Lithuanian grid operator Litgrid is planning to carry out another 24-hour de-synchronization test from the Russian grid on April 22. According to Taavi Veskimägi, chair of Elering's management board, Estonia is well prepared for the Lithuanian test to take place. However, having weighed up the potential benefits against the risks and costs involved, it does not consider a similar test necessary in Estonia and Latvia.
Litgrid had initially planned to carry out the decoupling test in September last year. That plan was subsequently put on hold, due to the electricity market situation as well as the need to ensure the electricity connections between the countries in the region remained at maximum capacity.
The Lithuanian test automatically implies the decoupling of Russia's Kaliningrad exclave.
"This certainly has the potential to affect Elering and the Estonian electricity system due to the fact that we are taking additional precautions. We are raising the level of preparedness both for ourselves and for our partners. We are also reviewing our own network, so if there are any repairs (needed), some lines may have to be brought back into service by then, and we are reviewing possible restrictions on cross-border transmission lines," Veskimägi said.
Lithuania has previously carried out desynchronization tests in 2020 and 2021.
According to Veskimägi, those previous isolation tests in both Lithuania and Kaliningrad have enabled Elering to plan for and work through a range of possible scenarios.
"Our neighbors have provided us with good training during their previous isolation tests. We have been able to practice what we plan to do and what actions are required to mitigate risks."
The main risk is that, while the isolation test is being conducted, the power system will be weaker. However, the risk to Estonian electricity consumers will be no greater than normal. "As we are in a single synchronous area - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia - the grid is weaker. The failure of any single network element is more likely to have a wider negative effect on the whole electricity system," said Veskimägi.
Estonia and Latvia to wait until 2025 for tests
According to Veskimägi, Estonia and Latvia do not consider it necessary to carry out their own separation tests for the time being, with the aim of the Lithuanian test to assess the performance of new equipment and lines in its own electricity system. Meanwhile, work is still ongoing in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to synchronize with the continental European system. "The idea is to do a test when all the new equipment is in place," said Veskimägi.
The war in Ukraine casts new light on the issue of Estonia disconnecting from the Russian and Belarusian exit electricity grid, and connecting to the continental European system, which has remained at the planning stage for almost 10 years. "These kinds of situations always bring more attention to this issue," said Veskimägi
"They may increase the risk of Russia itself also taking some steps to disconnect the Baltics from the Russian electricity system, where we are still operating," he explained.
Veskimägi pointed out, that conducting a separation test involves certain risks as well as costs, which neither Estonia nor Latvia considered reasonable at this stage. However, he added that ultimately the decision to go ahead with testing is made by system operators in each country based on their own risk and needs assessments.
"I certainly don't want to make any judgements. I think that each electricity system operator has the right to carry out whichever technical activities it deems necessary, within the area it controls, to ensure security of supply to its customers. It is certainly Litgrid's right and responsibility to do that."
According to Veskimägi, the Estonian electricity system is also better prepared for the Lithuanian separation test now than it was in the fall. "If the separation test should lead to an escalation of the electricity system, we will be able to synchronize quickly with the continental European electricity system," he said.
Before synchronization with the continental European grid, the three Baltic countries will have to carry out a joint isolation test, with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania forming an "energy island." Once this has been done and the technical requirements for synchronization met, the Baltic countries will be able to operate on the same frequency as the continental European grid.
Editor: Michael Cole