LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Copyright © 2010 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Volume 56, No.1 - Spring 2010
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
Lithuania’s Energy at a Difficult Crossroads: Anxiety and Hope
Dr. STASYS BAČKAITIS holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering, an MS in Automotive Engineering and a Ph.D. in Biomechanics. He has authored seven books and over fifty technical publications.
Prof. dr. RIMAS SLAVICKAS has a number of degrees in Electrical, Compouter and Electronic Engineering and teaches at the University of Souh Florida. He has authored and coauthored over sixty national and international technical publications.
On the last day of 2009, Lithuania shut down its only nuclear reactor at Ignalina (IAE). A study conducted by independent Lithuanian-American and Lithuanian-Canadian researchers shows that Lithuania has sufficient energy generating capacity to power its needs if it can securely import sufficient natural gas or fuel oil supplies and/or supplement the potential shortage with electricity imports. Costs of imported energy to replace IAE’s lost power could run up to 400 or 500 million US dollars early in the 2010 decade and rise to close to a billion dollars in later years. The cost of electric power to the consumer will initially be about 30 percent higher and subsequently may be higher or lower, depending on the cost of the imported energy resources. In either case, the cost for additional imports will be a large drain on Lithuania’s financial resources and an impediment to the country’s economic development.
The study examined a number of alternatives that Lithuania could develop on its own to reduce the need for energy imports. They range from using its own in-ground natural resources to the construction of either a new nuclear power generating plant or the development of renewable resources, electricity and liquefied gas imports, increased use of rivers for power generation, and adoption of advanced technologies to reduce power transmission losses and electricity consumption. The study found that the development of its own natural resources, large use of windpower, and power savings through technological improvements might be the best ways to attain energy independence.
On January 1, 2010, Lithuania powered down and decommissioned the Ignalina Atomic Energy plant’s (IAE)* only remaining nuclear reactor. At that time, this small Baltic Republic lost all of the IAE generated electrical power, which amounts to 70 percent of the country’s current electricity consumption.1 From then on, the IAE, instead of being one of the largest electricity suppliers, will be one of its largest consumers.2 As a result, Lithuania will become almost completely dependent on gas imports from Russia to power its electrical generating plants.
The decision to close IAE came in 2004 as a condition of Lithuania’s entry into the European Union. At that time, Lithuania agreed to close the first of its two reactors on December 31, 2004 and the second by the end of 2009. Although Lithuania conducted studies on how these Chernobyl-style reactors should be deactivated, very little consideration was given to what would happen after that. How would this small country manage its demands for electricity when it is nearly completely dependent on a single gas supplier to fuel its remaining generators? Additionally, how would Lithuania protect itself, its economy, and its people from possible abrupt interruptions of gas deliveries or unreasonable price escalations?
Perhaps because Lithuania saw its entry into the EU in such a positive light, these questions weren’t raised or, if they were, they didn’t receive enough attention. It could also be that Lithuania’s general population didn’t ask what would happen next because they believed their government had it under control. After all, when the closure of the first IAE reactor was announced, Lithuania’s government declared its intention to build a replacement plant and noted that Lithuania’s neighbors, Latvia, Estonia3 and later Poland,4 would partner with Lithuania in this endeavor.
Sadly, no concrete initiatives were taken to plan the construction of the new reactor until December 28, 2007, when the Lithuanian government formed a quasi-government corporation, LeoLT. The Lithuanian Energy Organization was a holding company jointly owned by the government of Lithuania and NDX Energija, a previously privately held company. While it was initially believed that LeoLT’s primary purpose would be to build a new plant at Visaginas (a town in eastern Lithuania), it later became clear that this new, publicly traded company’s principal interest was to maximize profits through the sale of electricity regardless of its origin. When this became public knowledge, Lithuania’s newly elected president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, requested Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and his government to dissolve Leo.LT.5 Kubilius delegated this responsibility to the Energy Minister, Arvydas Sekmokas, who is now also charged with initiating the construction of a new nuclear plant. The most optimistic government estimates of when construction will be completed are 2016 through 2018, leaving Lithuania vulnerable until then.
