper plans for earlier synchronization, officials say.

Rokas Masiulis, CEO of Litgrid, Lithuania's electricity transmission system operator, says that Lithuania's separate test to see how ready its electricity system is for emergencies was planned a long time ago, so the neighbors’ decision does not change anything.

"Of course, we hoped that the Latvians and Estonians would join our test and we would do a test of the three Baltic countries, which would (...) make a strong political statement. But the Latvians and the Estonians did not agree to it. That is why we are doing it alone this time," he told BNS.

Elering and AST, the Estonian and Latvian power transmission system operators, told BNS that they are not joining Lithuania's test because the projects and infrastructure needed for synchronization have not yet been completed. According to the Latvian TSO, a joint Baltic test is currently expected to be conducted in 2025.

Masiulis says that a test involving all three countries is tentatively planned for 2024, but admits that it may not be possible to agree on a date with the neighbors.

"I can't say for sure until a date is finally agreed with them," he said.

A Lithuanian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told BNS that by not joining the test, Latvia and Estonia are showing they are not in favor of faster synchronization.

Lithuanian officials confirm that they will consider exiting the BRELL treaty if the isolated test succeeds.

Signed back in February 2001, the treaty defines how Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Belarus operate in the IPS/UPS system, or the so-called BRELL ring, where electricity frequency is centrally regulated in Russia.

The treaty is automatically renewed each year if none of the signatories notifies its withdrawal by August, six months before its expiry.

"We want to legally leave BRELL, to give notice on August 8 this year, and to leave BRELL six months later, in early February," Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys told the national broadcaster LRT last Friday.

"There is one window and I hope that that window will be chosen and then desynchronization and synchronization with continental Europe is possible after that," he said.

Masiulis says that Lithuania's exit from the BRELL treaty would be a political and legal step and that power lines will not be physically "cut off".

"The legal withdrawal from BRELL is a waiver of the agreement with Russia and Belarus. But technically, the lines would be remain connected and the system would function as it did," Litgrid's CEO told BNS.

"In order to disconnect the lines, there has to be preparation for the synchronization with continental Europe, and the synchronization (...) has to take place jointly with Latvia and Estonia," he added.

Kreivys said after meeting with his Latvian counterpart last week that he hoped that the Baltic countries would take a joint decision to withdraw from the BRELL treaty.

This could be made possible by the positive results of the technical feasibility studies currently underway, which are expected to be presented in May, according to the minister.