Estonia agrees not to buy electricity from Belarus

Electricity pylon.
Electricity pylon. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Estonia will not buy electricity from Belarus in the future after an agreement was reached with Latvia and Lithuania on Monday about buying electricity from third countries.

Under the agreement, the trade in electricity with Belarus will stop after the launch of the Astravyets nuclear power plant later this year and a system of certificates showing the origin of electricity will be introduced. Electricity from Astravyets power plant would otherwise reach Baltic markets through Latvia which buys electricity through the Russian grid. Latvia agreed not to buy electricity from Astravyets last week.

With the agreement, it is estimated trade between the Baltic States and third countries will be halved. The new agreement is valid until the synchronization of the Baltic electricity systems at the end of 2025.

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center) said: "It is important for us that the agreement includes issues that are important for Estonia - a common tariff for the use of infrastructure and a reduction in trade capacity with third countries. The agreement reached contains these elements, also improving the market position and prospects of our electricity producers."

 Undersecretary of Energy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications Timo Tatar said Estonia has been oriented towards finding solutions throughout negotiations. 

"Equal treatment of market participants, sufficiently hedged risks related to security of supply and improving investment security in the Baltic electricity market are important to us," Tatar said.

To a reduced extent, electricity trade will be directed to the Russian-Latvian cross-section, using the capacities left over from intra-Baltic trade. Electricity trade between Kaliningrad and Lithuania will continue in the current volume.

It was also agreed to introduce a tariff for the use of common infrastructure, which will be done as soon as the required are adopted in Latvia and Lithuania at the start of 2021. Estonian law already allows for this.

The new tripartite methodology for calculating trading capacities will be submitted to energy market regulators at the end of this week, after which the methodology will also be available to Baltic electricity market participants. 

Astravyets has been a contentious issue between the Baltic states with Lithuania having been against the construction of the power plant since it's inception.

The power plant lies only a few kilometers from the border with Lithuania and approximately 50 km from Vilnius. Both safety and environmental concerns have been raised about the plant in the past.

Earlier this summer, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda refused to attend an annual meeting between the three Baltic presidents citing the unresolved situation on buying energy from third countries as the reason. See ERR News' story about the issue for more information.

Tatar told ERR News at the time that Estonia has no interest in buying electricity from Belarus, agrees with the safety concerns raised by Lithuania and expressed support to Lithuania. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said the disagreements were between Latvia and Lithuania.

The Baltic states are planning to synchronize electricity grids with Continental Europe by 2025 which should end the discussion of using Belarusian electricity. It is the period until then that was causing problems.

On Monday, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia agreed on sanctions banning entry to each country against 30 members of the Belarusian leadership including President Alexander Lukashenko for their role in vote-rigging and violence after the presidential elections last month.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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