Concern About the Future and the Extent of the Study
Having observed all this from the North American continent and being concerned that the Lithuanian people might be facing rather disastrous electrical energy consequences due to inaction by those responsible for the planning and construction of the new nuclear plant, and noting the lack of public information and discussion on what energy alternatives might be available, a consortium of Lithuanian-American and -Canadian scientists initiated a study in 2008 to address some of these concerns and review related issues. The intention of the final paper was to provide an unbiased view to the public and decision makers of how the effects of the IAE shutdown appeared from a distance, and what impact it might have on the lives of the people and the country’s economy. The findings were presented at Lithuania’s Energy Ministry on July 4, 2009, with the ministry concurrently issuing a public summary of the study. Subsequently, the full study was published in Lithuania’s technical trade journal, Energijos Erdvė, in September 2009.6 Several newspapers and science journals published interviews with the authors in 2009, and an article appeared in Lithuania’s largest daily, Lietuvos Rytas, on November 14, 2009, prompting 249 unsolicited readers’ comments, mostly supporting the findings of the study.
The study reviewed Lithuania’s natural energy resources; the ability of the remaining power plants to generate electric energy; current and anticipated future power needs and expected cost increases for the generation of electricity without the IAE. Available alternatives to generate electricity, besides building a new nuclear reactor plant, were reviewed, including the employment of new technologies to achieve major savings in energy transmission and consumption.
Overview of Lithuania’s Own Resources
Lithuania has a small quantity of in-ground natural energy resources. These include peat, oil, and geothermal sources of energy.
Peat resources range from 30 to 35 million tons suitable for energy use. If used to fuel existing power plants, this resource would be exhausted within approximately two years. (At present, the use of peat is miniscule; it is mostly exported for agricultural and gardening purposes.)7
Oil resources are estimated at an extractable quantity of about 12 million tons,8 but it could be larger, since exploration includes only limited areas of the country.9 Currently, oil extraction is limited to approximately 200,000 tons annually.10 There are no plans to increase the extraction capacity, partly due to low rates of yield and partly due to a lack of interest in opening new fields because of low or not cost effective returns. Because the fuels are of a high quality, they are mostly exported for financial profit rather than used domestically. Were the fuels to be extracted at levels necessary to satisfy all of Lithuania’s power needs, the supply would be exhausted within several years.
While Lithuania has the potential of employing low-level geothermal resources in a few regions,11 the first geothermal terminal operation failed for unknown reasons.12 There are no known plans to renew access to this natural energy resource.
Lithuania as a whole is a relatively flat country and is therefore marginally suited for the production of hydroelectric power. Although it has many rivers and lakes, only the two main rivers, the Nemunas and the Neris, are suitable for sizable economical hydropower generation.
Currently, Lithuania has one major hydroelectric power plant on the Nemunas13 located just east of the city of Kaunas. It is rated at 101 MW (megawatt = one million watts). Its upstream dammed basin also provides water for pumped water storage to power the electricity generators at Kruonis. The Kruonis HAE (HAE=pumped storage hydroelectric power plant) has a maximum power capacity of 900 MW and can operate at full capacity for approximately twelve hours in a twenty-four hour period and proportionately longer at lower capacities depending on water level in the storage reservoir.”
There are also several smaller hydroelectric power plants, with capacities ranging from dozens to hundreds of kilowatts (one thousand watts). However, they do not constitute a significant contribution to the country’s generated total electrical capacity.
A study of Lithuania’s energy resources, published in 1997 by Lithuania’s Academy of Sciences,14 indicates that two new major hydroelectric plants with capacities similar to the Kaunas hydroelectric power plant could be built: one on the Nemunas, upstream of the town of Birštonas, and the other on the Neris, near the town of Jonava. With the addition of the two plants, including generating facilities on smaller streams, Lithuania could generate at least 386 MW of power15 or approximately 20 percent of its present electricity needs.
