Baltic nations might bring forward cut-off from Russian power grid

FILE PHOTO: Baltics get ready to ditch Russian electricity supplies
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By Andrius Sytas

TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are considering speeding up a plan to disconnect the Baltic region's electricity supply from Russia's grid.

The three states, all members of NATO and the European Union, remain a part of the Soviet-era BRELL circuit with Russia and Belarus, relying on Russian operators to control frequencies and balance supply and demand.

They agreed in 2018 to decouple from BRELL and join the EU power grid by late 2025, via a link with Poland. But Russia's invasion of Ukraine is forcing a rethink.

"We are all in agreement that we need to move as quickly as is feasible on the technical level," Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins told a joint news conference in Tallinn with his Estonian and Lithuanian counterparts.

"Certainly the political will and determination are there from all of us."

The grid operators of the three Baltic States and Poland’s Institute of Power Engineering are due to complete a report on the disconnection by June, after which a new date will be considered.

Lithuania already no longer buys electricity from Russia and successfully tested its ability to cut itself off from the Russian grid in April. It had said it would decide by Aug. 6, after seeing the studies, whether to quit BRELL unilaterally.

Lithuanian energy officials said this could happen as soon as early 2024.

"Unfortunately we have direct experience of how Russia weaponises energy," Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said.

"We cannot ignore even the slightest possibility that Russia could exploit our dependence on its electricity networks at the most critical moment."

Last June, Reuters reported that European grid operators were ready to implement a long-term plan to bring the Baltic states into the European Union system at short notice in the event that Moscow cut them off.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; editing by Terje Solsvik and Kevin Liffey)