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Apr 19, 2021
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“Paranoia at the limit.” Baltic states refuse from Russian energy

Latvia, Lithuania and Poland refuse from Russian electricity. Four-day tests of the new power supply regime showed that a rise in electricity prices is inevitable. On the contrary, prices in Russia and Belarus have decreased slightly.

Expensive and angry

Electricity in the Baltic States is not cheap, about 45 euros per month for a family. And the energy consumption is constantly increasing. Moreover, the main buyers are households (industry accounts for no more than 20 percent).

Russia and Belarus supply about five billion kilowatt-hours through a single energy ring BRELL (according to the first letters of the names of states). Almost the same amount is generated in the region. The missing is bought on the Nord Poll exchange. Deliveries – from Poland, Finland and Sweden. In 2025, the Baltics will withdraw from BRELL and unite power lines (PTL) with Western Europe.

The number of suppliers so far allows us to keep prices at the level of the pan-European ones. But after the break with Russia and Belarus, a rise in price is inevitable. This was shown by tests carried out recently in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. During the four days of test disconnection of power lines – from 8 to 11 April – prices rose by almost nine percent. Consumers were outraged: after all, even in winter, at maximum energy consumption, it was cheaper.

Moscow will lose up to a quarter of electricity exports – about 20 billion rubles. Inter RAO considers this to be not very significant.

NATO on guard for energy

The Kaliningrad region is still connected to BRELL. But they are already building thermal power plants, hydroelectric power plants, and by 2025 they will fully provide themselves.

Russian power engineers have said more than once: the Baltic countries do not have to break BRELL in order to switch to the EU energy system. In the event of an accident on European power lines, they could use the capacities of Russia and Belarus. But the Balts are adamant.

“BRELL is the main threat to the region’s energy security,” they cite the 2017 NATO report. There, the leitmotif was the thought that while Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia depend on Russian electricity, the “hand of Moscow” will continue to put pressure on them.

But the unification of the energy systems of the Baltic and Western Europe is a laborious process. Not all power lines have been completed. In some areas, it is necessary to lay a marine cable.

In addition, now Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians pay an environmental tax, which, as a rule, is included in the price for light. The integration with the EU energy sector means that in the first stage, supplies will go from Poland, Sweden and Finland. And in these countries, a lot of electricity is generated from non-environmentally friendly coal.

The authorities of the Baltic countries believe that dependence on coal plants is temporary, and are going to switch to renewable sources (RES) – solar and wind energy. But the construction of such facilities will not be cheap. And the costs will again be passed on to the population.

Soviet legacy

During the Soviet era, hydro and power plants operated in the region. The largest hydroelectric power plants were Riga, Kaunas and Narva. They provided both households and industry with light and heat.

But by the seventies, this was no longer enough. We decided to build a nuclear power plant in Lithuania. In 1983, the Ignalina nuclear power plant was launched.

Vilnius has turned from an importer of energy resources into an exporter. The Ignalina nuclear power plant provided electricity not only to the Baltic states, but also to the countries of Eastern Europe, the Byelorussian SSR, as well as the enclave Kaliningrad region.

In the 1990s, the Baltic states were getting rid of everything Soviet. The restructuring of the power system was also envisaged. But leaving the single energy ring without creating additional capacities was risky. Any blackout would hit the economy hard.

To be on the safe side, in 2001 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia signed a BRELL agreement with Russia and Belarus. Prior to the publication of the NATO report, energy was considered the only area where the Baltic and Russia had no claims to each other.

In 2009, under pressure from the EU and NATO, Lithuania closed the Ignalina nuclear power plant, although the station could operate without interruption until 2032. And Vilnius has turned from an exporter of energy resources into an importer again.

Phantom Pain

“Russia generates all types of electricity. This makes our energy sector stable and inexpensive. It would be more profitable for the Baltic countries to keep BRELL. Taking into account the capacities of the Belarusian NPP launched in autumn, the cost of electricity would have decreased even more. But politics for the Balts is more important than economics. They are ready to pay for breaking ties with Moscow, “Nikolai Mezhevich, an expert on the Baltic countries, says in an interview with RIA Novosti.

The expert notes that in winter the load on the energy systems of Europe grows, prices go up. Accidents are not uncommon. “The gap between BRELL means that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are left alone with Europe. In an emergency, they will have to wait for help from Brussels, which does not always act promptly. The flow of electricity from Russia and Belarus could be a backup option, but the Balts themselves cut the branch on which they sit, “Mezhevich believes.

The political scientist is skeptical about the prospects of VEI in the Baltics. “Recently, the Estonian Ministry of Ecology has come out against wind turbines. They said that the wind farms create strong electromagnetic interference. As a result, Russian helicopters will be able to penetrate unnoticed Baltic airspace and threaten national security. Paranoia is on the limit, ”says Mezhevich.

Director of the Energy Development Fund Sergei Pikin notes that BRELL was beneficial to everyone. “It made it possible to optimally and technologically control the modes of power systems. After the break, you will need to create your own reserve capacity. And if Russia managed to build new stations in Kaliningrad, then the Baltic countries will have a harder time, ”the expert believes.

He does not rule out that over time, Latvia, Estonia and even Lithuania will begin to negotiate on a bilateral basis with Russia or Belarus on the supply of electricity. But this will happen after the Baltic states overcome the phantom pains of the Soviet past.

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