Wind and Solar Power
Lithuania, situated on the Baltic coast, has reasonable amounts of wind energy at or near the shoreline capable of powering wind-driven electrical generators.16 The currently installed wind generating capacity is approximately 52 MW. Additional wind generators are being planned to be built in later years.17
Due to its northern location, Lithuania is only marginally suited for using current solar technology to produce electricity.18 Most solar applications are for thermal heating purposes.19 However, should newer photovoltaic technologies become capable of producing more cost-effective solar cells, then their use for power generation may become economically justifiable.20
Renewable Energy Resources
Lithuania has large amounts of idle farmland that could grow renewable energy resources, such as wood and/or calorierich agricultural plants. Currently, the largest national renewable resources are wood, wood residue from manufacturing, and straw from agriculture. They could amount to nearly one million toe (ton oil equivalent) annually.21 An equally large, if not larger, energy resource could be obtained through the programmed growing of energy-producing plants on some 500,000 hectares of idle farmland.22 While it is not apparent which type of plant growth these lands would best support, it is clear that the energy yield from such additional plant growth would be at least another million toe of primary energy (energy contained in organic matter, chemical energy, potential water energy, etc.) on an annual basis.23
Production of biogas from municipal waste and communal refuse for energy generation is still in its infancy in Lithuania. 24 While there is a potential for generating some energy from these sources, very little is known about the amounts available or their potential contribution to the energy balance.
Power Generation Sufficiency
Lithuania’s power generating capacity was examined with and without the IAE production. It was concluded that Lithuania’s nonnuclear electric power plants and limited imports could provide sufficient capacity to meet all Lithuania’s electrical needs during the next fifteen to seventeen years.
The analysis included generation capabilities of electrical power plants using gas and/or oil, the output of hydroelectric facilities, electricity imports ( e.g., from Finland and/or Sweden), and the growing contribution of wind power.25 The analysis indicates that Lithuania from 2010 to 2013 could produce at the very minimum 2,130 MW of power if natural gas were available and 1,505 MW if only oil was used, without including the Kruonis HAE contribution. Imports of 300 MW from Finland or other sources would raise these values to 2,430 MW and 1,805 MW, respectively (the peak power output of Kruonis HAE ould add 900 MW for a period not longer than 12 hours). However, Kruonis HAE, upon emptying its reservoir, would subsequently have to use the same amount of energy for pumping up the water back into the reservoir. Between the years 2017 and 2026, the available power generation capacities, including 350 MW imports, could increase the system capacity to 3,190 MW if gas was available, and 1,942 MW if powered only by oil and without the Kruonis HAE contribution.
Power needs were examined for three different economic scenarios: pessimistic, stagnant, and optimistic.26 The pessimistic scenario is based on a three percent drop from the 2006 economic activity level until 2011, followed by no growth until the end of 2012 and then an annual growth of one percent. The stagnant scenario is based on the economic activity staying at the 2006 level until 2011, followed by one percent growth thereafter. The optimistic scenario assumes one percent growth from the 2009 economic level until 2011, a two percent annual growth from 2012 to 2016 and three percent annually thereafter.
The above scenarios indicate27 that the national power demand between 2010 and 2013 will range from 1,800 to 1,900 MW for the pessimistic case; 1,850 to 1,950 MW for stagnation, and 1,950 to 2,050 MW for the optimistic activity level. For the years 2017 to 2026, the power demand projections under the pessimistic scenario could range from 1,850 to 1,950 MW; 1,980 to 2,080 MW under stagnation conditions, and 2,300 and 2,800 MW in an optimistic scenario. Although power requirements for an optimistic scenario were calculated, one does not realistically expect it to occur because of the anticipated prolonged economic downturn.28
The analysis in the study indicates that if sufficient natural gas is available for generating electricity, all power needs could be satisfied until 2026.29 However, if gas supplies were disrupted, power generation using fuel oil would be short by some 300 to 400 MW, assuming that power production would be confined to “Lietuvos Elektrinė” and the Mažeikiai power plants, hydroelectric generating facilities, and wind power. Inasmuch as peak power demand in Lithuania is only for a few evening hours during the winter months,30 the shortage could be eliminated by additional power generated by the Kruonis HAE. Such a shortage could also be eliminated by importing power in the range of 300 to 350 MW from Finland or Sweden. 31 Furthermore, generating electricity with fuel oil could be equivalent to generation with natural gas, if all other power plants were equipped to use fuel oil. For this reason, it would be important to prepare all power plants as quickly as possible to burn fuel oil. This flexible form of power generation does not take into account additional contributions by other power plants using renewable energy sources, such as wood, biofuels, municipal waste, peat, etc. Currently, the use of such materials for electricity generation is negligibly small.
