Today the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has signed, jointly with Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of Lithuania, Māris Kučinskis, Prime Minister of Latvia, Jüri Ratas, Prime Minister of Estonia and Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of Poland Political Roadmap for synchronising the Baltic States' electricity grid with continental Europe.
1. What is the Baltic electricity synchronisation project?
Over the recent years the three Baltic States have ended their electricity isolation by building new interconnections with Finland, Poland and Sweden. However, for historical reasons, their electricity grid is still 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 grids with the continental European network is a key political priority aiming to ensure secure, affordable and sustainable energy for the eastern Baltic Sea region, as well as one of the flagships of the Energy Union. The European Commission is committed to supporting the Baltic States to this effect.
Other EU Member States from Central Eastern Europe, including the Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, synchronised their systems with the continental European network (CEN) between 1995 and 2004.
2. What are benefits of this project 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 gain full control of their electricity networks and to strengthen the energy security, allowing their systems to operate under common and transparent European rules to the benefit of all the consumers in the Baltic States.
3. What is the subject of the Political Roadmap agreed by the Leaders?
The Political Roadmap defines the process and puts forward a concrete solution for synchronising the Baltic States' electricity system with the continental European Network by the target date of 2025.
Pending final confirmation from the security, cost and time perspective, the technical solution consists of the synchronisation via the existing line between Lithuania and Poland (LitPol Link), complemented by a new undersea cable between Poland and Lithuania and a number of technical solutions to ensure the full stability and security of the electricity system (such as synchronous condensers etc.), reasonable costs and market functioning.
4. What will the role of Member States' Transmission System Operators (TSO) be and that of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for electricity (ENTSO-E)?
Under the Political Roadmap endorsed by the Leaders, the Polish and the Baltic States' Transmission System Operators (TSOs) will launch a formal procedure for the extension of the continental European network to the Baltic States that will be managed by ENTSO-E (European Network of Transmission System Operators).
The TSOs of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, in close coordination with ENTSO-E, will ensure the development of the measures necessary for the extension of the continental European networks to the Baltic States.
5. 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.
6. 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 third 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, recognising the synchronisation of the Baltic States' electricity system with the European networks as one of the European strategic projects.
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.
7. 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). 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. Projects selected as PCIs, upon meeting specific additional criteria, will be able to apply for the CEF support in a separate procedure. In this context, the Baltic synchronisation project is considered a priority. The currently ongoing CEF call for proposals will remain open till 11 October 2018. Two CEF calls are planned for 2019.
8. 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.
9. What are the next steps? When will the project be fully completed?
On 28 June 2018, the Political Roadmap on synchronising the Baltic States' electricity grid with the continental European network was endorsed by President Juncker and the Heads of State or Government of the Baltic States and Poland, paving the way for the next phase of the project, which is a formal process of extending the continental European network to include the Baltic States' electricity network.
Upon the green light from the high-level group on Baltic Energy Market Integration Plan in September 2018, the Polish and Baltic States' Transmission System Operators (TSOs) will launch a formal procedure that will be managed by the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E).
The Baltic States and Poland aim to complete the synchronisation project by 2025.
10. Where can I obtain additional information the Baltic Synchronisation project?
More information can be obtained on the following websites: