An autotransformer barge designed to expand the Lithuanian-Polish power grid LitPol Link moves past the Russian town of Sovetsk in Panemune, Lithuania, May 14, 2021 REUTERS / Ints Kalnins
On Friday, a barge carrying equipment marched under a bridge between Lithuania and Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave to help the Baltic states gain access to Europe’s power grid as the former Soviet republics seek to end their dependence on electricity supplied by Moscow.
Border guards from both countries watched as a ship with a 164-ton crate, called an autotransformer, sailed past, leaning slightly under the weight of the cargo.
30 years after secession from the former Soviet Union and 17 years after joining the European Union, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia continue to depend on Russia for a stable supply of electricity.
“We are dealing with our eastern neighbor – you never know what might happen,” Energy Minister Dainius Kreivis told Reuters in Klaipeda port on Thursday when an autotransformer was loaded onto a barge.
“For this reason, we are installing this alarm system now to be sure of our safety.”
A € 1.6 billion ($ 1.94 billion) project funded by the European Union aims to disconnect the Baltic states from Russia and Belarus in 2025 and connect them to the decentralized energy system of continental Europe.
But Lithuania wants an insurance policy in case Russia cuts power earlier, which could cause a power outage. The autotransformer will allow Lithuania to immediately connect to the continental European network, added Kreivis.
“If our eastern neighbor turns us off, we can get help from Western Europe,” he said.
As the Baltic states secede from the Russian energy system, the territory of Kaliningrad, where the Russian Baltic Fleet is located and where its Iskander nuclear missiles are stationed, will be cut off from Russia.
Late last year, Russia launched the last of four gas-fired power plants that it hopes will provide Kaliningrad with electricity, as part of a 100 billion rubles ($ 1.35 billion) project funded through dividends from energy giants Gazprom. and Rosneft.
The final terms for the divorce of the power systems of Russia and the Baltic States have not been agreed upon.
“The negotiations are going to be tough, so we have to be prepared,” Cravis said.
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