Market Status: Baltic States - Instability sees projects fail to pick up speed

BALTIC: The Baltic States have been hard hit by the recent economic crisis, which has slowed development in the wind power industry. Estonia still leads the way with a few promising projects in the pipeline.

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This year, Estonia expects to add 95MW of wind through the creation of the Aseri and Paite-Vaivina wind farms, and an extension to the largest wind farm in the Baltic States, Aulepa. But following a year of instability and unease in the renewables industry, administrative barriers remain the biggest challenge for new projects.

A gift to Estonian wind came early in 2010, when changes to its Electricity Act abolished the feed-in tariff and replaced it with a system of premiums. This gave wind energy producers a subsidy of EUR0.054/kWh for production up to 600GWh annually - compared with a previous limit of 400GWh. Last year also saw the introduction of the first regulations to allow offshore wind development.

However, later in the year, the economy ministry proposed amendments to the Electricity Act that would have cut subsidies for current and future wind farms. Neither became law, but the wind sector was spooked.

"A country that would even consider changing the rules after more than EUR500 million have been invested into its renewable energy industry destroys all confidence in the validity of its regulations and destabilises its investment climate for a long time," says Tuuliki Kasonen-Lins, general manager of the Estonian Wind Power Association.

In November, the government agreed to continue providing subsidies for up to 600GWh of wind-produced electricity a year. This agreement came as part of the national action plan, which was laid out to meet the renewables targets for 2020 set out by the EU directive.

While the national plan may have given weight to the continuance of this subsidy, it has added another concern. It states that the wind farms should supply up to 1,400GWh of wind power per year, meaning that a large chunk of this wind energy would be unsubsidised.

Last year finished with just 3% of Estonia's electricity - or around 278GWh - being generated by 140MW of wind, and only 6.9MW of new wind capacity.


Lithuania will increase wind power capacity to 200MW in 2011, according to Stasys Paulauskas, president of the Lithuanian Wind Energy Association. Last year saw the closure of the country's last nuclear power station, increasing the need for new generation. A new renewable-energy sources law, currently being discussed in parliament, should be ratified in the coming months. The law provides for 500MW of wind power generation to be constructed by 2020. Paulauskas hopes the eventual capacity will be much greater.

In 2010, Lithuania's wind power capacity reached 92MW, an increase of 62MW on the previous year. This was largely attributable to the new Benaiciu 1 wind farm, which added 34MW. Wind-generated power now provides 2% of the country's electricity.

A cross-border electricity co-operation programme in the South Baltic, Project WEBSR2, is aimed at integrating wind across the region. It is examining building large-scale offshore wind farms in Lithuanian waters to cover 1GW of the country's electricity needs.


Latvia's wind energy production lags behind its Baltic neighbours and, judging by plans for 2011, the outlook does not look much brighter. Paulis Barons, president of the Latvia Wind Energy Association (LWEA), says the government put the brakes on development of wind farms in 2010, partially due to budget cuts.

"A new law on renewable energy is currently being discussed in parliament but, given its low priority, nobody can predict what the outcome will be," he says.

If a new renewable energy act comes into force, it would define the level of state support for Latvia's wind energy sector, which in turn might encourage investors. The LWEA's long-term goal is to generate around 6% of Latvia's electricity from 300MW of wind capacity. This seems a distant target indeed.

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