Estonia grid connected to Europe 'in 12 hours' in event of Russia blackout

An electrician climbing a pylon.
An electrician climbing a pylon. Source: Elering

Should Russia decide to disconnect the Baltic States from its electricity grid, all three countries could synchronize with the continental European system, a situation which will be in place in 2025 in any case, within six-to-twelve hours at the most, Taavi Veskimägi, head of the Estonian grid distributor Elering, said Friday.

Speaking at a press conference, Veskmägi said: "Currently, we have achieved initial readiness to the extent that within 6-12 hours, we will be able to synchronize ourselves with the continental European network through the Lithuanian-Polish connection."

Disconnection from the Russian grid has been on the table since 2010, Veskimägi added, though dissenting voices had been heard.

"The political consensus on synchronizing the Baltic states with continental Europe only emerged in 2019, when the prime ministers of the three Baltic states, plus the European Commission, signed off on it," he said, adding that joining European electricity grid is as significant a step as joining NATO or the EU was, back in 2004.

"Certainly, given the threat picture, the risk is greater today than ever before. An emergency separation could happen at any moment - at any minute, in fact, since it takes a few minutes to turn off the AC connections on the Russian side."

While preparations for leaving the joint grid system, linked to Belarus as well as Russia (BRELL), the key development now is that electricity trade with both countries has ceased, while getting hooked up to the European grid within six to 12 hours would take place via the Lithuanian-Polish connection, Veskimägi said.

While several other interstate connections are ready and backup power plants are also ready, it will take until 2025 to finalize, while the threat of interruption from the Russian side between now and then will not completely evaporate, particularly if the Kaliningrad exclave is able to maintain independently its own network and frequency – removing any risk to the region, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, but part of the Russian Federation, of itself being cut off from the European side.

The legal framework and preparations towards a Polish-Swedish link are also finalized, Veskimägi added.

Taavi Veskimägi (left) speaking at the press conference, Friday, September 23 2022. Source: ERR

"All in all, the risks have risen, but we have taken additional steps to mitigate them, and we feel that we are ready for such a situation and can handle it; were it to arise, the lights will stay on, and the homes will stay warm," he went on.

Were Estonia and the other two Baltic States to provide frequency maintenance service guarantees, this would be viable, though would incur additional costs to consumer, the Elering chief went on.

Friday's press conference was organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, whose Undersecretary for Energy, Timo Tatar (pictured), was also present.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) announced earlier Friday that Russia has canceled a power network isolation test planned for Kaliningrad this Saturday.

Kallas had said in a statement to the Estonian people made Friday evening that: . "It would be wise to be prepared for possible power outages," referring to a potential cut-off from the Russian side of the border.

Naturally even a six-hour outage would cause major problems for people, exacerbated by it being a nationwide and regional, rather than a local, power cut; the state preparedness website "Ole Valmis" has this information in English on such an eventuality.

As noted, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are due to synchronize with the Continental Europe Synchronous Area (CESA) in 2025.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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