The cost increment (in U.S. dollars) of power generation using either natural gas or fuel oil, upon closure of the IAE, was also examined. The cost assessment is based on estimated variations in the prices of natural gas, fuel oil, and imported electricity from 2010 to 2013 and from 2014 to 2016. Gas prices are expected to vary from $250 to $400 per 1,000m3 during the period 2010 to 2013, and from $350 to $550 per 1,000m3 during the period 2014 to 2016.32 Fuel oil price estimates range from $444 to $592 per ton from 2010 to 2013 and $518 to $814 per ton from 2014 to 2016.33 Comparable prices of electricity imports are estimated to range from $70 to $90 per MWh from 2010 to 2013, and $80 to $100 per MWh from 2014 to 2016.34
The costs to replace IAE generated power for Lithuania’s internal use during the years 2010 to 2013 are calculated to be $283 million for natural gas and $457 million for fuel oil, at their highest unit prices. At their lowest unit prices, the cost penalty could be from zero to $5 million for gas-generated electricity and $267 million for fuel oil. Comparable replacement costs during the 2014 to 2016 time frame are estimated at $618 million for gas and $865 million for oil at the highest unit prices and $104 million and $387 million, respectively, at the lowest unit prices.35
In all cases examined, the generation of electricity with natural gas is considerably less expensive than with fuel oil. Cost estimates show that it would be more expensive to import electricity when gas prices are lower than $250/1,000m3. This study also indicates that producing electricity with oil would always be more expensive than importing electricity.
The Need for a New Strategy (Approach)
Lithuania, to assure its economic viability, should consider taking bold and practical steps to ensure itself sufficient supplies of electricity now and in the future. Due to the extremely depressed economic conditions and the high risk of interruptions of energy supplies from Russia, the 2007 Energy Strategy for Lithuania36 is outdated and does not provide an adequate road map to address Lithuania’s essential energy security needs. Therefore, a new and updated strategic plan should be developed that would more effectively and realistically focus the country’s efforts toward achieving the following goals:
The revised strategic plan could also consider the following issues:
Evaluate the potential of all available energy resources to power generating plants and the risks of their continuous use on the basis of:
Alternatives and/or their Combination to Generate Sufficient Electricity
In view of ever-increasing energy prices and the possible eventual scarcity of primary energy resources, Lithuania would benefit in the long run by maximizing self-sufficiency. Appropriate cost benefit analysis, economic effects on balance of payments, and assessments on impacts on employment and economic well-being should be the basis for prioritizing specific developments. Ideally, it appears that renewable energy sources, such as organic, wind, and solar, could cover approximately 60 to 70 percent of the total national needs. Hydropower could supply approximately 20 percent. Remaining energy needs could be supplied by a combination of electricity, gas and fuel oil imports, and/or by small nuclear power plants. Inasmuch as there are a number of ways to address potential energy resource problems, the following alternatives or their combinations could be considered:
Renewable Resources. Even if the decision is made to build a new large capacity nuclear power plant, Lithuania should pursue energy self-sufficiency on a faster and considerably larger scale than that called for in EU Directive 2009/28/EC: the development and use of renewable resources to minimize the need for fuel imports.37 This option would also help reduce unemployment and curtail the outflow of financial resources.
If this alternative was selected, Lithuania could develop a large-scale program to grow plants and/or trees containing high-energy value. To support this, Lithuania could consider utilization of some 500 thousand or more hectares of idle agricultural land. Credible literature suggests that each hectare of land could yield biogrowth sufficient to provide approximately two toe of biofuels.38 As a result, Lithuania could produce on its own from organic resources approximately one million toe or 11.63 TWh of primary energy. Furthermore, new technologies are rapidly emerging to process organic materials into biofuels with the potential for increasing energy yields above the two toe per hectare of land.
