Lithuania eyeing Swedish, Central European grid

  • 2006-09-13
  • Staff and wire reports

Work UnderWay: Work has begun on an undersea cable that will link the electric grids of Finland to the Baltic states.

RIGA - The Lithuanian government reiterated last week that it wanted to combine its electricity grid with Sweden and Poland's systems and participate in a new high-voltage connection that would go all the way to the Czech Republic. Recently these ambitions have been meeting warm responses from potential partners. In Poland, for instance, since the right-wing government came to power last year, there has been an increasing interest in connecting the country's electricity transmission system with Lithuania's.

The previous government was accused of dragging its feet. "The Polish prime minister said that Poland is ready to establish a joint company with Lithuania as soon as Poland's energy company is reorganized," Nemira Pumprickaite, adviser to Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, told Agence France Presse on Sept. 7. Kirkilas met his Polish counterpart during an international economic meeting in Krynica. The estimated cost of the project is 600 million euros.

Pumprickaite added that the Czech State Energy Company CEZ was also interested in the project. Roman Martin, chairman of the board at CEZ, told Kirkilas that the Czech company would consider joining the Lithuanian-Polish Energy Company, she said.
For the Czechs, exposure to the proposed Polish-Lithuanian power bridge would be a way of diversifying its electricity imports, particularly in light of the possible contruction of a new nuclear power plant in the Baltics.

During a visit to Lithuania last week, officials from A.Eon Nordic, the Swedish branch of Europe's largest investor owned energy company, said the company was ready to help build a new reactor at Ignalina whenever Lithuania is ready.
"If [Lithuania] wants a partner, we are prepared to take part," the spokesman said. A.Eon Nordic is waiting for the outcome of a study being conducted by the energy companies of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the spokesman added.
The French reactor manufacturer Areva has also expressed interest in constructing the new reactor.

The existing Ignalina reactor is scheduled to close in 2009. The closing of the reactor was a condition of EU membership, and its closing has created worries of how the nearly 23 percent of Lithuanian's electricy it provides will be replaced.
At the end of August, the Lithuanian Energy Company Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) and Svenska Kraftnat, a Swedish electric transmission operator, signed an agreement to research combining their electrical transmission networks via a 350-kilometer, 700- to 1,000-megawatt cable which would be laid in the Baltic Sea. Preliminary estimates value the project at around 400 million euros.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 11 work began on the undersea electric cable that will connect the Finnish and Estonian grid. The cable is scheduled to begin operation in late November or early December. The project is the result of the cooperation of Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and Finnish electrical companies.
Russia's gas supply reductions to Ukraine during the winter of 2005 have provided extra stimulus for the Baltic states to accelerate their goal of further integrating their energy supply and transmission systems with Europe. Russia still provides a majority of the energy supply needs in the Baltic states.

"The Baltic states are an energy island. [Connecting them] to the European grids is fundamental for the creation of a single energy market in Europe, and to guarantee security of supply," said Ferran Taradellas, spokesman for EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. The connection of Lithuania to the European electric grid is essential for Lithuania to make up for the loss of its Ignalina reactor in 2009.

Currently, more than half of the Baltic states' electricity is produced at Ignalina and Narva.
Sandor Liive, head of Eesti Energia (Estonia Energy) said that it is currently unknown how this energy will be replaced. Without Ignalina and Narva, the Baltic states electricity needs would depend 19 percent on natural gas, 14 percent on hydropower, and 13 percent from petroleum resources. As to how the remaining 54 percent will be provided, remains an open question, Liive said.