1. What is the Baltic electricity synchronisation project?
Today, the three Baltic States are well interconnected with other neighbouring Member States, including Poland, Sweden and Finland. However, and for historical reasons, their electricity grid is currently operated in a synchronous mode with the Russian and Belarusian systems (commonly known as the BRELL ring).
The synchronisation of the three Baltic States' electricity grid with the continental European network is of key importance for the achievement of the Energy Union. The European Commission is committed to support the Baltic States to this effect.
The Baltic electricity synchronisation project aims at synchronising the electricity network of the three Baltic States with the continental European network (CEN).
Other EU Member States from Central Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, synchronised their systems with the continental European network (CEN) in 1995, while Romania and Bulgaria did so in 2004.
2. Why is this project necessary? Are there clear benefits for EU citizens? How will this project increase security of supply for the Baltics?
The electricity systems of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were developed as an integral part of the Russian and Belarusian systems.
This synchronisation project will allow the three Baltic States to take over the key rights and obligations of controlling the frequency and phase of their own power systems and it will allow their systems to operate under common and transparent European rules, contributing to a strengthening of the energy security of supply for consumers in the Baltic States.
3. How does this project fit into the EU's clean energy transition narrative? Does it foster use of renewables?
The reunification of the Baltics' electricity system with that of continental Europe increases the potential for further energy exchanges, opening the door for renewable energy produced in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to be transferred to the continental European network (CEN). Reaping the benefits from increased renewables production and consumption is a key element of the Clean Energy for All Europeans, which aims to put the EU at the forefront of the clean energy transition, by placing energy efficiency first, achieving global leadership in renewable energies and providing a fair deal for consumers.
4. Why is the Baltic States' electricity grid still operated in a synchronous mode with Russian and Belarusian systems? Why hasn't this been addressed earlier?
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania constituted in the past an energy island. Their electricity networks were not connected to the systems of any other EU Member States.
In the first period after accession to the European Union in 2004, priority was given to building the necessary electricity links between the Baltic States and neighbouring Member States. With the political and financial support of the European Union, such interconnectors were built with Poland (LitPol Link), Sweden (NorBalt) and Finland (Estlink I and II).
The Prime Ministers of the three Baltic States confirmed their strategic objective to become part of the continental European network (CEN) in 2007.
The synchronisation process is technically complex. It requires a comprehensive analysis of the electricity networks in order to identify the solutions that are technically feasible, secure and cost-effective. The project also requires political agreement among the partner Member States as well as with concerned third countries.
5. Is the project on the 2017 Projects of Common Interest (PCIs)? What criteria were followed to include it? What are the benefits of being on the list?
- The synchronisation project is included on the European Union list of Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) adopted on 23 November 2017. The project also featured on the first and the second Union lists of PCIs adopted in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
- For a project to become a PCI, it should be an energy network infrastructure that:
- has a significant impact on at least two EU Member States,
- enhances market integration and contributes to the integration of Member States' networks,
- increases competition on energy markets by offering alternatives to consumers,
- enhances security of supply,
- contributes to the sustainability objective, e.g. by supporting renewable generation.
- PCIs benefit from a number of advantages:
- streamlined permit granting procedures (a binding three-and-a-half-year time limit);
- improved, faster and better streamlined environmental assessment;
- a single national competent authority (one-stop-shop) coordinating all permit granting procedures;
- a procedure allowing for the allocation of investment (construction) costs among Member States benefiting from the PCI;
- under specific conditions, possibility of receiving financial assistance under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) in the form of grants and innovative financial instruments.
6. Will the Baltic synchronisation project be eligible for EU financial support?
Yes. Projects selected as PCIs can automatically benefit from many advantages stemming from the Trans-European Network – Energy (TEN-E) Regulation, including an accelerated permit granting and improved regulatory treatment. PCI status is a precondition for grants under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), but it does not guarantee the award of a CEF grant. In more precise terms, grants to support studies can be requested for all PCIs (except for oil projects). However, when it comes to grants for works, only some projects included on the PCI list will need – and will be eligible for - financial assistance; many of them can be implemented on a commercial basis without EU funds - or other public subsidies. Projects selected as PCIs, upon meeting specific additional criteria, will be able to apply for the CEF support in a separate procedure.
7. Will there be proper consultation of stakeholders during the process? What about environmental impact assessments?
Yes. All the electricity projects that will be built to ensure the synchronous operation of the Baltic States' electricity grid with the continental European network (CEN) will have to undergo a full permit granting process, including comprehensive environmental impact assessments. Such projects will also have to be subject to stakeholder and public consultation processes.
8. What are the next steps? When will the project be fully completed?
At the Ministerial meeting of 18 December 2017, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and the European Commission decided to launch the work in view of reaching, at the latest by June 2018, a political agreement on the preferred solution for synchronising the Baltic States' electricity grid with the continental European network (CEN).
This political agreement will indicate the preferred solution for synchronisation and will allow for the launch of the next phase of the project, i.e. the formal process of extending the continental European network (CEN) to include the Baltic States' electricity network that will be carried out by the European Network of the Transmission System Operators for electricity (ENTSO-E).
The Baltic States aim to complete the synchronisation project by 2025.
9. Where can I obtain additional information the Baltic Synchronisation project?
More information can be obtained on the following websites: