Offshore wind energy development in Lithuania is in the focus of attention of business and government, but approaches differ


Offshore wind energy development in Lithuania is in the focus of attention of business and government, but approaches differ

The first offshore wind farm planned for the Baltic Sea off the coast of Lithuania is gradually taking shape, with the draft Law on Offshore Wind Energy published by the Government last year providing for the first auctions to be launched in early September 2023 and for electricity production to start by 20-21 January 2030. At the WINDMission Lithuania 2022 International Wind Energy Conference in Vilnius, business and government representatives discussed the challenges ahead on the road to energy independence, including the development of offshore wind energy.

According to the government decision, the 700 megawatt (MW) wind farm would be developed on a 15-hectare site in the Baltic Sea. It is estimated that a wind farm of this size would generate up to 3 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year, which would provide up to a quarter of Lithuania’s electricity needs.

Jelena Dilienė, a member of the National Energy Regulatory Council (NERC), who attended the conference, stressed that the biggest challenge at the moment is not only the preparatory work, but also the legislative framework.

“In order to develop offshore wind energy in Lithuania, it is necessary to prepare properly and in time for the wind farm tender, to present the project to the public, to clarify all the necessary processes and criteria. At the moment, we do not have a precise date when the offshore wind law will be discussed and when it could be adopted, but we hope that it will happen very soon”, commented Diliene.

Suggests not to focus on price alone

Under the latest tender scheme, the winner of an offshore wind farm project will be selected on the basis of the lowest incentive volume offered. Businesses in the wind energy sector are rather cautious about this decision and suggest that additional criteria be included in the tender.

“The winners of such infrastructure projects should not be chosen by lottery. We believe that the tender should not only include a price or power criterion, but also innovation and benefits to society. Especially since Lithuania is still a growing market in terms of wind energy, the price criterion should not be the only one,” said Rytis Kėvelaitis, CEO of Energy Unlimited, at the panel discussion.

Giles Dickson, head of WindEurope, the European wind energy industry organisation, echoed his sentiments. He said that the European Union (EU) has already confirmed that the price criterion in such tenders should not account for more than 30% of the tender score.

“Non-financial criteria include, first and foremost, sustainability – such as ensuring diversity and agri-culture, the environmental friendliness and recyclability of wind turbine blades, and lifetime. Then there are the economic benefits – how many jobs will be created, how local supply chains and infrastructure will be supported, how local communities will benefit. Third is the involvement of interested parties, such as fishermen and maritime workers, NGOs. Finally, plans for how wind farm developers are going to integrate their activities with the existing energy sector should be assessed,” said Mr Dickson.

Business representatives at the conference recalled that the first ideas to develop offshore wind energy in Lithuania started 15 years ago, but have taken a long time to materialise. Linas Sabaliauskas, CEO of the renewable energy company Enefit Green, stressed that business would like to see more stability in the legislative framework, so that laws are not changed every few years. Moreover, according to the business representative, there needs to be a constant dialogue between business and the government, and it is very important for decision-makers to consult with experts in the market who are best placed to assess the impact of changes.

Wind is already a traditional energy source

With electricity prices hitting record highs, there are suggestions that this is also due to the growth of green electricity from renewable sources. Aldevin Burok of the renewable energy company Green Genius stressed that the opposite is true. “Wind energy is not a driver of electricity prices – it is only by increasing renewable energy capacity that we will achieve the energy independence we want,” he said.

Urtė Daškevičiūtė, Executive Director of the Lithuanian Wind Power Association (LVEA), shared the same opinion, stressing in her opening speech at the WINDMission Lithuania 2022 conference that it is high time to start referring to wind energy as traditional energy rather than alternative energy.

“Lithuania still has untapped land areas where wind farms could be built, but offshore wind energy would open up unlimited potential, both because of the untapped opportunities, which are already being taken advantage of by many maritime countries, such as Denmark, which is a leader in wind energy, and because of its much larger capacity – a single offshore wind farm would produce as much electricity as all the land-based power plants currently operating,” U. Daškevičiūtė said after the event.

The wind energy debate took place over two days at the WINDMission Lithuania 2022 international conference, where renewable energy professionals and decision-makers met for a joint discussion on the wind energy sector and its future. The annual conference is organised by the Lithuanian Wind Power Association (LVEA) together with renewable energy professionals The Voice of Renewables.