By Anders Lorenzen
Lithuania, the largest of the three Baltic states, is continuing to build on its progress to extend its renewable energy portfolio.
They have joined a lucrative club of 11 EU member states who have already reached their renewable energy goals.
The European Commission (EC) is now ready to extend a helping hand to the Baltic country to further accelerate that transition, as they have approved a measure to support the production of renewables particularly with regard to electricity-heavy industrial consumers. This is believed to be a move that will position it as a leader in the region, in meeting the EU’s 2020 and 2030 energy directives.
The EC’s support package to Lithuania is worth EUR 1.24 billion and came into effect on January 1st this year, and it will run until 2029. The Commission says that it will financially support producers of renewable-sourced electricity across Lithuania through a levy paid by the final user. As part of the package, the Lithuanian government also announced that it would give energy-heavy industries a reduced electricity levy of up to 85% of the amount paid the previous year if they are able to show an electro-intensity rate of 20% or more.
EU’s Competition Policy Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said about the move: “These two schemes will allow Lithuania to both continue supporting the development of renewable energy sources in the country, and to preserve the competitiveness of electricity-intensive companies by reducing their contributions to the financing of this support”. She explained that this would contribute to Lithuania’s transition to low carbon and environmentally sustainable energy supply, in line with the EU environmental objectives and EU state aid rules.
The EC’s support of this package is the latest in a series of positive moves for renewable energy in Lithuania ahead of 2020. In July 2018 Sun Investment Group and partner I+D Energias Lithuania announced that they would be installing the largest commercial rooftop PV (photovoltaic) plant in the Baltic States. The plant has a capacity of 1,389 kilowatts (kW) and was installed on the roof of the RETAL factory in Lentvaris, some 10 kilometres from the capital Vilnius. In December 2018 the project was successfully completed, and it will be officially opened in February this year.
Historically the Baltic states have had close ties to Russia, being dependant on Sovjet/Russian energy from the fossil fuel superpower. But it is hoped that Lithuania’s commitment to renewables will be key to moving the Baltic region away from their energy dependence on Russia. The supply arm of the Lithuanian state energy supplier, Lietuvos Energija (LE), recently signed a short-term one-year agreement with Russia’s Gazprom to supply Lithuania with gas throughout 2019.
Lithuanian energy experts believe that by continually meeting EU energy directives, incentivising electricity production, and by pursuing corporate responsibility targets where companies aim to be powered 100% by renewables, Lithuania can set an example to their neighbours. The hope is that policymakers and solar energy suppliers in neighbouring Latvia and Estonia will help to reduce the Baltic region’s need for Russian energy and pursue their own energy autonomy.
The Chief Business Development Officer at Sun Investment Group, Andrius Terskovas, said: “It is extremely positive to see the European Commission incentivise electricity production via renewables in Lithuania … As a country, we have already exceeded our 2020 renewable energy targets, and we are determined to continue this trend and be fully reliant on our own energy supplies as the world moves to a renewable future. We hope that our example will be adopted by our friends and neighbours in Latvia and Estonia as we seek further integration with the EU in the coming years.”
There’s a big divide in the EU when it comes to developing renewable energy. The East finds it harder to reduce their reliance on non-renewables, while the West is storming ahead. This is partly due to historic ties to Russian energy and to the strength of the economies. But this might all be about to change.