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Baltic states unplug from Russian grid

| 2023-08-05 3 min read

Baltic states unplug from Russian grid

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia agreed on Thursday 3 August to decouple from Russia’s BRELL power grid by February 2025, in order to reach full energy independence from the Kremlin.

The three countries in 2018 agreed to integrate into the EU electricity system by the end of 2025, as their membership of BRELL – which also includes Belarus – leaves them vulnerable to energy weaponisation by the Kremlin, which controls the international grid system.

However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly 18 months ago motivated the 3 Baltic national grid operators to this week speed up the process and fully separate from BRELL nearly a year ahead of schedule.

BRELL (Belarus, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) system/ Source: ResearchGate

Thursday’s agreement between Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins, and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, follows the recent corresponding agreement between their countries’ respective national grid operators.

Under the new agreement, the Baltic countries will jointly withdraw from their BRELL contract in the summer of 2024, half a year before synchronisation with the EU’s system. A test run for the decoupling from the BRELL circle will take place in early 2025.

The countries’ leaders said in a statement that joining the Continental Europe Network “holds strategic importance not only for us but for the entire European Union. We stress that it is of utmost importance for the Baltic States to act together in the synchronisation project.

“We must remember that we share a common adversary beyond the eastern border, and maintaining Baltic unity in the current geopolitical situation is particularly crucial,” the statement added.

The three countries are currently connected to European partners through electricity lines with Poland, Sweden and Finland. 

Kallas long-standing proponent of policy

Estonian Deputy Climate Ministry Timo Tatar told local media that bringing forward the early synchronisation will cost around EUR 10mn. Meanwhile new high-voltage lines to Latvia will cost EUR 350mn, 75% of which will be covered by the EU.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and its use of energy as a weapon proves we are dealing with a dangerous and unpredictable state, which is why remaining in the Russian grid is a risk for consumers in Estonia.

Kallas has long been a supporter of decoupling from the BRELL electricity grid system. In 2015, when she was an MEP, Kallas said: “We don’t want to be part of Russia in any way. If we are part of the European Union, we are part of the European Union.”

Lithuania, meanwhile, is already independent from Moscow having stopped importing any Russian energy products, including electricity in May 2022, in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Lithuanian national grid Litgrid CEO Rokas Masiulis said the three national operators have “agreed on specific actions and dates for disconnecting from the Russian system and joining the Continental European Synchronous Zone. For the first time, the operators of the three countries jointly assumed clear obligations to perform synchronisation at the agreed time – February 2025,” Masiulis confirmed.

EU officials welcome development

European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that the agreement “will further reinforce the strength and resilience of the EU’s electricity grid, and our energy independence overall.”

EC Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson noted that the “historical agreement” will see the three Baltic countries join the EU electricity grid “almost one year earlier than previously intended.”

“Today’s agreement is a symbol of European solidarity in action. The project will not only bring energy security in the region and complete the EU integration of the three Baltic States, but will also support the implementation of the Green Deal by ensuring secure, affordable and sustainable energy for the Eastern Baltic Sea region and the Union as a whole,” Simson added.

Map of European Transmission System Operators Organizations (Regional Groups) Continental Europe, Nordic, Baltic, Great Britain and Ireland/Northern Ireland /Source: Wikipedia

Ukraine and Moldova successfully disconnected their electricity systems from the Russian-operated network they were linked to within weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Both were initially scheduled to join the Continental Europe Network early this year.