2021.03.02 15:00

Lithuania embarks on new push to block Belarus nuclear plant

BNS2021.03.02 15:00

Lithuania has proposed a new way to block access for electricity produced at the Belarusian nuclear power plant to the Baltic energy market. Vilnius expects to reach an agreement with Latvia and Estonia by July.

"[The] main principle is that electricity, which will be traded in the Baltic markets, can only come through the Latvian and Estonian physical cross-sections and lines [and not through Russia]. The physical flow coming across the Lithuanian border is not traded," Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys said on Tuesday.

Citing data from the power transmission system operator Litgrid, Kreivys said earlier that Lithuania had already paid almost 4 million euros for electricity produced at the Astravyets NPP in Belarus and that the annual amount would reach 120 million euros if trade between Russia and Latvia continued at these levels.

Lithuanian, the only Baltic country to have a direct electricity connection with Belarus, considers the plant built by Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom some 50 kilometres from Vilnius to be unsafe. Minsk denies all allegations.

Read more: Lithuania plans to hold evacuation drills after Belarus launches nuclear plant

Vilnius says the energy trade methodology that was drafted by the three Baltic countries last year and approved by Latvia and Estonia fails to bar market access for Belarusian electricity, which it says enters via the connection between Russia and Latvia.

Therefore, Lithuania has refused to endorse it and has proposed a new methodology that it says is acceptable to all three countries.

According to Kreivys, Lithuania does not accept Riga’s argument that Latvia's electricity imports from Russia surged in January because of a cold snap.

"Latvia doesn't comment on whether the electricity originated in Belarus or somewhere else. It only says that the significant increase, almost threefold, [in imports] could be due to the cold weather," the minister said.

"However, [...] all flows increased with the start-up of the Astravyets nuclear power plant and the increase [of power production] to its full capacity," he noted.

Plan B

Vilnius is considering a plan B if it can’t reach a deal with Latvia and Estonia, he added.

"We have already asked the [European] Commission today to convene as soon as possible a trilateral [Baltic energy market interconnection plan] BEMIP meeting of the Baltics and the Commission, where we will introduce and discuss our new methodology," he said.

If Lithuania fails to reach a deal with Latvia and Estonia, an alternative plan is envisaged, but not yet approved, according to the minister.

"Lithuania reserves the right to apply the legal and technical measures provided for in option B so as to implement the 'anti-Astravyets' law," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the principles of the new trilateral methodology were endorsed by the Electricity System Synchronisation Commission headed by Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė. The three Baltic states are planning to unplug form the Russian-controlled power grid that also includes Belarus and switch to a continental European network by 2025.

The president-headed State Defence Council is expected to discuss them next week, according to Kreivys.

The minister said he is planning to discuss the Astravyets blockade issue with Ukrainian, Polish and Latvian government officials shortly.