Lithuania sees renewable energy as a way out of Russian gas

Tadas Navickas, Sunly’s Country Manager in Lithuania & Poland  

For many years renewable energy has been widely recognised as one of the most important tools for climate change mitigation. Technological progress has made wind and solar parks also the most economically sensible way to produce energy.  All this in combination with EU policies has motivated the Baltic States to choose the green road as the future of our energy industry.  

The tragic events of the war in Ukraine provided a shocking wake-up call: the European governments have once again realised in a brutal way their dependence on imported fossil fuels. Therefore, the European Commission recently came up with the plan “REPowerEU“, which aims to help us get rid of Russia’s fossil fuels and boost the green revolution. 

The Lithuanian Government radically speeds up the green transition. By 2030, Lithuania plans to install 2 GW, 3.6 GW and 1.4 GW of solar, onshore and offshore wind farms, respectively. So, in total 7 GW, which is 7 times more than now. With such vigorous actions the country will be able to produce 70% of its electrical and 90% of its heat energy from renewable energy sources already by 2030! 

Based on Lithuania’s plans, the renewable power plants must share a premium between municipalities and communities to increase the social acceptability of new power plants. In addition to that, for the sake of avoiding network blockages, “power capacity bookers” will have to pay a significantly increased deposit. Simplifying the spatial planning procedures and in some cases abandoning the need to assess the environmental impacts is also planned. This approach is similar to the European Commission’s “REPowerEU” plan  to speed up the procedure for granting permits for renewable energy projects development.  More precisely, the EU countries should start issuing the necessary permits for the construction of wind turbines in just one year.  

But now we have a new elephant in the room – energy storage! Solar and wind power are intermittent and fluctuate according to the weather conditions. However, energy storage can help to smooth out demand, avoiding electricity price spikes. 

It would also trigger investments into renewables in a subsidy-free world. Wind and solar are not only the cheapest way to generate electricity, but they also have near zero marginal cost of generation, meaning they, unlike e.g. gas plants, don’t stop producing when power prices go really low or even negative.  

High hopes are also placed on electric vehicles which can in future act as giant batteries or on the hydrogen, but all this is quite a distant future. Today pumped hydro is the only way to introduce sizeable storage capacities to the market at a reasonable cost. Lithuania is expanding its Kruonis pumped hydro plant by 5 blocks. However, this is not enough! Other countries have to make sure that additional storage projects are built in their regions as well. This is a small price to pay for ensuring a successful expansion of the green energy to save the planet from climate catastrophe and for stopping wars to be financed by Russian gas. 

Since large infra projects take years to complete, the Baltic states must act and make decisions about energy storage already today. 

Article was published in Õhtuleht on the 4th of July, 2022.