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'You never know': Baltics rush to end reliance on Russian power grid

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By Reuters
'You never know': Baltics rush to end reliance on Russian power grid
'You never know': Baltics rush to end reliance on Russian power grid   -   Copyright  (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021. Click For Restrictions -   -  

<p><body> <p>By Andrius Sytas</p> <p><span class="caps">PANEMUNE</span>, Lithuania (Reuters) – A barge carrying equipment to help Baltic states access Europe’s power grid passed under a bridge between Lithuania and Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave on Friday, as the former Soviet republics seek to end their reliance on electricity supplied by Moscow.</p> <p>Border guards from both countries looked on as the vessel laden with a 164-tonne crate called an auto-transformer chugged past, tilting slightly under the weight.</p> <p>Thirty years after splitting from the former Soviet Union and 17 years since joining the European Union, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia still depend on Russia to ensure stable power supplies.</p> <p>“We deal with the Eastern neighbour – you never know what can happen,” Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys told Reuters on Thursday in Klaipeda port, as the auto-transformer was loaded on to the barge.</p> <p>“For this reason, we are installing this emergency system now just to be sure that we are secure.”</p> <p>A 1.6 billion euro ($1.94 billion) project financed by the European Union aims to disconnect the Baltic states from Russia and Belarus in 2025 and connect them to the decentralised power system of continental Europe.</p> <p>But Lithuania wants an insurance policy in case Russia cuts off power earlier, potentially causing blackouts. The auto-transformer would allow Lithuania to link up to the continental Europe grid immediately, Kreivys added.</p> <p>“If the Eastern neighbour cuts us off – we will be able to get help from Western Europe,” he said.</p> <p>As the Baltic states decouple from Russia’s power grid, the territory of Kaliningrad – home to the Russian Baltic Fleet and a deployment site for its nuclear-capable Iskander missiles – will be cut off from Russia.</p> <p>Late last year, Russia launched the last of four gas-fired power plants it hopes will make Kaliningrad self-sufficient in electricity, part of a 100 billion rouble ($1.35 billion) project funded by dividends from energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft.</p> <p>Final terms of the power system divorce between Russia and the Baltics have not been finalized.</p> <p>“The negotiations will be tough, so we should be prepared,” Kreivys said.</p> <p/> <p> (Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Mike Collett-White)</p> </body></p>