Renewable energy, Ignalina NPP decommissioning and energy security on the agenda of Energy Minister’s visit in Berlin

Date

2018 04 19

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On April 16-18, the Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas visited Berlin to take part in an international conference “Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2018”. At bilateral meetings with German politicians and the representatives of the government, the Lithuanian minister discussed the decommissioning of Ignalina NPP, the synchronisation of the Baltic electricity grids with the networks of Continental Europe and the Belarussian nuclear power plant which being built in Astravyets by violating safety standards.

At a meeting with Germany’s Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Svenja Schulze, Mr Vaičiūnas mainly discussed the decommissioning of Ignalina NPP. The Lithuanian minister talked about the achieved progress and decommissioning works that are carried out in accordance with schedule. He pointed out that 40% of decommissioning works had already been completed, involving contractors from Germany and other EU countries, which will be contracted for future works as well.

According to Mr Vaičiūnas, Lithuania highly relies on Germany’s support in an effort to secure further adequate funding for the decommissioning of Ignalina NPP. Complex and unprecedented works involving the decommissioning of rectors are scheduled for the coming years. Therefore, it is necessary to secure continuous EU funding. It is essential for the successful and safe decommissioning process, which has reached an irreversible stage.  

Germany plans to close its all nuclear power plants by 2022. So, the Lithuanian and German ministers agreed to share the experience of nuclear phase-out, considering Lithuania’s unique expertise that will have been acquired in this area.

Both the German minister and the representatives of the German parliament were informed about threat that the Belarussian nuclear power plant which being built in Astravyets poses to the safety of Lithuania and the whole region. The experts of the European Commission (EC) as well as EU and non-EU countries currently conduct EU stress test peer review process in the Belarussian nuclear power.

It is not only necessary to ensure that this process is transparent, unbiased and in compliance with the highest nuclear energy safety standards. It must also be guaranteed that the assessment is carried out in accordance with EU methodology and that Belarus fully implements the experts’ recommendations which should be issued this summer. Mr Vaičiūnas also emphasised the necessity to introduce the continuous international monitoring of the whole process.

At bilateral meetings the Lithuanian minister expressed Lithuania’s position regarding the planned construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. Lithuania reiterated its concern that the gas pipeline would increase the dependence of the whole EU on Russian gas and Russia’s influence in the gas sector which is of strategic importance. Lithuania takes the view that this gas project must fully comply with the EU’s Third Energy Package and supports the EC’s proposal to review the relevant directive.

Germany has recently announced that it considers building liquefied natural gas terminals (LNG). So, during the meeting with the Lithuanian minister German politicians and energy experts were interested in Lithuania’s experience in building a LNG terminal and developing LNG infrastructure. According to Mr Vaičiūnas, Lithuania sees a huge potential in using LNG not only for energy needs but also in the transport and shipping industry. The Lithuanian minister also highlighted his country’s achievements in the LNG sector during the recent years – Lithuania started to run small-scale LNG reload operations, built an above-ground LNG distribution station and began to supply LNG not only to the countries of the region  through a gas pipeline but also consumers in Poland which are not connected to the gas network.

The Lithuanian minister emphasized the importance of the project of synchronisation with the electricity networks of Continental Europe for the energy security of the Baltic States. This project must be implemented as soon as possible in order to ensure the energy security of the Baltic States and their independence on Russia’s energy system.

Mr Vaičiūnas also met with the heads of the German energy agency (DENA). He presented them with the major objectives of Lithuania’s updated energy strategy and discussed the development of small-scale renewable energy as well as challenges faced by countries in creating a cleaner and less polluting transport sector. The experience of the German energy agency may be useful for Lithuania in developing consumer and environmentally-friendly energy.

At an inform meeting with the German minister of economic affairs and energy, Mr Vaičiūnas addressed Germany’s energy policies. The German coalition agreement provides for setting up three commissions which will have to make proposals regarding the reduction of coal-fired power production, the development of renewable energy and reforms in the transport sector.

The Lithuanian minister discussed the issue of developing renewable energy with the representatives of the German electricity transmission system operator, which already now contributes to the successful integration of renewable energy. Lithuania could benefit from German experience related to the successful integration of renewable energy sources into the existing electricity system. Much attention was paid to the development of offshore wind energy, considering that Lithuania plans to start developing offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea by 2030.

When taking part in the conference “Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2018”, the Lithuanian minister participated in a discussion about the development of renewable energy and its infrastructure. The conference was attended by the EC vice-president Maroš Šefčovič and ministers from more than twenty countries.