In the Baltic States, the capacities of base power plants available to cover and balance electricity demand are sharply decreasing. The lack of electricity supply and balancing capacities will become more pronounced after the planned disconnection of the Baltic electricity system from the Russian combined electricity system in 2025, says the Latvian transmission system operator JSC High voltage network (AST) in the annual assessment report on the state of the electricity system.
«The common trend in the Baltic electricity system is to replace the capacity of large, centralized, easily controlled thermal power plants with distributed, fluctuating and difficult to control generation. Especially after the planned disconnection from the Russian unified electricity system in 2025, the risk of balancing capacity shortages in the Baltics will increase if investments in strengthening reserve capacity are not made in time, says Varis Boks, Chairman of the Board of AST.
“Special attention should be paid to the transition period of a few years immediately after the Baltic disconnection from the BRELL electricity system and synchronization with the European power system, when the new balancing reserve market and reserve availability will not be sufficiently developed,” says Boks.
In recent years, the production capacity of conventional thermal power plants in the Baltics has been rapidly declining, one of the main reasons for which is the European Union’s environmental policy and the prices of carbon dioxide emission permits. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years, according to the AST report.
For example, Estonian oil shale power plants, which in recent years produced half of the electricity produced in the Baltics, last year produced half as much electricity as in 2018. As a result, the dependence of the Baltic electricity system on imports of electricity and balancing reserves is increasing.
In general, a significant deficit of generating capacity is expected in the next decade both in Latvia and the Baltics:
about 2,300 MW or almost half of the generation capacity of large thermal power plants will be closed, as well as significant development of wind energy is forecasted in the entire Baltic region. According to the forecast for the development of existing electricity generations, after 2030 the Baltic States will not be able to ensure safe operation of the electricity system, AST points out.
With the switch to synchronous operation with the continental European power system, the Baltic transmission system operators will have to be able to provide load and frequency control both under normal conditions and in the event of an incident following an emergency shutdown of a large generator or international transmission line. Frequency regulation will create additional demand for special reserves and balancing products.
The creation of load and frequency regulation capacity in the power system will require capital investments in new equipment, ensuring the continuous availability of hitherto unused frequency regulation reserves in the region and developing the market of ancillary services. As the market for frequency maintenance and renewal reserves is not developed in the Baltics and there is a significant risk that the availability of such reserves will be insufficient to ensure load and frequency regulation capacity so as not to jeopardize the implementation of the synchronization project,
AST has proposed to the Public Utilities Commission, as a transitional solution, to allow AST to install energy storage batteries to guarantee the necessary reserves during the implementation of the synchronization project.
The annual assessment report prepared by AST is an important document for the development of the Latvian electricity system, as it sets out and considers several possible generation development scenarios, analyzes electricity consumption and peak load, reviews electricity balance for ten years and informs about available daily capacity in the near future.