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Russia Prepares for Baltic Energy Exit

The three Baltic states are moving forward with a plan to leave the Soviet-era energy grid.

3 January 2019

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are planning to complete the switch from the Russia-Belarus energy grid to the European grid by 2025. The switch is part of the European Union’s long-term strategy of reducing reliance on Russian energy.

 

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic will discuss the transition with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak early this month, a ministry spokesman told TASS in late December.

 

The ministry favors the Baltic states remaining in the Russian-led BRELL energy system, the spokesman said.

 

Baltic consumers will end up paying for the switch to the more expensive European system. Lithuania’s energy cost-setting body recently announced big increases in electricity and gas prices.

 

The news “sparked stories in the pro-Kremlin media (in both the Lithuanian and Russian languages), attempting to sow doubt among the population about Lithuania’s energy policy,” Dalia Bankauskaite of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) think tank in Washington wrote.

 

Taavi Veskimagi, chief executive of Estonian energy company Elering, said Russia could start charging Estonia for costs related to its exit from BRELL.

 

"And indeed, there is essentially nothing wrong with this. They are, in essence, providing a frequency regulation service for us,” he told public broadcaster ERR.

 

Stating that the cost of a three-day blackout in the Baltics would be 2.3 billion euros, Veskimagi said he did not agree with the argument that joining the European grid would be expensive.

 

 

• The Baltic plan also foresees the three countries stopping the purchase and sale of power to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave. To prepare, Russia is building four new power plants in Kaliningrad.                                

 

• Electricity prices for Lithuanian residential customers will rise by 15 percent, and gas prices by 15-20 percent. Industrial users will pay 40 percent more for electricity and 20 percent for gas, Bankauskaite writes.

 

• Lithuanian mainstream media noted that this was the first electricity rate rise in five years, and said it reflected international energy prices rises.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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