The Baltic states will decouple from the electricity grid linked to Russia and Belarus, known as BRELL, at the beginning of 2025, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.
The news comes in the wake of calls from Lithuania to synchronize the Baltic states with the continental European grid, which would require a decoupling from BRELL, as early as next year, 2024.
While the decision to connect to the European grid by the end of 2025 dates back to 2018, Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine from February last year has put renewed focus on making the move happen as soon as possible. The current coalition government's agreement includes a clause to decouple from the Russian grid by 2025 at the latest.
Reuters reports that Kallas said last week: "I understand that Lithuania wants to have it faster, but the question is that ... Estonia would pay the highest price for this (earlier decoupling) in terms of the (cost), but also in terms of risks of blackouts," said Kallas.
"As a compromise, we're (are) agreeing to bring this deadline a year closer. So, leaving in the beginning of 2025," the prime minister continued, speaking on the sidelines of last week's NATO summit in Vilnius.
Lithuania has been pressuring the other two Baltic states to leave the joint electricity system with Russia earlier, while Masiulis, the head of Litgrid, Lithuania's transmissions system operator there, told ERR (link in Estonian) that he would see synchronization in the summer of 2024 as a compromise.
At the same time, Masiulis conceded that this could not be done without Estonia. "We depend on Estonia. So, if they don't change their mind, unfortunately, it will happen according to their schedule (ie. at the beginning of 2025)," Masiulis told Lithuanian Radio on Monday.
"We are seeing what's happening in Ukraine, where people are being slaughtered and the bombs are falling. I don't think it's right to continue cooperating with an aggressor, just because it saves us pennies," Masiulis continued.
However, Estonia's grid operator Elering has said that it considers leaving the Russian grid earlier than 2025 as too risky, as being fully ready for reconnection and stable operation of the system in that time-frame, also with reference to ongoing repair of power lines crossing the border with Latvia.
At the same time, Estonia has confirmed that in an emergency situation it would be able to hook up to the continental European network, within 12 hours at the most.
In 2018, the Baltic states signed an agreement with Poland and with the European Commission, whereby in 2025, the electricity system of the three countries would be separated from the BRELL system shared with Russia and Belarus. This would be supported by EU funds to the tune of €1.6 billion.
The Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania announced at a meeting in Tallinn in May that they would be taking steps towards leaving the Russian electricity grid and joining the continental European grid earlier than the currently planned end of 2025, pending technical issues.
Kaja Kallas said the parties' systems administrators would announce the new deadline for reconnection in August 2024.
The coalition deal signed in April between Reform, Eesti 200 and the Social Democrats states that the Estonian grid would be connected to the continental European grid by 2025 at the latest.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots