Lithuania's risk assessments different from those of Estonia and Latvia - Elering CEO

  • 2020-06-30
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - When it comes to the synchronization of the Baltic countries' power grids with those of Central Europe, Lithuania's risk assessments differ from those of Estonia and Latvia, Taavi Veskimagi, chairman of the management board of the Estonian transmission system operator Elering AS wrote in an opinion piece in Postimees.

"We are more cautious as we don't want to risk losing electric connections with third states before the end of 2025. Consumers' security of electric supply is far too important for that. The desynchronization will not halt the construction of the Astravyets power plant anyway, which appears to be the rational objective with this position," Veskimagi said.

Veskimagi noted that when it comes to problems in Baltic cooperation, differences usually stem from the shared pragmatism of Estonia and Latvia geared at the end result and Lithuania's desire to demonstrate a beautiful game for domestic consumption.

"This time, the issue lies with the future of electricity trade with Russia and Belarus until the end of 2025, following the launch the Astravyets nuclear power plant currently being constructed in Belarus. Thus, the matter regards a five-year transition period and whether or we should allow Russians to trade on the European electricity market to any extent and under any conditions," he said.

Estonia and Latvia have from the beginning been declaring their wish to decouple the Baltic electric grid from the unified energy system of Russia and other former Soviet countries without any conflict and respecting the interest of Russia and Belarus, according to Veskimagi.

"This is also the reason why we did not go through with the attempt to desynchronize the Baltic power grid from the Russian system last year. We wanted to prevent possible confrontation which unilateral action may have led to," he noted.

"Our Russian colleagues' wish to test the functioning of the Kaliningrad power system without electric connection to Lithuania was completely understandable for us as after the Baltic states decouple from the Russian system, Kaliningrad's power system will need to manage on its own. As we already know, Lithuania held a different position on the subject of the desyncranization test, too," Veskimagi said, adding that Lithuania wanted to carry out the test with or without Russia's consent.  

"There wouldn't be a reason to again bring up the differences of opinion regarding the desynchronization test, but they describe very well Lithuania's differing position in the light of organization of the electricity market after the [launch] of the Astravyets nuclear plant. Estonia and Latvia do not wish to play with fire because ensuring proper electric supply is too important for that," he said.

Veskimagi said that while Lithuania's concerns over the safety of the Astravyets power plant are understandable, halting electricity exchange with Russia and Belarus as soon as the nuclear plant is launched in the fall of 2020 will likely not put a stop to the construction thereof. 

"This would entail a risk of losing the nine electric connections the Baltics have with Russia and Belarus until 2025 without us being fully prepared," he said.

Estonian and Latvian engineers, officials, politicians and other relevant parties are discontent with having to operate under Lithuanian laws, according to Veskimagi.

"Our Lithuanian colleagues have locked themselves into a rigid position with their laws and all our cooperation has been about how we can all together adhere to Lithuanian laws. This does not provide a basis for good cooperation," he noted.

"As we know, Estonia and Latvia also wished to weigh the option of synchronizing with the Nordics, which in our opinion merited consideration for many reasons. But again, the Lithuanian law stipulated that we have to synchronize with Continental Europe," the Elering CEO said.

In early June, a dispute arose in Lithuania over a draft agreement of the Baltic states enabling to block market access for electricity generated by the Astravyets nuclear power plant, which does not obligate Latvia or Estonia to avoid buying electricity from Astravyets, however.

In an interview to BNS, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius criticized the draft the agreement drawn up by the Ministry of Energy for not meeting Lithuania's interests. The Lithuanian Ministry of Energy and Office of the President have defended the agreement, however.