On 31 December 2009, Lithuania shut down Ignalina 2 – its last operating nuclear reactor which supplied almost 70% of the of the country’s electricity. The closure of the 1500MW unit will have major economic and political implications. The Lithuanian government forecasts a 30% increase in electricity prices while Lithuania – previously an electricity exporter – and neighbouring Baltic States are likely to become dependent on Russia for energy imports.
Aloyzas Koryzna, chief executive officer of Lietuvos Energija, the electricity transmission grid operator says the permanent closure of the reactor will not undermine electricity supply to consumers.
“Lithuania has enough generation capacity to meet the demand of consumers and, if necessary, the local power plants can generate about 12TWh of electricity”, Koryzna said.
The projected electricity demand for Lithuania in 2010 is roughly 9.1TWh. Half of this, Koryzna says will be generated by plants inside the country.
It is expected that the Lietuvos Elektrine power plant will generate up to 2.5TWh, renewables 0.35TWh, thermal power plants up to 1.15TWh, and other domestic power plants 1.1TWh. The rest of the domestic power demand will be covered by imported electricity.
The Baltic States are not connected to the Western electricity grid system (UCTE), or to the Scandinavian one (Nordel). They are only linked to the Eastern system (IPS/UPS). Electricity supply contracts have been made with Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine and there are possibilities to import electricity from Scandinavia.
In the longer-term, to compensate for the loss of capacity, Lithuania has decided to build a new nuclear plant at Visaginas. The plant is expected to come into operation by 2018. On 8 December 2009, Lithuania’s government officially launched a tender offer for the strategic investors. The potential investors have to send their bids by 29 January 2010 and the negotiations should be finalised by the end of this year.
In addition, two other nuclear projects are in the pipeline in the region. Russia plans to construct a two-unit NNP at Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave by 2018 (first unit in 2016 and second in 2018) and Belarus is also investigated the possibility to have a new plant by 2018.
Meanwhile the priority of the European Union is to put an end to the energy isolation of the Baltic countries. In June 2009, an action plan called the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP) on how to integrate the Baltic countries in the European energy market was signed by eight Baltic Sea Region countries. The first step is to integrate the three Baltic States in the Nordic countries’ electricity market. Three main projects are being carried out to connect the electricity grid of the Baltic States to the Nordic one: the Estlink (an electricity cable between Estonia and Finland), NordBalt (a connection between Lithuania and Sweden), and LitPol (a connection between Poland with Lithuania). The Baltic interconnection projects are expected to be complete by 2020, while the first new NPP in the region should be online in 2016.
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