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ENERGY

Baltic states agree on Sweden power link

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania agreed in Vilnius on Monday on a key undersea power link between Sweden and Lithuania that would connect the three Baltic states into the Scandinavian energy grid.

“There is common agreement regarding the route of the project, i.e. from Lithuania to Sweden,” a joint statement issued by the three prime ministers said following top level talks in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.

“The main thing is to start implementing the project as soon as possible. It is in common interest of all three Baltic states,” Lithuania’s Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said.

“Today it was quite an important step to integrate the Baltic energy market with the Nordic energy market,” Latvia’s premier Valdis Dombrovskis added.

Latvia along with Sweden and Lithuania will lead the 700-1,000-megawatt Swedlink project which is due to “start without delay.”

An official from Swedish partner Svenska Kraftnat said work on the 350-kilometre undersea cable link was likely to be completed by 2016.

The European Union has allocated 175 million euros ($230 million) for its construction, provided work begins by 2010. Preliminary estimated cost of the project is 435 million euros.

The move is a significant step in plugging the three ex-Soviet Baltic states into the European Union’s electricity network.

While all three joined the EU and NATO in 2004, the only existing EU power link for the Baltic trio is Estlink, an undersea cable linking Estonia to Finland, which went online in January 2007.

But five years after EU entry the Baltic three are still primarily plugged into the power grid of their pre-1991 Soviet-era master Moscow.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and his Latvian and Estonian counterparts, Valdis Dombrovskis and Andrus Ansip respectively, also agreed to create “open and transparent” common energy market among the Baltic states integrated with the wider EU.

Economy ministry officials from the Baltic states, Poland, Sweden, Finland and Matthias Ruete, the Head of the EU’s Energy and Transport Directorate-General attended the top level Vilnius talks.

Directors of energy companies LEO LT, Latvenergo, Eesti Energia, PSE-Operator S.E., Svenska Kraftnat and Fingrid also participated.

The exact route of the new power link is due to be finalized in June.

Both Lithuania and Latvia are joined only to Russian grid. In 2010, after closing of Ignalina power plant station, they will be dependent on Russian gas and electricity.

Under its deal to join the EU, Lithuania agreed to close the station no later than December 2009. Four states – the Baltic three and Poland – agreed to build a new power plant station in Lithuania but the work has yet to begin.

Riga, Tallinn and Warsaw have encouraged Vilnius to speed up the implementation of the project.

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ENERGY

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

Sweden's government has proposed a new law which will remove local municipalities' power to block wind parks in the final stages of the planning process, as part of a four-point plan to speed up the expansion of wind power.

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

“We are doing this to meet the increased need for electricity which is going to come as a result of our green industrial revolution,” Strandhäll said at a press conference. 

“It is important to strengthen Sweden by rapidly breaking our dependence on fossil fuels, building out our energy production and restructuring our industry. The Swedish people should not be dependent on countries like Russia to drive their cars or warm their homes.”

“We are going to make sure that municipalities who say “yes” to wind power get increased benefits,” she added in a press statement. “In addition, we are going to increase the speed with which wind power is built far offshore, which can generally neither be seen or heard from land.” 

While municipalities will retain a veto over wind power projects on their territory under the proposed new law, they will have to take their decision earlier in the planning process to prevent wind power developers wasting time and effort obtaining approvals only for the local government to block projects at the final stags. 

“For the local area, it’s mostly about making sure that those who feel that new wind parks noticeably affect their living environment also feel that they see positive impacts on their surroundings as a result of their establishment,” Strandhäll said.  “That might be a new sports field, an improved community hall, or other measures that might make live easier and better in places where wind power is established.” 

According to a report from the Swedish Energy Agency, about half of the wind projects planned since 2014 have managed to get approval. But in recent years opposition has been growing, with the opposition Moderate, Swedish Democrats, and Christian Democrat parties increasingly opposing projects at a municipal level. 

Municipalities frequently block wind park projects right at the end of the planning process following grassroots local campaigns. 

The government a month ago sent a committee report, or remiss, to the Council on Legislation, asking them to develop a law which will limit municipal vetoes to the early stages of the planning process. 

At the same time, the government is launching two inquiries. 

The first will look into what incentives could be given to municipalities to encourage them to allow wind farms on their land, which will deliver its recommendations at the end of March next year. In March, Strandhäll said that municipalities which approve wind farm projects should be given economic incentives to encourage them to accept projects on their land. 

The second will look into how to give the government more power over the approvals process for wind projects under Sweden’s environmental code. This will deliver its recommendations at the end of June next year. 

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