June 1, 2017 / 2:35 PM / 3 months ago

EU to work with Baltic states on decoupling from Russian power grid

COPENHAGEN, June 1 (Reuters) - The European Commission will work with the three Baltic states to link their electricity grids to the EU through Poland by 2025 and achieve energy independence from Russia, its energy commissioner said on Thursday.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which were all part of the Soviet Union, want to reduce their dependence on Russian energy by decoupling from the Integrated Power System (IPS) of Russia and Belarus even though Russia has never cut power flows or threatened to do so.

"We have been working quite a lot to finalise a political agreement on the synchronisation of the Baltic States electricity grids with the continental network," Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete told Reuters.

The commission and the Baltic States are in the final stage of preparing a memorandum of understanding to politically endorse the plan to link the bloc's power grid with the Baltics, which could be signed later in June.

"With that MoU there will be agreed a commitment to ensure the full independence of the Baltic States in operating the electricity system through synchronisation of the Baltic States with the European network by 2025," Canete said.

"We have studied all the details to see what option was most cost-efficient and it is this that connects to the continental Europe," the commissioner said.

The synchronisation would require an additional interconnector between Poland and Lithuania, which would cost around 190 million euros ($213.14 million).

Other options considered were a link via the Nordic countries or operation of the Baltic system as a self-standing region.

It has been a long-term wish of the Baltic countries to end their dependence on energy from Russia, partly because of what they say is a lack of transparency on upkeep of the network in Russia.

Currently, Estlink connections between Estonia and Finland, the LitPol Link between Lithuania and Poland and the Nordbalt connection between Sweden and Lithuania have raised the interconnectivity of the Baltics with the EU electricity market to around 22 percent. ($1 = 0.8914 euros) (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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