Latvia’s decision to import electricity from Russia ‘a moral defeat’ for Lithuania, minister says

With Latvia planning to import electricity from Russia, including that generated by the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) under construction in Belarus close to the Lithuanian border, Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas says he sees it as a moral defeat for Lithuania.

The minister adds, however, that Riga’s decisions were not unexpected, given Lithuania’s moves to bar market access for electricity from Astravyets.

Once Lithuania suspends trade with Belarus after the nuclear power plant goes online, Latvia will launch electricity trade on its border with Russia, according to Vaičiūnas.

“Latvia’s move is perhaps a kind of moral defeat for Lithuania, but technically and practically, nothing changes, because Lithuania and Latvia (…) are a one-price area, in other words, the price of electricity in Latvia is the same as in Lithuania,” Vaičiūnas told BNS on Monday.

“There is nothing sensational about this decision: we also have a comment by the Latvian minister [who says] that it is basically aimed at reducing [Latvia’s electricity] deficit,” he added.

The minister noted, however, that it was not clear how to ensure that the nuclear power plant’s electricity was not supplied to the region’s market.

“Latvia has emphasized, both at the level of the prime minister and at the level of the minister, that this is not related to trading electricity from the Astravyets NPP electricity. How it will be ensured that the Astravyets NPP electricity does not enter Russia and is not traded is probably an open question,” he said.

The minister would not comment on what instruments and methods Latvia might use to separate Astravyets electricity from Russian electricity.

“After Latvia made its political decision in principle, further steps will follow and what is obvious is that trade conditions – whether for Russia or, indirectly, for Belarus – in the Baltic countries will be much more complex than they have been until now,” he said.

Although Latvia’s decision is not new in terms of content, it shows a change of orientation, according to Vaičiūnas.

“This decision differs from earlier decisions that were adopted in Latvia a year ago. It does not speak of Astravyets energy imports; it speaks about third countries, Russia in particular. Basically, this decision may be even more favourable to Lithuania than the previous ones,” he said.

However, the minister did not rule out that before the planned synchronization of the Baltic power grids with the continental European system in 2025, there could be a transition period when Astravyets electricity would be supplied to the Baltic region, which would be still part of the post-Soviet power system.

Vaičiūnas said he has discussed the situation with Latvian Economics Minister Ralfs Nemiro.

He expects that, after 2025, all Baltic countries will stick to agreements on trade with third countries.

The Lithuanian government says the Astravyets plant under construction some 50 kilometers from Vilnius fails to meet international safety and environmental standards. Minsk has rejected these concerns as unfounded.

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