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Energetics
 
  Renewable energy sources: toward energy security? (Part 1)

Inga Sapronaitytë
2013 05 28

All countries should give high priority to the development of renewable energy sources (RES) and their effective use.  Alternative energy is one of the ways to establish new jobs, develop „green“ economy and reduce  greenhouse gas emissions. Lithuania should also focus on the development of RES and increase energy independence since it is still highly dependent on Russia. Effective use of RES could increase reliable energy supplies and comply with the environmental requirements of the EU. 

After decommissioning of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in 2009 Lithuania has lost the biggest and cheapest electricity producer and today the country has to import about 60 percent of energy (mainly from the Eastern neighbours). The situation wouldn‘t be so dangerous for Lithuanian energy security if the country was independent in other energy sectors. Unfortunately, in the gas sector Lithuanian economy is 100 percent dependent on Gazprom, a single Russian supplier; besides, natural gas is also used for electricity production.

Such dependence is threatening. Even short disturbances in supply (e.g. due to technical or political reasons) could have serious economic consequences for Lithuania. Besides, high gas prices prevent from the economic growth and impoverish the citizens. Within the period of 6 years the price of gas supplied to Lithuania has increased five times.  According to the data of the Ministry of Energy, we pay for gas considerably more than other EU Member States which have alternative gas suppliers.

Since Lithuania does not have major sources of fossil fuels (except the probable shale gas), the only way to increase energy security and independence is development of the renewable energy sources. The key factors preventing from this development include:

- low prices of the organic fuel (oil and gas) until 2006. Renewable energy sources could not compete with the conventional sources, except the rural areas where logs were the cheapest fuel;

- the inherited district heating network in the cities was adapted to use only fuel oil or gas. Modernisation of this field of economy is very expensive.

- renewable energy sources are most effectively used in small systems yet there is still lack of local qualified staff and competent authorities.

-  sceptical attitude toward renewable energy sources which has prevailed in the society and among politicians for a long time prevented from legal and economic incentives.

During the recent decade the situation has changed significantly. Positive changes toward RES (especially in the heating sector) were determined by the restructuring of the sector, separation of manufacturer and supplier, privatisation providing for the emergence of smaller energy producers using RES,  and the increased global organic fuel prices. This changed the attitude of the society and politicians to the renewable energy sources.  

Being part of the European Union Lithuania has to meet energy requirements. In 2008 the European Commission published a major package of proposed legislation to combat climate change and improve the EU‘s energy security. 20 percent of the EU‘s energy consumption should be produced from the renewable energy sources. The EU Directive Regarding the Incentives for Consumption of Renewable Energy Resources has obliged Lithuania to increase this rate to 23 percent.

The Table below indicates the amount of renewable energy sources used by the EU Member States for energy production in 2006 and 2008, and the requirement for 2020.

 

EU Member State

2006, in percent

2008, in percent

Aim for 2020, in percent

United Kingdom

1,5

2,2

15

France

9,6

11

23

Denmark

16,8

18,7

30

Latvia

31,3

29,8

40

Greece

7,2

7,9

18

EU 27

8,8

10,3

20

Belgium

2,7

3,3

13

Germany

6,9

8,9

18

Lithuania

14,7

14,9

23

Portugal

20,5

23

31

Finland

29,2

30,5

38

Poland

7,4

7,8

15

Estonia

16,1

18,9

25

Czech Republic

6,4

7,2

13

Sweden

42,7

44,4

49

Source: http://www.energy.eu/#renewable 

So far the main renewable energy sources in Lithuania were conventional sources used for energy needs, i.e. logs, wood-processing industries waste and hydroenergy. Only during the recent five years energy produced by wind power plants has acquired more relevance, as well as biofuel used in transport. According to the National Strategy for the Development of Renewable Energy Sources, logs and wood waste, straw and other agricultural and industrial waste account for about 90 percent in the balance of renewable energy sources. Another 10 percent consist of biofuel, hydroenergy, wind and geothermal energy.

The second part of the article will analyse the situation in Lithuania and opportunities for the development of renewable energy sources.

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