2019.08.27 09:00

Can Lithuania close its grid to Belarusian nuclear energy?

Lithuania is intent on banning electricity from Belarus' new nuclear power plant from entering its grid, but its efforts might be in vain unless its Baltic neighbours are onboard.

After it became clear that Vilnius' protestations will not stop the launch of the Astravyets nuclear power plant, Lithuania passed a law closing its border to electricity from Belarus and, by the same token, Russia.

However, in order not to admit any electricity from the Astravyets NPP into its grid, Lithuania needs to make sure it won't reach it indirectly, say, from Latvia.

It was therefore a blow when, this month, Latvia said that it would start importing power from Russia, potentially opening the Baltic grids to electricity from Astravyets as well.

Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas then commented that Latvia's decision was a “moral defeat for Lithuania”.

Read more: Latvia's decision to import electricity from Russia ‘a moral defeat’ for Lithuania, minister says

The issue of Belarusian electricity was discussed between the prime ministers of Lithuania and Latvia who met in Riga last week.

In a joint press conference, Latvia's Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš confirmed that his country considered importing Russian electricity via an interconnection on its border. “We need to think about our users and prices,” he said.

Lithuania's Saulius Skvernelis said he was reassured by his counterpart that “the Latvian government has not made any decisions to buy electricity specifically from the Astravyets nuclear power plant”.

“I am satisfied with that reassurance,” Skvernelis said.

Energy Minister Vaičiūnas, however, has admitted that, if Latvia opens up the interconnection with Russia, there is no way to filter out the Belarusian electricity.

“There is a theoretical possibility for electricity from Astravyets to flow into Latvia via the Russian system,” he told LRT TV programme Savaitė last week. “Let me stress, however, that it is a theoretical possibility. How realistic it is in practice – there are still many unanswered questions.”

The Baltic states are part of the BRELL circuit with Russia and Belarus and will be until at least 2025. In June, they signed a political declaration with Poland and the European Commission on synchronizing their grids with those of Western Europe.

“After the synchronization, there will be no possibility to import electricity from Russian and Belarus at all,” says Vaičiūnas.

But in the meantime, Lithuania may need to accept the fact that it cannot completely stop electricity from Astravyets NPP from flowing into its grid.

The first block of the facility is due to become operation by the end of this year, with the second one scheduled for next year.

Read more: Belarus' nuclear plant timeline – from Rosatom, to construction accidents 50 kilometers from Vilnius

Read more: Lithuanian government purchasing 4m iodine pills in preparation for Belarus NPP launch