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Wednesday 21.08.2019 | Name days: Linda, Janīna

Lithuanian president unhappy with Latvia’s decision to purchase energy from Belarus

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Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has voiced sadness over Latvia’s decision to purchase electrical energy produced at Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus not far from the Lithuanian border. He admits, however, that this decision was not unexpected for him.

According to Nausėda, Latvia made this decision without consulting with Lithuania’s Energy Ministry.

«Latvians made a political decision. As far as I am aware, there had been some consultations with Lithuania’s Energy Ministry, but the decision was made before consultations were concluded, which is why the only thing left in this situation is regret,» he told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday, 14 August.

Lithuania, which considers Astravets NPP unsafe, had previously hoped a boycott of its energy would help halt this project. However, other countries in the region and European Union institutions did not support this initiative.

In an attempt to reduce the risk for possible reduction of electrical capacity or negative tariff fluctuations, the Cabinet of Ministry supported Economy Ministry’s proposal on organization of energy trade with third countries, which provides for transferring energy trade to Latvia’s border «the moment when Lithuania will have ceased electricity trade with Belarus».

Ministers explained that energy trade between Baltic States and third countries takes place only on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, but Lithuania has voiced a position to close this border trade with third countries following the commencement of construction of Astravets NPP, which is planned to start at the beginning of 2020. This solution will ensure existing trade conditions with third countries to remain on their current level. Latvia has consulted with Lithuania, Estonia and the European Commission about this solution, Economy Ministry notes.

At the same time, Latvia’s electricity transmission operator will be ordered to start working on a new method for determining trade capacity that would open up Latvian-Russian border for energy trade one Lithuania has ceased energy trade with Belarus.

Nausėda admits that that it is naïve to hope the nuclear power plant project could be halted with economic means. At the same time, he stressed that a project that is, according to him, neither safe nor sustainable should not be supported.

The Lithuanian president believes the previous Lithuanian government should take responsibility for this situation.

«Let’s be honest – using economic means to halt a nuclear power plant that is 90% finished is rather naïve,» he said. «We should have stopped it in 2011-2012, when we were signing memorandums on cooperation with Belarus in the field of nuclear energy. That ship has sailed. In spite of that […], we cannot contribute to the development of this unsustainable and unsafe project.»

As portal was told by ex-Energy Minister of Lithuania Arvydas Sekmokas, Latvia’s decision means energy from Astraviec will also flow to Lithuania, but it’s Latvia who will sign the contracts.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian Seimas Energy Committee’s chairman Virgilijus Poderys admits this news from Latvia causes concerns.

«We are not happy about this. Our position in the Astravets matter is clear and there are several reasons for it – nuclear security, a whole number of breached conventions. The new producer in the eastern neighbouring country does not include environment protection component in the price, creating unfair competition. […] Additionally, by letting energy from Astravets through, we will only worsen our own production promotion conditions,» he said.

According to Poderys, Latvia’s decision shows an intention to gain short-term benefits at the expense of long-term strategic goals. He expressed hope that Lithuania’s Energy Ministry will do all it can to convince Latvia to support Lithuania’s position on the matter.

Lithuanian transmission system operator Litgrid stresses that it will comply with the law that prohibits imports of energy produced by Astravets NPP. The company did not comment on Latvia’s decision. In April 2017, Lithuanian Seimas adopted the law that provides for limiting imports of energy from Astravets NPP and other unsafe nuclear power plants in third countries, declaring this power plant unsafe.

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