EU Commissioner: We have no evidence Baltics trade in Astravyets power

High-voltage power lines. Photo is illustrative.
High-voltage power lines. Photo is illustrative. Source: Elering

The European Commission has said there is no evidence that electricity produced at the Astravyets nuclear power plant (NPP) in Belarus is sold on the Baltic market, despite claims by the Lithuanian energy minister and the power transmission operator that commercial flows of electricity enter Lithuania via Russia and Latvia.

Estonia's commissioner Kadri Simson, who is European Commissioner for Energy, said on Thursday the three Baltic states agreed in August that the power trade with Belarus would be suspended after the launch of the Astravyets NPP.

"And commercial exchanges with Belarus effectively stopped on November 3 last year when the nuclear power plant was connected to the grid. And we do not have evidence that would confirm that the electricity sold to the Baltic market by Russia would have been bought from Belarus. But we are looking closely at all information available on trade flows and we will continue following the development," Simson told a meeting of the European Parliament earlier this week.

However, she added that the physical flows from Belarus to the Baltic states were unavoidable, adding that de-synchronization from the post-Soviet BRELL ring which the Baltic states still belong to would effectively help to resolve this problem.

On February 3, Lithuanian Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys said that Lithuania has already paid almost €4 million for Astravyets electricity, despite a ban on imports, and the sum would reach €120 million per year if trade between Russia and Latvia continues at the existing level.

Lithuania's National Energy Regulatory Council and the country power transmission system operator Litgrid said on Wednesday that the Baltic states' power trade with Russia rose 3.5 times since January when the Astravyets nuclear power plant in Belarus started commercial power production.

NERC chairman Renatas Pocius said in a statement on Wednesday: "The actual data shows that there is a direct link between the balance of the Belarusian system and the energy traded in the Latvian market from Russia. In other words, when the Belarusian system is surplus and the country exports energy, the import into the Baltic countries from third countries is increasing. The electricity entering the EU market through the Latvian trading site flows through the Lithuanian-Belarusian interconnections.  All three Baltic countries have to return to a common methodology, responding adequately to changed circumstances and the actual data of the transmission system."

Lithuania's public broadcaster LRT English reported on Friday that Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said the country needs time to look into data provided by Lithuania to prove that electricity from Belarus' Astravyets nuclear plant was being traded in the Baltic countries.

Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who presented the Lithuanian Energy Ministry's data on trade in Astravyets electricity on the Riga power exchange, also said that Latvia needs time to analyze the information.

Vilnius says the methodology that was drafted by the three Baltic countries last year to boycott energy from Belarus, which was not approved by Lithuania, fails to bar market access for Belarusian electricity. Lithuania has now proposed a new methodology.

The Baltic states are currently connected in a joint, Soviet-era energy grid with Belarus, which is controlled from Moscow. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania plan to switch to a European network by 2025.

LRT has also published a feature explaining Lithuania's feud with the Baltic states over energy trade which can be read here.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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