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Virgilijus Poderys
© Photo by Olga Posaškova

On 21 June 2018, the Seimas endorsed the National Energy Independence Strategy. The Strategy draws the main energy guidelines until 2050. It focusses on synchronisation with the continental Europe and renewable energy.

The Strategy schedules the disconnection from the Russian power system by 2025. By 2030, the major focus will be placed on energy prosumers and the development of wind energy, as well as further use of renewables.

By the mid-21st century, the major share of the total energy demand in Lithuania will be satisfied by using clean energy resources and all the electricity consumed will be produced domestically. Hence, Lithuania will move towards the development of renewable energy by shifting from energy import to domestic energy production.

Synchronisation as a priority of energy security

Although in recent years the energy sector in Lithuania has been substantially transformed and energy dependence on Russia reduced, energy security remains a priority. As a result, the Strategy provides for the completion of the fundamental energy security project, namely synchronisation with the continental European network by 2025.

It should be stressed that synchronisation is often mistaken for connection to the European network. In terms of power connections, our region is reasonably well connected to Europe. We have a connection with Finland in the North, a connection with Sweden in the West, and a connection with Poland in the South. Synchronisation is basically taking over the control of the frequency of the electricity grid, because in terms of frequency, our grid is still monitored from control-rooms in Moscow.

This gap can indisputably be exploited by Russia as a tool of social, political, and economic blackmail. All the more so considering that the propaganda media close to the Kremlin claims that Russia is making intensive preparations for desynchronisation and is likely to be prepared well before 2025.

During the debate on the draft Energy Strategy, the subject of possible blackmail by Russia was constantly addressed by both the Energy Commission and the Committee on Economics. Therefore, by autumn, the Ministry of Energy is to draft a comprehensive action plan on a stable operation of the power system if the necessity arose to disconnect from the Russian electricity ring or Lithuania was disconnected from it before managing to synchronise with the European network.

Desynchronisation is also closely related to blocking the unsafe power plant in Astravyets. Actually, last year, the Seimas adopted a law concerning unsafe nuclear power plants with a view to protecting national interests. The law prohibits electricity trade with third countries that operate unsafe nuclear power plants. Moreover, according to the Strategy, when the Lithuanian electricity system is synchronised with the European continental network in 2025, electricity from third countries will have no access to the Lithuanian system. This means that electricity flows from Astravyets, Belarus, will be restricted.

Towards renewable energy

Renewable energy is another important direction of the Strategy and is closely linked to energy security. Energy experts agree that domestic energy production from renewables is the foundation for energy security and independence in any country. Domestic energy production makes use of domestic energy resources, such as solar and wind energy, biomass, and geothermal energy, and reduces dependence on electricity import.

In 2030, according to the Strategy, Lithuania will be producing over 2/3 of electricity for consumption and almost half of it will be produced from renewables, mostly from wind energy. By the middle of the century, Lithuania will be producing 100 % of electricity for domestic consumption and 80 % of electricity will be produced from renewables. Today, unfortunately, Lithuania imports over 2/3 of electricity. This high rate of electricity import makes us unique in a negative sense in Europe.

In order to encourage the development of green energy, the Strategy envisages active engagement of the population in energy production. New energy prosumers will be offered favourable conditions for producing energy from renewables for own consumption. One third of the population is expected to produce electricity for own consumption by 2030 and half of the population is expected to do so by 2050.

Smart grids will empower consumers

The development of green energy and energy prosumers will be coupled with the development of smart grids, smart meters, and smart accounting. This will enable consumers to go even further. They will be able to choose an energy supplier and consumption time while reading meters will become ancient history. Energy prosumers will be able to store their surplus electricity in the grid or sell it at daytime when it is most expensive.

It is equally important for smart grids to facilitate both the stability of the electricity grid and the balance of electricity flows. This means that an electricity distribution operator could make an agreement with consumers on minor reduction in electricity supply for compensation in order to maintain the stability of the grid at daytime when industry consumes most electricity. The minor reduction of supply would not even be detected by consumers but it would make the grid more stable.

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In general, the Energy Strategy is needed for all the stakeholders, from investors to consumers, to be aware of the direction Lithuania and its energy sector are heading for. Nevertheless, past experience shows that previous energy strategies have partly remained on paper. Therefore, I hope that this Energy Strategy, which we have devoted so much time and effort to, will be eventually implemented in reality.