Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have reached a political agreement with Poland to synchronise their energy grids with the continental European network by 2025.
The three countries joined the EU in 2004, but have yet to synchronise energy grids with the bloc. Instead, all three countries are still synchronised with Russia and Belarus, thanks to a legacy ‘unified energy system’ from the time of the Soviet Union, which proved too complicated to dismantle when the union collapsed in 1992, for a variety of reasons.
However, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have become increasingly concerned about their dependence on Russia for energy, particularly as the latter country continues to make aggressive territorial moves like the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. These countries’ power systems are tightly interconnected with Russia’s, and new developments where needed to make synchronising the energy systems possible.
How will the countries synchronise energy grids?
Beginning in 2006, a number of projects sought to create new power lines between the relatively isolated Baltic states and the rest of the EU. Since 2016 Lithuania has maintained two high-voltage underwater cables with Finland, while Lithuania has one 700MW cable with Sweden, and a cable with 500MW of capacity with Poland, called ‘LitPol’.
While these existing cables will be valuable in the Baltic states’ efforts to synchronise energy grids, the countries currently maintain only one link to mainland Europe in the form of LitPol, and experts expect at least one additional cable would be needed to properly manage the transition away from the Russian energy system. This, in turn, could require significant funding, as more than €1.4bn has been invested in building the existing pipelines.
How will the European Commission support this transition?
Despite the cost, this synchronisation is of vital importance for the European Commission, which aims to create an Energy Union which would allow the free flow of energy between member states. At LitPol’s inauguration ceremony, Commissioner for Energy Miguel Arias Cañete, said: “In a true ‘Energy Union’ there is no room for energy islands and electricity has to be able to flow freely across borders. Today we are taking a significant step forward in bringing more security of supply for electricity consumers in the region.”
The ambition of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to fully join the Energy Union by 2025 will be a vital step towards implementing this vital EU strategy.