Lithuania's utility chief lashes out at Poland, Latvia

  • 2008-05-08
  • Staff and wire reports

FED-UP: Juozaitis vented his frustration and fingered Poland and Latvia for not cooperating on the much needed power links.

VILNIUS - Lietuvos Energija CEO Rymantas Juozaitis has criticized Poland and Latvia for helping delay the construction of an energy grid link between Lithuania and Poland that the Baltic state desperately needs if it is to survive the imminent shutdown of the Ignalina nuclear reactor.
Concurrently, preparations on establishing Lithuania's national energy utility, Leo LT, were completed on April 30 after months of delays.

Juozaitis' verbal attack at an energy forum on May 6 was not surprising given the intensity of the public debate on energy security in Lithuania.
"Lithuania has done everything it had to do in this project. However, Poland is delaying the work since Warsaw is seeking as large share of output of the new nuclear power plant as possible, as large an influence in the energy system as possible," Juozaitis said.

The Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) also sounded perplexed by Poland's requirement to wait for the project's approval by the Polish competition watchdog.
"The agreement on the establishment of a joint venture that would build a link with Poland was signed in February. And now they say that we will have to wait for an approval of Poland's competition council for up to two months," Juozaitis said, adding that sources have said Poland wanted to merge the projects of the power link and new nuclear power plant in Lithuania.
Since joining the nuclear energy project in December 2006, Poland has led tough negotiations and even led some Lithuanians to express private regrets for having invited the neighbor in the first place.
Lithuania wants to build a 3,200 megawatt nuclear plant in Ignalina, and Poland wants to control some 1,200 megawatts of output. Meanwhile, an earlier project to connect the two countries' energy grids has hit numerous delays, as Polish negotiators have hinted in no uncertain terms that without the nuclear deal there was no sense in building the link.

Juozaitis' wrath was also directed at Latvia, which is holding talks with Sweden on building an underwater power link between the two countries. Lithuania, however, feels that it should have the cable deal with Sweden.

Most recently, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers suggested Sweden choose Latvia over Lithuania for the power link project.

"Immediately after that Sweden said that we should agree between ourselves since it makes no essential difference for that country which Baltic country it builds a power link with," Juozaitis said.
Sweden is not interested in building two underwater links since it does not have the capacity to export such huge volumes of electricity.

Meanwhile, documents for creating Leo LT, Lithuania's new national energy utility, were signed on April 30. The company's first meeting is scheduled to take place on May 20. Prior to that, staff should be hired and premises located, government officials said.
Candidates for the company's five-strong management board and the chief executive officer are to be nominated before the meeting.
Leo LT was created through the merger of the state-owned transmission system operator Lithuanian Energy and the grid operator RST with NDX Energija's VST. The government will hold a 61.7 percent stake and NDX Energija, a firm controlled by the owners of retail giant Vilniaus Prekyba, a 38.3 percent stake.

A difference of opinion between Juozaitis and the country's energy negotiator with the European Union, Aleksandras Abisala, came to the forefront on May 6, with the utility chief expressing the belief that Lithuania will have sufficient power generation capacities after Ignalina closes in 2009.
Lithuania will only need to import the fuel, he said.

"According to our estimations, we will have 3,877 megawatt generation capacities in 2010, which will exceed demand almost twofold. Based on another methodology 's with wind and other alternative sources excluded, capacities will reach 2,422 megawatts. With the peak consumption at 2,200 MW, we will have some 10 percent of reserve energy," he said.

Abisala, on the other hand, said that the country would find itself in a sad predicament come 2010.
"Contrary to what Juozaitis says, we will be in a hole in 2010-2011. Our situation is extremely poor," he claimed.

Abisala was recently appointed an emergency negotiator with the European Commission to seek alternatives to the planned closing of the Ignalina reactor on Dec. 31, 2009. Abisala wants to procure a so-called "slow closure" of the plant, which would allow Lithuania to continue producing nuclear energy for a few years until alternative generation capacities and electricity sources are ready.
EU officials, however, are skeptical about granting leniency but have expressed a willingness to help Lithuania.