Wind Energy. Wind maps of Lithuania indicate an average wind speed of 6-7 m/sec in its coastal regions and somewhat higher on the Baltic Sea shelf.39 Assuming wind turbine operation 30 percent of the time, a total of 500 5 MW windmills would produce approximately 6.50 TWh of electrical energy, or about two-thirds of the country’s needs. If a decision were made to employ wind turbines at this magnitude, Lithuania could begin their manufacture, either on its own or jointly with the other Baltic countries. This could help employ not only a large number of skilled workers, but also technicians and scientists.
Pumped Power Storage. If wind power was selected as a major energy contributor, it would be essential to have on standby a sufficient number of power generating/supplying sources while the wind was not blowing. Major power contributors for such events could be the Kruonis HAE, electricity imports, and generating plants powered by gas, fuel oil, and/or renewable organic resources. Significant energy reserve increases could be secured by increasing the fill capacity of the Kruonis HAE water reservoir. This could be done rather inexpensively by raising the height of the containment wall of the Kruonis HAE reservoir. Construction of additional pumped storage facilities would also help absorb excess wind-generated power when the wind is blowing and assure more adequate reserves during wind-dormant periods, or even produce export income. Hydroelectric Power. Lithuania would benefit, both financially and economically, by building at least two new Kaunas HE size hydroelectric power plants: one on the Nemunas and the other on the Neris.40 These two new power plants, in conjunction with several smaller hydro generating plants on other rivers, could add at least 286 MW of power. This could boost the total power generated by all hydroelectric plants to 387 MW or approximately 17 to 20 percent of Lithuania’s peak power demand at virtually no recurring cost for generating this uninterrupted additional energy. While some environmental objections might be raised concerning the effects on the ecology due to flooding of some local upstream areas and its impact wildlife, they need to be contrasted with potential energy shortages, huge expenditures for the purchase of fuel or gas, continued economic stagnation and unemployment, and a potential for the increased emigration of the most productive segment of the population. In the end, a country without population does not need land. It should also be noted that Latvia is generating well over 60 percent of its energy needs from three sizable hydroelectric dams on the river Dauguva. It is not apparent that Latvia’s ecology has been devastated by these dams. As a side benefit, the areas above the dams usually experience considerable economic benefit from water-recreation, tourism, and sporting events, as well as increased water supplies for agriculture, fishing, and consumption. Nuclear Energy. Lithuania’s energy and, to a large extent, its political independence are dependent on the ability to produce its own energy. A large-scale nuclear power reactor fills this need well. However, in light of several other alternatives, building a new nuclear plant the size of the IA E (1,500 MW), raises numerous questions:
A nuclear plant built by Lithuania seems to be incompatible with the EU mandate to achieve an energy self-sufficiency of at least 20 percent by 2020 and even higher levels thereafter. 42 Also, since the large reactor must be operated at or near full capacity at all times, it is not clear what would be done with excess energy, unless facilities were available to store it or export it as the electricity is generated. As was the case with the IAE, excess energy was sold to Byelorussia and Russia at prices approximately one-half the IAE’s internal costs. These losses were levied on the Lithuanian consumer through higher electricity prices.
It appears that plans for building the new nuclear reactor have up to now lacked openness and transparency.43 Lithuania’s public has not been adequately informed nor invited to comment on the types of power generation it would support. The public seems unaware of the complexities and true costs of building and operating a large reactor, the extent of time needed for its construction, the cost and safety of storing used nuclear materials over many years, and the risks of massive power disruptions when the reactor shuts down.
However, what is known is that more than a dozen countries are developing more efficient methods of using nuclear materials to generate electricity. The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor being developed in China and South Africa is one example. This reactor will be powered by nuclear fuel molded into ceramic balls rather than the typical uranium fuel rods that are expensive and difficult to store. China has already built and is operating a 200 MW prototype of this reactor. Other nuclear entities are developing “Generation IV ” reactors. They are designed to burn used nuclear fuels. Their use would bring significant financial benefits to the plant operator and assure nearly unlimited fuel supplies. It appears that, by the late 2020s, these new developments in power generation will render obsolete the reactors built between 1980 and today.
