Joining the Baltic power system to mainland Europe will boost renewables

He was speaking at a breakfast meeting organised by European Wind Energy Association on an EU action plan on energy interconnections and market improvement in the Baltic region, known as the Baltic Energy Market Integration Plan (BEMIP). The meeting was attended by eight MEPs, including the host Arturs Krišjânis Kariòš, ITRE Rapporteur on the regulation on cross-border exchanges in electricity, Alejo Vidal Quadras, Bendt Bendtsen and Tunne Kelam.

Latvian Karins, who chaired the meeting, talked of the big task of unifying regions with such a diverse energy mix as Estonia (whose energy comes largely from oil shale) and Poland (coal).

Piebalgs himself stressed the need for stable legal frameworks to entice and retain investors in the region, and for a fairer power market. The crucial question is if a fully functional internal electricity market can be achieved. This would lead to more renewables on the grid, he said, a point echoed by EWEA Chief Executive Christian Kjaer.

“If investors in power plants can pass off future unknown costs to consumers, they will choose to invest in gas, which is relatively inexpensive up-front”, Kjaer said. “But as soon as they have to cover fuel and carbon costs themselves, they will want to invest in wind, which is a sure bet as it has no additional, changeable costs.”

Interconnectors – which link up different parts of the power grid – can be a very worthwhile investment, he added. For example, the NorNed cable was paid off in four to five years, and it should have a lifetime of over ten times longer.

Kjaer finished by saying that according to EWEA’s latest research (to be released on 4 December), by 2020 the three Baltic countries could have 9% (Latvia), 10% (Estonia) and 13% (Lithuania) of their electricity from power wind equaling 2,000 MW of total capacity by 2020, an amount which Germany currently installs every year.

The official implementation phase of the BEMIP was launched at the BEMIP Regional Conference which took place last week in Vilnius, Lithuania. A first progress report is expected later in December.