RIGA - The Baltics' three prime ministers agreed last week to form a task force that will map out a strategic framework for the region's energy future.
Speaking to the press after their May 20 meeting, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip stressed that a common energy strategy was important since the Baltic states "do not want to depend on Russia's energy." He pointed out that the Estlink power cable project linking the Baltics' power grid with Finland was being implemented for this very reason.
He added that after 2010 there will be an energy shortage in the Baltics and Scandinavia, and building a new atomic plant should be considered. The perfect location, he said, would be Ignalina, since the Lithuanian town already has the infrastructure and experienced labor force.
Estonia, said Ansip, was considering participating in a new nuclear plant project.
"We are strong when we cooperate," he said.
This was music to the ears of Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, who wants to see his country remain a major exporter of electricity in the region after the country shuts down the second unit of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in 2009. Lithuania's leadership wants to build a new plant but understands that it won't be able to do so on its own.
The other option is linking the Baltics' energy grids to Scandinavia and Poland, and in April documents were signed officially commencing the Estlink project that call for construction of an underwater power cable that will hook up the Baltic and Nordic energy systems.
The project will be carried out by Nordic Energy Link, which was created by Latvia's Latvenergo, Estonia's Eesti Energia and Lithuania's Lietuvos Energija 's as well as two Finnish power companies, Helsingin Energia and Pohjolan Voima.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ministers' meeting at an international energy conference, Latvenergo President Karlis Mikelsons said that the Baltics' three main energy companies should concentrate on cooperating in order to foster the development of a unified regional energy market.
He recalled that in 2002 Latvian and Estonian leaders had considered merging Latvenergo and Eesti Energia, but nothing ever materialized. Mikelsons believes that it is necessary to return to the issue of cooperation among the energy companies of the three Baltic states, as the problem of dependence on energy imports have become topical again.
He said that it is imperative to think about building new electric power capacities in the region and that investments should be sought for this purpose. Mikelsons also said that the Baltic states should agree on common principles of market regulation.