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In Finland the debate on further investments in nuclear power has been fierce. In April this year the government of Finland decided to grant permits for construction of a sixth and seventh commercial reactor. The Visaginas nuclear power plant, planned to be built at the site of the closed Ignalina nuclear power plant [in Lithuania], would partly protect energy security for the Baltic States. The Estlink 2 submarine cable between Finland and Estonia will tie the Finnish and Estonian electricity networks. The Lithuanian intentions to create a more diversified gas market in the country by connections to Poland, and newly discovered shale gas reserves is also one step towards energy security.
As Vaclav Bartuska, the Czech Republic’s nuclear energy envoy, commented in TBT (Q&A, TBT 723), it is a waste of time to blame Russia whether or not she is using energy as a political tool. The Baltic countries, as [well as] Finland and the rest of Europe, better do their homework, invest in their own energy production and create a pleasant atmosphere for business with Russia.
But to create pleasant relations with Russia to secure open gas pipes is not enough. Not even the plans to use the new shale gas reserves can be considered as a perfect solution. The Baltic States’ trade balance with Russia will remain negative due to the import of oil, gas and other raw materials. The EU strategy for increasing renewable energy sources to 20 percent by year 2020 should not be a goal, but a push towards even more renewable energy sources (RES). Latvia is for sure one of the greenest EU-members (RES 32 percent of overall energy mix). Lithuania has an overall rate of 23 percent of RES in its energy mix while Estonia is lagging, with RES that accounts for only 17 percent of the overall energy mix.
Investments in nuclear power and diversified gas markets are not bad, but it should not be done instead of investments in RES, but in addition to new investments. Gas and oil reserves will not last forever, and this is why the Baltic States should take bold steps towards diversified energy markets. To follow e.g. Finland in building a new nuclear power plant are short-term solutions. Uniting Estonian, Lithuanian and Latvian power to support innovation and boldness in investing in renewable energy sources would create a good example of the Baltic States for Europe. Not only as “green countries” but as valuable cross-border co-work and energy integration.