Baltic countries seek to wean themselves off Russian gas

It is a rather special proclamation of independence that Lithuania has made in recent days: that of a country which, less than ten years ago, was totally dependent on Russian natural gas, and which has just decided, in a few weeks, to definitively turn off the tap. “No more Russian gas molecules will enter the Lithuanian gas system”announced the Minister of Energy, Dainius Kreivys, on Saturday April 2, on Twitter, while the Prime Minister, Ingrida Simonyte, confirmed the next day that her country would not “would consume more than 1 cubic meter of toxic Russian gas”.

If Lithuania can do without Russian gas, “It’s because she did her homework”, explains Romas Svedas. A teacher at the Center for European Studies at Vilnius University, this former diplomat was deputy energy minister between 2009 and 2011. At the time, the small Baltic state had to close its only Ignalina nuclear power plant, which no longer met safety criteria and whose arrest was one of the conditions imposed by Brussels for the country’s accession to the European Union (EU). “We found ourselves more than 80% dependent on Russia for our energy supply”, notes Mr. Svedas. All the natural gas consumed in Lithuania then came from neighboring Russia.

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In 2021, 62% of the gas consumed in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Finland arrived in Klaipeda, most of it coming from the United States. According to the operator Klaipedos Nafta, the decision to no longer accept Russian gas will not have an impact on deliveries: “Three large shipments of liquefied natural gas will reach the terminal each month, which should be enough for all customers. »

“Because we know what the Kremlin is capable of and we didn’t want to be at its mercy, we decided to invest as quickly as possible in our energy independence”, he adds. In 2015, a floating liquefied natural gas import terminal, symbolically named “Independence”, was commissioned in the port of Klaipeda. It can receive up to 4 billion cubic meters of gas, almost double the consumption of the country of 2.8 million inhabitants.

Connections still limited with the rest of Europe

If the weaning of Lithuania is now a reality, it is not yet the case for its neighbors, even if Uldis Baris, the general manager of Conexus Baltic Grid, Latvian operator of transport and storage of natural gas, has congratulated, on April 2, that Estonia and Latvia can also give up on Russian gas. This is true for the moment, since the two States obtain their supplies from Lithuania and from the huge underground storage site of Incukalns in Latvia, which no longer accepts natural gas from Russia either. Except that, in this specific case, the suspension of imports is only temporary and due “at the historically high price of natural gas in April”as recalled by the supplier Latvijas Gaze, more than 50% controlled by Russian companies (including Gazprom).

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