It appears that Lithuania is no longer combatting the opening of Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant along, with Latvia joining. The neighbouring country, just like Lithuania, has declared that it will not purchase electricity from the Belarussians. However, energy industry specialists wonder whether it will be possible to ensure that Belarussian electricity won’t enter the Baltic States, Vilija Mačiulskytė wrote in TV3.lt
Energy industry specialist Vidmantas Jankauskas explains that by deciding to not purchase electricity from Belarus, Latvia has demonstrated solidarity with Lithuania.
“It could be that this decision by our neighbours won’t be favourable for them financially. However, we should celebrate and value our neighbours for their support and cooperation in regard to the power plant in Astravyets.
However, I do not think that through this decision, we will ham Astravyets NPP in any way. It will still become operational even if the Baltic States refuse to purchase its power. It will still be operational even if the Baltic States do not purchase its power. Of course, signing an electrical power supply agreement with Lithuania would have been convenient for the Belarussians for the use of Kruonis pumped storage hydroelectric plant. However, they will find ways how to make do without Lithuania,” the specialist explains.
When asked about the danger posed by Astravyets NPP, V. Jankauskas notes that even now we purchase electricity from power plants of dubious safety standards.
“Lithuania and the Baltic States purchase power from Russian power plants, which are the exact same as Ignalina NPP, which we shut down because it was decided it is unsafe.
Astravyets NPP is definitely safer than plants operating in Russia right now. Of course, the fact that the power plant was built next to us is nothing to celebrate. After all, there is always a risk of an accident occurring,” the specialist notes.
Difficult to avoid Belarusian electricity
Former Minister of Energy Arvydas Sekmokas has doubts on the safety of Astravyets NPP.
“The power plant was built in breach of environmental conservation and nuclear safety requirements and without upholding construction safety requirements. This shows that the plant is dangerous and an accident in it is just a matter of time. Of course, you can discuss the scale of the accident. However, in any case, Lithuania would not escape danger,” the specialist notes.
According to A. Sekmokas, the Latvian decision to not purchase electricity from the Belarussians is just a polite gesture.
“This Latvian decision changes nothing for Lithuania. Belarussian electricity will still be able to reach Latvia through Russia. Furthermore, after this Latvian declaration, Lithuania stated that it would continue negotiations with the Baltic States.
The discussion should be one of the Baltic States not purchasing electrical power from third countries and not just Belarus. This question is fundamental and remains unresolved,” the specialist explains.
According to A. Sekmokas, Lithuania has legally established that it will not purchase electricity from Belarus.
“I believe that Lithuania will stand by this law. However, four electrical transfer lines still pass through Lithuania from Belarus and through them, Belarussian electricity will flow into Lithuania through the Russian Brell ring. Thus, Belarussian electricity will reach Lithuanian consumers.
Questions arise regarding payment for it. However, if it enters Lithuania, it means that the electricity is necessary; otherwise, we could cut these lines,” S. Sekmokas says.
According to him, another important aspect is that the Brell ring and the Lithuanian electrical power transfer system will still be controlled from a dispatch in Moscow. Thus, this question should be resolved by withdrawing from the Brell agreement.
“But there is already some good news. Litgrid, the operator of the Lithuanian electrical power transfer system has reached an agreement to no longer supply reserve services to countries on the Brell ring, neither receiving reserves from countries on the ring in return. However, Lithuania has secured reserve services from Poland and Sweden.
This is a step that indicates that Lithuania is moving away from the Brell agreement. The abandoning of reserve exchange should come into power next year,” S. Sekmokas comments.
According to him, Lithuania should face no financial losses due to abandoning Belarussian electricity.
“The price would differ perhaps only by tenths of a cent. Thus, the decision to not purchase Belarussian electricity will have little impact on the market.
However, in order to exert influence on Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant, we should make the decision to not purchase electricity from it in unison with the the rest of Baltic States. This is because if our neighbours purchase electricity from third countries, Belarussian electricity will enter the Baltic States. A Lithuanian decision on its own will have less impact.
Nevertheless, we should not forget that all four electrical power transfer lines from Belarus pass through Lithuania. Thus, in order to abandon Belarussian electricity, we should shut down those lines,” the specialist says.
Opportunity for renewable energy
Chief economist at the SEB bank Tadas Povilauskas says that there haven’t even been any attempts to find out whether Belarussian electricity would be cost-effective for Lithuania or not.
“The focus was on safety and not money. As such, we never even considered or calculated how much Belarussian electricity would cost and if it would be more affordable,” the economist explains.
Luminor chief economist Žygimantas Mauricas says that the larger price and decision to not purchase electricity from the Belarussians will encourage greater investment in renewable energy.
“Lithuania has the opportunity to lay the foundations for developing sustainable, green and competitive energy infrastructure. Meanwhile, Astravyets NPP on the sort side of the border is as if candy, which might seem really sweet, but as we would see in time – would begin harming our teeth.
The short term benefits of lower prices could lead to us being more dependent on electrical power imports and belatedly getting on board the renewable energy revolution train. Europe intends to completely restructure its energy system by 2050. Thus, Lithuania too should invest in its generation capacities,” the economist comments.
According to him, Russia and Belarus’ nuclear energy has poor future prospects. Thus, Lithuania should either try to seek opportunities to develop its own renewable energy capacities or join the European countries, which are already investing in renewable energy right now.
Vaičiūnas: due to the non-purchase of electricity from Astravyets, Belarus will lose hundreds of millions
If the Baltic States decide to not purchase electrical power from Astravyets NPP, which is perceived as being unsafe, Minister of Energy Žygimantas Vaičiūnas says that this could lead to Belarus losing “hundreds of millions of euro” in revenue per year.
“One thing is clear and that’s that the non-purchase of electricity in terms of both Lithuania and the Baltic States as a whole will harm Astravyets NPP because according to our calculations, over a year, Belarus would lose hundreds of millions of euro in revenue,” Ž. Vaičiūnas said on the LRT show Dienos Tema on Wednesday.
He emphasised that Astravyets NPP was built for electricity export and so, the Baltic States’ decision would reduce its prospects for financial returns.
Former Vice Minister of Energy Romas Švedas says that if Belarus has nowhere to export electricity generated in Astravyets, the project will completely fail.
“The new nuclear power plant was built with the express purpose of exporting electricity. This means that Belarus has sufficient electrical power generation capacities, producing electrical power through the use of Russian gas, which it receives at under market price,” R. Švedas said on the show.
“If the goal is export, but there is none of it being done, then the project will fail,” he added.
Furthermore, R. Švedas mused that Russia could abuse its dominant position in the Belarussian energy market by terminating its supply of oil and gas to Belarus.
“If the supply of natural gas is cut, Belarus will face the question of what to generate electricity from,” the expert mused.
Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš declared this Tuesday that Latvia would halt trading electrical power with Belarus if Astravyets NPP launches. He said that in such a case, Latvia could begin trading electricity through the Latvian-Russian link.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis applauded the Latvian decision. S. Skvernelis also declared that the Baltic States are expected to sign a political declaration on Astravyets in the near future, which would proclaim the joint position of all three states to not purchase Belarussian electricity once the nuclear power plant in Astravyets launches.