Elering chief lays Belarus energy impasse at feet of Lithuania

Elering management board chair Taavi Veskimägi.
Elering management board chair Taavi Veskimägi. Source: ERR

Lithuania bears most of the responsibility for the lack of consensus on several energy connection issues in the three Baltic States, management board chair of grid distributor Elering, Taavi Veskimägi, says.

"On one side, is Estonia, Latvia and outcome-oriented pragmatism, on the other, a major national desire on the part of Lithuania to demonstrate a beautiful game, for domestic consumption," Veskimägi wrote in a long opinion piece in daily Postimees (link in Estonian).

While the issue of the Astravyets nuclear power plant in neighboring Belarus has brought things into sharp relief, wider questions including whether the Baltic States should join with the Nordic countries or Central Europe in their electricity grids, as well as how to proceed on a common gas market, date back further, he wrote.

Veskimägi also wrote that Lithuania had taken a unilateral stance in the energy sector and in its related domestic laws, without consulting with Estonia and Latvia, which, given the Lithuanian decisions affect the other two Baltic States as well, is not a basis for good cooperation.

According to Veskimägi, Estonia and Latvia do not want to join in with Lithuania's boycott of purchasing electricity from Belarus – on the grounds of both environmental concerns around Astravyets, just a few kilometers from the Lithuanian border, and fears of the Kremlin influencing Minsk and thus the Baltic States too – because it could jeopardize electricity supply more generally.

Russia could consider disconnecting its electricity supply to the Baltics ahead of the planned decoupling/EU grid synchronization scheduled for 2025, which would be a worse outcome than sticking to Russian supply until then, even if unfair market conditions arose, Veskimägi wrote.

Since Russian and Belarusian electricity is not subject to EU carbon emissions taxes, it has in recent years appeared on the market and undercut local prices. Even without a direct grid link to Belarus (unlike Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia does not share a border with that country), its electricity still finds its way to Estonia via the NordPool marketplace.

Finland also imports electricity from the Russian Federation.

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda canceled his participation in last week's Saaremaa summit hosted by Kersti Kaljulaid, part of a long-running annual tradition of the heads of state meeting, at the last minute. Latvian President Egils Levits attended.

Latvia and Estonia do not oppose the Lithuanian boycott on Belarusian energy, but have not joined it either.

Estonia's view on the policy can be read here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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