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Lithuanian Energy Security: Caring for the Daily Interests of Citizens

Submitted by on 27 Mar 2013 – 17:20

By Algirdas Sysas, Deputy Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas

One of the major priorities of Lithuania is ensuring its energy security, basically through establishing and securing the sustainable multiple or alternative sources of energy. Today, except for oil, which we additionally get from the Butinge oil terminal, situated in the national territorial waters of the Baltic Sea, Lithuania still has basically to rely on the only source of energy – Russia. If electricity is partially produced locally in hydro power stations or can be produced from the renewable sources of energy, the gas sector is especially vulnerable, as all the gas imported to Lithuania is from Russia.

However, for Lithuania, energy independence is not about standing vis-à-vis Russia. Naturally, among the Lithuania’s basic foreign policy interests is to keep the best possible relations with all the neighbouring countries, including Russia. In fact, the present Lithuanian government led by the Socialdemocrats, which came into power in the late 2012, is in particular interested in the constructive and working relations with Russia.

The national priority of energy security first of all is based on the ultimate mission – securing prices as low as possible, increasing standards of service and security of supply for Lithuanian consumers. Therefore, energy independence or energy security, no matter what one calls it, is about caring how the national energy policy affects the daily lives of Lithuanian citizens. In other words, it is about caring for the daily interests of our citizens, considering the effect that energy prices have on each good or service people buy.

Today, Lithuanian consumers pay high prices for heating, gas and electricity, also compared with the neighbouring countries. According to the “Eurostat”, in 2011, for daily electricity consumption Lithuanian households paid more than Latvians (4,9%) and Estonians (42,6%). In 2012, for imported gas, Lithuania paid approximately six times more than nine years ago: for 1000 m3 the country paid 84USD in 2004 and 500USD in 2012. In the last three years Estonia and Latvia paid around 15% less.

The situation has to change, as we, the Lithuanian Socialdemocrats, aim at delivering on our international slogan “People first” during our term in the government. We, therefore, have committed to several major priorities in the area of energy security.

Internationally, or in foreign policy field, we support the EU Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan. Our goal is to continue and complete the building of electric energy transmission linkages with Poland (“LitPol Link”) and Sweden (“NordBalt”). These projects have become essential for us with the closure of the Ignalina nuclear power station in 2009.

In general, at the European level, having been among the initiators, Lithuania continues to be a firm supporter of creating the European single energy market before 2014 and implementing the EU “third energy package” in the electricity market and especially in the gas sector, which is aimed at unbundling production, transmission and distribution activities.

Making the European energy market fully effective and creating the single EU gas and electricity market will profoundly contribute to the integration of the so-called “energy islands” in Europe and consequently to Lithuanian energy security. The other two Baltic countries – Estonia and Latvia – will also gain from these processes.

For the three Baltic countries, the completed European energy market integration (i.e., integration of energy infrastructure, system and regulation) and their systematic connection with continental European networks are very important.

Nevertheless, our government has not yet made its decision regarding the construction of the new nuclear power plant in Visaginas, as the Lithuanian citizens voted against the project in consultative referendum in October 2012.

It should be a regional project, involving Estonia and Latvia. We seek to make the smart and responsible decision, which will be good for our all futures and the future of our children and grandchildren as well as our neighbours.

Domestically, we are continuing the construction of the natural gas terminal in Klaipeda seaport, which should be finished by the end of 2014 and which would guarantee the alternative supply of gas and more energy security for Lithuania.

One of the major tasks of the present Lithuanian government is a massive renovation of apartment buildings, which were largely built during the soviet period. They are not friendly to energy saving. The prices for heating in these apartments are a few times higher than in new or renovated buildings.

The basic idea behind our renovation strategy is that the major funds for renovation are to be borrowed not by citizens themselves, but municipalities. This should help to smooth the organisation of massive renovation across the country and consequently dramatically to diminish the price of heating as well as make people’s homes more attractive and simply cosier.

Also, the government has planned the renovation of public sector buildings such as hospitals, schools, kindergartens, etc. Here, the EU funds can provide the substantial financial input and diminish the costs of renovation for citizens and communities.

We also seek to optimise the operation of our hydro power stations and to promote the exploitation of renewable energy sources like sun, wind or biofuel that would be effective and consumer price friendly.

I can summarise that the Socialdemocratic-dominated government in Lithuania seeks an integrated approach towards national energy security, where the ultimate winners are our citizens.

Algirdas Sysas, Deputy Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas, Member of the Seimas Delegation to the OSCE, Deputy Chairman of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party