Gerhards stresses need for new power plants

  • 2008-02-27
  • Staff and wire reports

POWERLESS: The vast forests and marshlands of Kurzeme may soon be adorned with a coal-fired power plant. Smashing progress.

RIGA - Latvia's economy minister has reiterated the need to build new energy production capacities regardless of whether Lithuania will build a new nuclear power plant.
"Irrespective of progress on the Ignalina nuclear power plant project and energy link construction, Latvia has to develop new base electric power projects that may be substantiated both by energy supply security reasons and the imports-exports balance of the state," Economy Minister Kaspars Gerhards.
Specifically, the ministry is making plans for a 400-megawatt electric power plant run on hard-fuel (e.g., coal) for Kurzeme, in western Latvia, and another 400-megawatt gas-fueled electric for Riga. Details, however, have yet to be finalized.

"The type of electric power plants will be determined by the guarantees and sustainability of resource supplies, security of power availability, the energy price and the timeframe for implementation," the minister said.
Given a projected energy deficit expected after the 2009 closure of Lithuania's atomic power plant, Gerhards said work on the new plants must begin immediately.
A coal-fired plant in Kurzeme will be designed to account for a possible undersea power cable that would link Latvia and Sweden, a project that, though still on paper, would give the Baltic state a direct hook-up to the European Union electricity market, which is slated for liberalization in 2013.
Ugis Sarma, head of the Economy Minister's energy department, said that the link depends on whether Latvia will develop new output capacity.

"Largely it depends on developments with the construction of new power plants in Latvia. This is the key, and not the funding for the project," Sarma was quoted by Energoforums, a publication by Latvenergo, as saying.
"If both [planned] power plants are in place, there will be a cable to Sweden too, since Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia are faced with severe shortages of power generation and would be interested in receiving electricity from Latvia," he said.
Sweden is the only country with which Latvia would build such a link, Sarma said, adding that negotiations are under way.

If the transmission operators of both countries find such a project feasible, they will offer to carry out an in-depth analysis, prepare applications and get political endorsement to receive funding, he said.
The Economy Ministry has pledged the necessary political support that would ensure 50 percent of the funding necessary for a feasibility study.
"The successful experience of the construction of the Estlink cable has shown that it is more expedient to develop such projects on a commercial basis. If companies have money and commercial interest, everything happens much faster," Sarma said.

The ministry has submitted a project report to various ministries and departments that will have to give their seal of approval. The report contains estimates on future power usage in Latvia, analysis of advantages and drawbacks of different types of electric power plants and possible solutions.
The report says that a natural-gas fueled plant could be up and running quickly but would be vulnerable to price and supplier instability. A coal-fired plant would offer stable prices but environmental concerns since it would consume carbon dioxide quotas.
Inga Sprinke, a PR advisor to the Economy Ministry, told the Baltic News Service that the ministry would draft amendments to the law on electricity needed to build the plants and then prepare tenders for actual construction.

Currently Latvia generates power at two thermal power plants in Riga and three hydropower plants on the Daugava River. During seasons of low output the country imports kilowatts from Estonia, Lithuania and Russia.