Lithuania’s government sources forecast completion of the new nuclear power facility by 2016-2018. However, for the following reasons, those dates seem to be based more on optimism than reality:
It is now estimated that the new reactor in Finland will take at least seven years to build.46 Bulgaria started building its new nuclear plant in 1990 and it is still under construction. Since the nuclear industry is currently experiencing an increased construction demand, it is likely that, by the time Lithuania places its first order, it may take ten or more years to complete.47 The best current estimate points to a completion date by the mid 2020s. At that time, Lithuania may have an obsolete reactor on its hands with many of the expenses that go with it.
Effective alternatives to a large nuclear reactor might be small or mini reactors in the power range of 25 to 125 MW.48 Some scientists consider them the way of the future in nuclear energy, similar to the transition from very large computer complexes to desktop models. They provide the flexibility of rapid installation in different regions of the country to satisfy local power needs without extensive transmission networks from remote power plants. Also, if need be, small reactors provide the flexibility to cluster their outputs to power large turbines.49 Small reactors have the advantage of being built as complete units at a factory and then delivered to power plant sites by rail or barge and, in the case of the 25 MW reactors, even by truck. This eliminates significant time bottlenecks as well as the associated high costs and complexities of constructing a large reactor on site from individual components. Another advantage of small reactors is the need for less frequent refueling, such as once every five to eight years, instead of every eighteen months to two years for large reactors, reaping a savings from less downtime.50 Also, small reactors do not pose a serious disruption problem to the entire electrical system due to their downtime, since their individual impacts are much smaller than those of large reactors.
It appears that small reactors might offer significant advantages to Lithuania in terms of the country’s financial capabilities. Small reactors are significantly lower in price, such as $3,000 to $5,000 per KW of capacity versus up to $8,000 to $10,000 for large reactors, or millions of dollars instead of billions. Small reactors offer the flexibility to cluster the units for gradually increasing power generating capabilities as the need for more power develops. More importantly, the manufacturer of the 25 MW reactors, by retrieving the whole reactor at the end of its operating life, also retrieves the spent radioactive fuel. In this case, the user does not have to be concerned with the longtime storage of used fuel and the associated expenses.51
Electricity Imports. The ability to instantly connect to electricity imports is of crucial importance in stabilizing an electrical system in case of an abrupt disruption at some domestic power plant. Accordingly, construction of a power bridge to import electricity from Sweden should be accelerated at maximum pace. Completion of the power bridge will also permit the creation of the Baltic Power Ring interconnecting all the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.52
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). The import of liquefied natural gas could serve as another method of providing energy resources to fuel the power plants once the IA E shuts down. To import LNG, Lithuania would need to construct a sea terminal, pipelines to onshore storage, and extensive onshore storage facilities. Fortunately, imported LNG, upon regasification, could be easily distributed to users within the existing gas distribution network.53
Inasmuch as the construction expenses for LNG facilities could be substantial, they might be viewed as a competitive alternative to the construction of a large nuclear power plant. Imported LNG could decouple Lithuania’s dependence on Russia’s gas by providing a consistent supply stream and price stability while eliminating politically motivated pressure. Current predictions are that LNG supplies are sufficient to take care of the world’s needs for the next one hundred years or more. Accordingly, it would appear that LNG imports would be a viable long-term complement to support a good portion of Lithuania’s energy needs.
Temporary Gas Supplies from Latvia. A short-term alternative might be natural gas imports from Latvia’s underground storage facilities. However, these imports may be of questionable availability if Russia were to discontinue gas transmission to the Baltic countries. Although NES 200754 notes potential imports from Latvia to satisfy 50 percent of Lithuania’s needs for approx two months, there is no evidence of a formal agreement with the government of Latvia or of commercial contracts to assure that these supplies would be shared with Lithuania. Legally binding agreements should cover gas delivery on demand, quantities of delivery, rate and duration of delivery, price of gas, etc. Still, even with all that in place, Lithuania would have, at best, only an assurance of short-term relief rather than a solution to its long-term energy problems.
Control of Power Distribution. To assure energy independence, Lithuania should strive to break away from synchronization of its electrical system with Russia’s IPS/UPS system. It may also want to consider constructing a direct transmission line from Lithuania’s main generating facilities to the Klaipėda region through its own territory rather than transmitting the power through the Kaliningrad region.55
Used Tires as an Energy Resource. Very large energy resources exist in used tire dumps. While it may be a difficult technical task, it might be extremely useful for Lithuania’s chemistry researchers to develop methods to convert pliable tire materials into combustible fuels. Once a conversion process is developed, large quantities of tires could be brought in from numerous other countries for fuel, while also earning disposal fees.
