Spat raises fears of major energy shortfall

  • 2009-02-18
  • By Kate McIntosh
RIGA - Calls are growing for Lithuania and Latvia to end the impasse over the proposed power link connecting the electricity supply between Sweden and the Baltic States. The Lithuanian Ambassador to Latvia Antanas Valionis has become the latest politician to urge both countries to act quickly, saying that they otherwise risk a major energy shortfall.
A diplomatic spat that erupted between the Baltic neighbors over where the link should be located remains unresolved despite recent comments from Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudus Usackas that a decision was imminent.

In a Feb. 16 television interview, Valionis proposed the construction of a cable link near the Baltic Sea coast 's with three branch lines connecting Lithuania, Latvia and a potential field of wind turbines 's as a possible solution to the deadlock.

Citing that April to September is the optimal time for research on construction of the power link, Valionis said the Baltic governments needed to act quickly or risk further delays.
Meanwhile, the company charged with implementing the proposed link to Lithuania, Leo LT, said preparatory works were underway and it is ready to roll out the project immediately.
Darius Montvila, Strategic Projects Director and Board Member of LEO LT, acknowledged that while the location of the link is not in itself of major importance. He also maintained, however, that Lithuania's SwedLit proposal is technically superior.

"We should not forget the technical aspects here, i.e. whether the designed link would physically provide the possibility to ensure the reliable and uninterrupted power supply to all market players. Here the parameters and readiness of inland grids is extremely important and thus the location of the landing point," Montvila told The Baltic Times.

"SwedLit is the fastest possible project to be implemented for achieving the energy security and reliability of supply," he said.
However, both the Latvian government and state-owned energy company Latvenergo have previously expressed concerns over equality of supply and its regulation.
Rival proposals submitted by both Lithuania and Latvia are currently being evaluated by a team of EU experts in terms of technical, economic and social benefits.

The Baltic States remain an "energy island" within the 27-nation European Union, with minimal links to Western Europe's energy grids.
Proponents of the power plan say its construction would create a joint energy market between the Baltic and Nordic systems, helping ensure security and independence of supply in the region.
"We do believe and hope that the final decision would be reached as soon as possible as the security of supply is of primary importance for the whole Baltic region," said Montvila.

The implementation of the integrated power link is increasing in urgency given stalled plans for the construction of a new power plant in Lithuania to replace the Soviet-era Ignalina plant, due to be shutdown by the end of the year.
Experts have warned that ongoing delays meant the new plant is unlikely to be online before 2015, sparking fears of a major power shortfall in the region.

The prime ministers of the three Baltic States are scheduled to meet for high-level talks in Vilnius in March and have agreed to try to reach a consensus on the main principles for construction of the project, including which country the link will be built from.

Construction of the estimated 516-738 million euro project is not expected to be completed before 2015.