Baltics to step up efforts to decouple from Russian power grid

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Baltic prime minister in Tallinn in May, 2023.
Baltic prime minister in Tallinn in May, 2023. Source: Jürgen Randma / Government Press Bureau

The prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, after meeting in Tallinn on Friday, said that the countries will try to desynchronize from the Russian power grid to join its mainland Europe alternative ahead of the recent deadline of late 2025. The new deadline will depend on technical capacity.

"Today we agreed to continue discussions on accelerating synchronization as soon as all of the technical studies are finished. In doing so, we will try to find a joint timeline for acceleration. Ministers responsible for energy will continue working on details. And we will continue to coordinate closely with the European Commission and Poland," PM Kaja Kallas said on Friday.

"When accelerating the process, we must also consider the need to minimize technical risks and additional burden on consumers. Reconstruction of high-voltage lines and synchronous condensers is going according to plan in Estonia, with the readiness to disconnect the grids created gradually. We are better prepared with every passing day, and should the incoming analysis suggest we can expedite certain stages without too much additional risk, this should be done," Estonia's Minister of Climate Kristen Michal said in a press release.

Latvian PM Krisjanis Karins said at the press conference on Friday that desynchronization is also a priority for Latvia, adding that Lithuania's successful desynchronization test demonstrated that the goal is closer at hand than the Baltics might have thought.

Prime Minister of Lithuania Ingrida Simonyte suggested that switching the three Baltic countries' systems over to the Central European grid is both a technical and political project as the existing energy links to Russian might not be reliable. She also pointed to Russian actions in Ukraine where its forces have hit power infrastructure. Simonyte remarked that Russia might use power systems to put pressure on the Baltics.

"The political goal is clear, as none of us want to be tied to this particular grid any longer than we have to."

Lithuania has previously said that it would like to make the switch in 2024.

Deadline could be brought forward a year

Elering's board chairman Taavi Veskimägi told ERR that speeding up the process depends on technical preparations. 

As the construction of the last Estonian-Latvian power line is likely to take place ahead of schedule, there is hope the reconnection could take place one year ahead of schedule. Two of the necessary three are already built.

"We have managed to negotiate with the contractor that we can bring the construction of the third line from the originally planned completion date of October 2025 to December 2024, and that certainly opens up the possibility for Estonia that we can potentially talk about synchronization earlier than the end of 2025, at a risk acceptable to the consumer," said Veskimägi to ERR.

A faster construction pace will cost an additional €10 million, he said. The money can be taken from the company's investments rather than consumers.

"Elering has promised from the very beginning that the approximately €350 million in investments we are making in the synchronization project will not lead to an additional increase in network charges for consumers, so the €10 million in additional network charges will not lead to an increase in network charges for consumers. We are doing the investment side of this synchronization project without any additional cost to the consumer," he said.

Minister for Climate Kristen Michal (Reform) told ERR that bringing resynchronization forward depends on risk analyses and studies that will be completed in June or July. Decisions can be made afterwards.

Baltic unity is the "most important thing" to consider, he said.

"If you look at this whole energy market from a trade and security perspective, the Baltic States are historic allies in terms of Russian influence. So if we are working on desynchronization here, we are certainly working together, and that is also shown by this partnership today, where the prime ministers of the three Baltic states visited Tallinn this morning," the minister said. 


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Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski, Helen Wright

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