Reduction of Power Losses and Waste. Large reductions in power losses could be realized by implementing smart grid technologies at the network level and by adopting energy saving programs at the user level.56 Lithuania current electric grids are generally old and inefficient. Unnecessary energy losses occur throughout the delivery network as well as at the site of use. Replacement of whole delivery systems is usually not economically justifiable, but significant improvements can be realized through integration of smart grid technologies, dispersed power generation, and end-user smart energy consumption. Smart grids and intelligent transmission networks would assure coordinated and efficient power transmission and distribution, and avoid relatively large power losses57 in transmission lines as well as potential costly damage to electronic infrastructures from voltage fluctuations and system blackouts.58 Smart grid technologies also provide customers with valuable data and information at any moment on how much power they are using, the associated costs and the information they need to lower their energy expenses. With proper information, consumers would have the opportunity to select, for example, more efficient lighting systems, nonenergy consuming dormant TV s and computer systems, high thermal efficiency refrigerators, home insulation, and various energy-smart electrical appliances.
Therefore, Lithuania, by combining advances in technical efficiencies of power transmission, distribution, and appliance functions, could significantly reduce the demand for power generation and the need for new resources to generate electricity. Consumer incentives and the promotion of improvements to equipment would greatly reduce the quantity of energy necessary to meet their respective needs. Such cost effective efforts could arise from the collaboration of government, industry and business to improve technical standards and, through direct and indirect financial incentives, for users of electricity, not only to accept the changes, but to embrace them.
Lithuania does not have sufficient in-ground energy resources to fully satisfy its long-term electricity generating requirements. Accordingly, the closure of the IAE necessitates the development of a thorough and far-reaching comprehensive plan of how to practically, effectively, and realistically address Lithuania’s future electricity needs in a cost effective manner that its population can afford. Therefore, it is important to recognize that the need for power must be based on current and future economic realities. The plan should consider the use of new energy technologies, the availability of and cost projections for various types of primary energy resources, the implementation of EU mandates for energy self-sufficiency, improved power interconnection with EU, and broad and transparent public discussion and evaluation of potential alternatives. Long-term objectives should strive to attain ever-increasing energy independence by reducing, as much as practical, imports of energy resources. Ideally, this would reduce and perhaps over time eliminate Russian control over Lithuanian energy supplies and distribution as well as any associated political leverage.
Currently, Lithuania has sufficient generating capacity (even without the IAE operating) to satisfy its present electrical needs. This can be achieved by powering existing generating plants with imported natural gas and/or fuel oil. However, such supplies, because of their continuous price escalation, might create prohibitively large expenditures that would severely strain Lithuania’s financial resources and impede its economic development. Therefore, Lithuania may want to pursue the development of significant renewable energy resources to fuel its electrical power generators. These would include, but not be limited to, large numbers of wind power plants, increased hydro generating capacities, and extensive use of locally grown combustible organic matter. Small nuclear power plants, featuring short construction times (two to three years), long continuous operating time spans and minimal nuclear residues as well as LNG import, should also be considered to supplement electrical energy deficits. For now, potential power shortages, which might last only a few hours during the winter months, could be overcome by more closely coordinated power generation with the existing Kruonis HAE. In time, however, Lithuania should consider construction of additional pumped storage hydro capacities to assure larger stored energy reserves either for generation of power for domestic use or for highpriced energy exports at peak demand time. Furthermore, the use of smart grids, the reduction of energy losses in transmission lines and transformers, the promotion of more efficient consumer appliances and electronic communication and entertainment equipment can significantly reduce the demand for additional power generating capacities.
To practically and economically achieve energy independence in the long term, Lithuania should strive to maximize the needed generation of electricity using its own resources. Total energy independence will be achieved when all its electrical, heating and transportation needs are satisfied by internally supplied resources. The opening of the power bridge to Sweden should be the time to initiate the march towards total energy independence.
* Abbreviations and
acronyms may be found at the end of the text.
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