The importance of the strategically significant electricity transmission projects in the process towards synchronization with Europe



en_cef_cofinancing.pngThe objectives of the transmission system operator of Latvia, as well as the objective of the common European energy policy, are to ensure stable operation of the electricity transmission system and secure the supply of electricity to consumers. At the same time, the transmission system operator should promote the functioning of the electricity market and help the electricity generation industry to gradually transfer to more environmentally-friendly production.

For Latvia to achieve these goals in the common electricity market of Europe, integration into a single market is essential. Arnis Staltmanis, board member of JSC Augstsprieguma tīkls talks about how to achieve these goals and what projects are being implemented to synchronise Latvia with Europe.

In 2007 the Prime Ministers of the Baltic states signed an agreement on the possibility of changing the synchronous zone in the long term. What is the reason for it, and is it necessary?

Since Soviet times and currently we are working synchronously with Russia and Belarus, which means we are somewhat dependent on these countries. Desynchronisation from the Russian and Belarusian network is to be considered positive, because the Baltic states must be in synch with the area, where trade mostly takes place. Currently, it mainly takes place with the Scandinavian countries and Poland, while with Russia and Belarus it is gradually decreasing, and within the last year it has even fallen just under 10%. In 2015 the transmission system operators of the Baltic states agreed on a roadmap outlining steps towards desynchronisation of the Baltics. When evaluating what had to be done, the year 2025 was set as the deadline.

What has the action plan of Latvia been over these years?

Starting from 2010, when the European Commission (EC) decided to financially support the construction of power transmission infrastructure in Latvia by co-financing the project “Kurzeme Ring”, financial resources were allocated from the common project NordBalt, which provides for the development of power lines and interconnections in the Baltics. Consequently, it was decided to separate the independent transmission system operator from JSC Latvenergo and in 2013  the Latvian trading area was opened in the Baltic electricity market. The next day’s electricity market ELSPOT of the exchange Nord Pool began to operate in Latvia. When thinking about synchronising the work with continental European energy systems, the transmission system operators of the Baltics developed an action plan for 2025. These and a number of other implemented activities and the adopted decisions are gradually driving Latvia and the entire Baltics towards integration into the common European electricity market.

How do you assess the current willingness of the Baltic states to disconnect from the so-called  BRELL energy circle till 2025?

The mentioned term is optimal from a variety of organisational aspects, i.e. on the order to perform the necessary network construction works, to inspect the equipment under the conditions of isolated work, to resolve issues related to the termination of common synchronous work with the Russian and Belarusian transmission system operators. Looking at the current progress of the project, there are no indications that this could happen sooner than by the planned deadline; for example, Turkey’s synchronisation with Europe required 14 years. Research has already shown that it is more rational to connect to the European electricity grid through the Polish network, rather than the Scandinavian networks. These two options have been compared – and it was stated that by connecting to the Scandinavian networks the project would become considerably more expensive, therefore the Polish direction is currently being studied in depth. The main benefits of desynchronisation might be safer cooperation with European energy systems, in line with the principles of the Network Code, and an expanded range of energy services which are provided in European energy systems – frequency regulation, sale of reserves, regulation of consumption load, etc.

What other home-work must Latvia do?

In addition to the Baltic interconnection with the European transmission systems, the transmission system operators of the Baltics strengthen the Baltic transmission network. From 2018 to 2027 the development plan of the Latvian electricity transmission system includes investments in the amount of 445 million euros. European Union (EU) co-financing is or is planned to be allocated to five projects, the investments of which in the 10-year period are estimated at 266 million euros. Currently the co-financing is allocated to three projects: For the construction of the 3rd stage power line and substation of the “Kurzeme Ring” (EU co-financing – 55 million euros, total investments – 128 million euros), for the expansion of the Latvian-Estonian third interconnection power line and substation (EU co-financing – 48.3 million euros, total investments – 102.35 million euros), as well as construction of a new 330 kV transmission line, which will connect Riga TEC 2 with Riga HES (EU co-financing – 9.99 million euros, total investments – 19.98 million euros). In the future, after 2020 along with our Estonian colleagues we plan to also reconstruct the two existing lines from Valmiera to Tartu and Tsirguliina. In June this year the EC will adopt the final decision on the synchronisation of the Baltic electricity grids with continental Europe, and will then discuss the details of how the separation from the BRELL circle will technically be executed with the representatives of Russia and Belarus.

In the future, energy sources are expected to change in the green direction, and JSC Augstsprieguma tīkls is more than ready for it. One of the prerequisites for the construction of Kurzeme Ring was the understanding that wind farms could develop in the near future in the coastal zone and especially in the high seas. The construction of the Kurzeme Ring ensures both the necessary carrying capacity of the network, as well as the security of the entire region: up to now in the conditions of large storms, such as in January 2005 the electricity supply in Kurzeme has been difficult, but after the completion of Kurzeme Ring this problem will be solved.