Sandwiched between Russia and Poland as energy islands - a legacy of their Soviet past - the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have done little to develop the wind energy resource that a long coastline provides. With an energy history steeped in nuclear power and economies playing catch up with the EU average, development of renewables is not high on the list of political priorities. Even so, all three countries are aware they are reliant on wind power to meet their 2020 renewable energy commitment under EU law and that they need to link into the EU electricity network. Estonia has the Estlink cable connecting it to Finland, and Estlink2 is on the way, while Lithuania and Latvia are competing to build an underwater link to Sweden. A common electricity trading system is also on the cards. What is lacking are market frameworks that stimulate wind power investment.
Estonia could take off
Estonia is charged with getting 25% of its energy from renewables by 2020, up from 18% today, largely made up of hydro with some wind. Jan Tepp of the Estonian Wind Energy Association says wind is the number one resource to meet the goal. The country has 78 MW of wind contributing 2-3% of Estonia's electricity and nearly 500 MW in development, all competing for a slice of the 200 GWh that the government has promised to buy at a price of EUR0.0735/kWh. That cap will be met once another 75 MW is built. Tepp is hoping it will be lifted in 2010. If that happens, and if the Estonian power system operator gets to grips with understanding load balancing with wind on a network, and if offshore legislation is passed, Estonian wind power could take off, says Tepp. "We started lobbying for wind in 2001 and the bar has steadily risen," he says. "Now we're starting to see that 800 MW by 2020 is theoretically possible."
The mood in Lithuania is similar to that in Estonia. Just over 52 MW of wind capacity is currently generating 12 GWh. Mixed with a great deal more hydro, that brings renewables' share of electricity supply to 15%, with 23% necessary to meet the EU 2020 goal. A call for proposals to supply 200 MW of wind power on land to meet the EU's earlier target for Lithuania of 7% renewables by 2010 triggered a landslide response and in January the power purchase price on offer was raised to EUR0.0673/kWh. From the Lithuania wind lobby, Aleksandras Paulauskas says it likely that about 50 MW will go online this year as some projects move ahead. But land zoning restrictions and the costs and difficulty of dealing with the country's private grid operators make Paulauskas worried about when the next 100 MW might happen. Even if 200 MW is achieved it will only deliver 2-3% of the 8% increase required. Paulauskas is cheered, however, by the arrival of new energy minister Arvydas Sekmokas and the promise of a revised energy strategy. They could make all the difference, he says. "What we need now is good laws, and the strong political will to develop an offshore grid and push for a connection with Sweden," Paulauskas adds. "Right now things are still happening in a vacuum."
Latvia lags behind
Latvia generates less than 1% of its electricity from 27 MW of wind plant, yet Paulis Barons of the Latvian Association of Wind Energy is convinced it is "the right time" for wind. Wood-based biomass provides Latvia with 27% of its energy while a further 5% comes from other renewables, leaving 8% to be found for the country to meet its 40% EU target by 2020. The government wants to add 600 MW of wind by 2020 and has set an interim goal of 400 GWh of production by 2010, or 5-6% of electricity consumption. To set the ball rolling, it issued a call for proposals for 135 MW of land-based wind plant, but for obscure legal reasons the call was cancelled before a winner emerged, says Barons. State utility Latvenergo has said it is open to wind, yet is concerned about how to balance a system with variable supply as well as demand. "In words they are positive, but in actions they are negative," Barons says. "The gas lobby is quite strong. To have wind we must have a political decision." Barons does not expect Latvia to reach its 2010 wind goals, but given three to four years he believes the government will warm to wind power.
April Streeter, Windpower Monthly