Just recently, Lithuania became the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to adopt a RES-based energy strategy. This small Baltic country, which stepped away from the production of nuclear energy only a decade ago, has made a strong move towards renewable energy earlier this year. Until 2050, 100 % of country’s demand for electricity and heating will be generated from renewable sources, and the key role in achieving this aim will be played by wind energy.
“On windy days, the wind farms operating in Lithuania can produce up to a third of the country’s electricity consumption needs. The average annual yield of these farms comprises 12 percent of the energy demand. This means that the energy generated by the wind plants is sufficient for supporting 700,000 households, i.e. 1.4 million or half of the country’s residents,” estimated Aistis Radavičius, Director of the Lithuanian Wind Power Association.
Currently, there are 23 wind farms operating in Lithuania. Together with the single turbines situated across the country, the capacity of the installed wind plants comprises 540 MW, generating approximately 1,3 TWh of electricity annually. However, as Radavičius noted, the Lithuanian potential in the wind energy sector is much higher than this – there are plenty of suitable places for developments both on land and offshore in the Baltic Sea.
Standing next to a 130-metre turbine at the country’s largest wind farm, located near the border town of Pagėgiai with 8 thousand residents, Radavičius emphasised that the benefits offered by the wind energy sector to the country are two-fold: the first is the quantity of energy produced; and the second is the increased investments and jobs in remote municipalities. For example, it is estimated that the construction of one wind farm requires the joint forces of up to 30 companies specialising in various fields.
The wind energy sector in Lithuania has already attracted close to 1 billion euros in investments. EuroObserv’ER estimates that 1,600 specialists are constantly employed by the wind energy sector in Lithuania, while the sector’s annual turnover amounts to 60 million euros. Furthermore, the data from public opinion polls demonstrates that further development of the wind energy is supported by 3 of 4 of the country’s residents.
In the coming years, the impact of the wind energy sector on the Lithuanian economy, alongside the quantity of electricity produced by wind plants, will take a noticeable leap forward. The National Energy Independence Strategy that was unanimously approved by the Seimas earlier this year states that the energy produced locally in Lithuania in 2030 will comprise 70 percent of the total consumption by the country’s end-users. 45 percent of electricity consumption and 90 percent of heating will be generated from renewable energy sources.
The Strategy states that the main share of energy will be generated by wind, and wind farms are expected to produce approximately 4 TWh, or over 30 percent, of Lithuania’s electricity demand by 2030. This means that the energy production of the wind plants must increase by three-fold during the following decade. The remaining share is expected to be produced by other renewable energy sources in the following amounts: solar 22 percent, biofuel 16 percent, hydropower 8 percent and biogas 1 percent.
In another twenty years, i.e. in 2050, it is expected that Lithuania will meet 100 percent of its electricity and heating needs from local renewable sources. The most significant contribution to the development of clean energy will be made by wind energy – it is expected that wind will be the key power generator in Lithuania, with an annual yield of over 10 TWh of energy onshore and offshore. This means that Lithuania wants to join such countries as Denmark, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal and Ireland that are aiming to completely eliminate fossil fuels in their energy production.
This would be an important change for the country. Its nuclear plant in Ignalina, which used to produce nearly 70 percent of the country’s energy demand, was shut down in 2009. At that time, Lithuania became fully dependent on imports of electricity and natural gas from its neighbour Russia.
With almost no mineral resources, such as natural gas or oil, a country of less than 3 million residents, Lithuania needed to carefully consider the right path to take with regard to energy matters. Plans by former energy politicians to build a new nuclear plant was greatly undermined when 65 percent of Lithuanian residents voted against nuclear energy during the 2012 referendum.
A couple of years later, in 2014, a liquefied natural gas terminal was opened in Klaipėda seaport, which resolved the diversification issue for the supply of natural gas. In 2016, interconnectors for the supply of electricity also started their operations: NordBalt connected Lithuania with Sweden; and LitPol Link connected Lithuania with Poland. Nonetheless, discussions concerning the future production of energy continued right until 2018, when the new National Energy Independence Strategy was adopted.
The new Strategy deems that Lithuania should cover 100 percent of its electricity and heating demand from local renewable energy sources by 2050. In order to implement this Strategy, the Ministry of Energy recently presented the action plan for the coming five years.
“For the first time, a very detailed action plan has been prepared for the implementation of the Lithuanian Energy Strategy, which integrates a number of different sectors: energy, transport and climate. This plan defines the specific targets and tasks, as well as the required investments and benefits for the public offered by the new Strategy,” said Žygimantas Vaičiūnas, Minister of Energy, in the extended statement. He emphasised that major changes will accompany the work provided for in this plan, among which is the development of both large (wind) and small (solar) forms of renewable energy.
In turn, the investors are eager to hear the news regarding future auctions – as a new model is currently under consideration by the Seimas. So far, it is clear that the new auctions will be technology neutral, allowing for the participation of all producers of energy from renewable resources including wind, solar, biomass and others. With the help of the auctions and other supportive measures, it is expected to that the production of energy from renewable sources will increase from 2.4 TWh in 2017 to 5 TWh in 2025, and will reach 7 TWh in 2030. The first auction is planned to take place at the end of 2019.