On 15-16 October 2023, the parliamentarians of the Baltic Sea states met in the first meeting of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC) Working Group on Energy Security, Self-sustainability, Resilience and Connectivity (WG ESSRC) in Riga, Latvia.
Chair of the WG ESSRC Andris Kulbergs opened the meeting by emphasising that the primary focus of the meeting was to establish a plan and main principles that would guide the discussions and activities within the newly established Working Group from October 2023 to June 2025. The parliamentarians from the Baltic Sea states also had the opportunity to gain insights from experts in the field and assess potential areas of cooperation related to the topics covered by the working group.
Minister of Transport of Latvia Kaspars Briškens identified numerous potential areas of cooperation for the Baltic Sea states, including the development of integrated railway networks, air connectivity within and beyond the region, sea freight and passenger connections, broadband internet and 5G cooperation as well as supporting energy interconnections. Kaspars Briškens emphasized the vital role of the Rail Baltica project in the broader trans-European transport network, notably within the North Sea-Baltic Sea corridor and the Baltic-Black-Aegean Sea corridor. He added that to increase the potential of the infrastructure, enhance regional connectivity and ensure better integration into the national transport network, regional traffic will be a part of the project.
Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Climate and Energy of Latvia Līga Rozentāle emphasized Latvia's reliance on renewable energy sources, particularly hydropower, which constitutes 70% of the country's electricity generation. She highlighted cooperation with Lithuania for natural gas supply and collaborative efforts with Estonia to explore additional gas sources when needed. Līga Rozentāle also presented the energy policy roadmap, which focuses on self-consumption improvement, wind energy development, synchronization with Continental Europe, and various initiatives to address energy poverty while emphasizing efficient resource utilization and grid optimization.
Regulatory Affairs Director of a state-owned electric utility company in Latvia “Latvenergo” and Chairman of the Supervisory Board at “Sadales tīkls” which ensures the maintenance and development of the electrical network in Latvia Kristaps Ločmelis emphasised “Latvenergo” leading role in energy supply and green energy generation within the Baltic States. He informed the participants about the company's diversified portfolio, which includes hydropower plants, combined heat and power facilities, district heating plants, and small decentralized units, all operating within the market. Kristaps Ločmelis also added that Latvenergo's strategy is focused on climate neutrality, welcoming connectivity initiatives to tap into the Baltics' renewable energy potential and drawing inspiration from determined neighbours.
Energy market analyst Reinis Āboltiņš informed the parliamentarians of the Baltic Sea states about the underutilization of wind energy in the Nordic-Baltic region, particularly where demand exceeds supply. He also emphasized the importance of diversifying energy portfolios and implementing hybrid energy systems as well as noted the challenges in competing with LNG. Reinis Āboltiņš also added that increasing the interconnectivity of markets in the region is vital, but also that the potential for green gas to partially replace natural gas could be further explored.
Chair of the WG ESSRC Andris Kulbergs after very active discussions between the members of the WG concluded by emphasizing the opportunity to take stock of the BSPC in strengthening and further exploring energy cooperation and interconnectivity of the region. He also highlighted the importance of energy security in the face of energy challenges that can be observed in Ukraine. Andris Kulbergs noted the necessity for harmonized efforts, especially concerning hydrogen policy, and the value of shared consumption and balancing plans as well as data collection for addressing common issues. The Chair of the Working Group also highlighted the significance of transport and digital connectivity in ensuring security and information exchange between the countries represented in the BSPC.
Programme and chairmanship of the new Working Group
The members of the Working Group on Energy Security, Self-sustainability, Resilience and Connectivity appointed Andris Kulbergs as the Chair of the new Working Group to be approved by the BSPC Standing Committee. Philipp da Cunha and Marius Arion Nilsen were appointed as the Vice Chairs.
The WG ESSRC has two main directions. Firstly, energy security and self-sustainability of the region where the main topics to be discussed by the WG include 1) joint approaches in preventing dependency on Russian fossil energy; 2) enhancing cooperation to ensure clean and affordable energy; 3) encouraging collaboration in energy and sustainability research and innovation; and 4) exploring cooperation regarding hydrogen policies in the region. Secondly, interconnectivity and resilience of the Baltic Sea states where the main topics to be discussed include 1) joint measures towards an open, competitive, fully integrated and resilient regional energy market; 2) building interconnected, sustainable and resilient transport systems together; and 3) accelerating the transition to a single digital market resilient to internal and external threats.
The members of the Working Group agreed on the meeting plan and decided that the next meeting would be held in Helsinki, Finland, on 17-18 March 2024.
Before the first meeting of the BSPC Working Group on Energy Security, Self-sustainability, Resilience and Connectivity, the participants had the possibility to visit the Riga Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP). During the visit, the Manager of Riga HPP Automation service Dainis Pāls and the Board Member responsible for Production Harijs Teters informed about the history and work of the HPP. They informed that the HPP is the newest and second largest power plant on the river Daugava, and it has a power of 402 MW, which is generated by 6 hydraulic aggregates. The reservoir serves for the production of green energy, as well as for the provision of Riga with technical and drinking water resources.
Afterwards, the members of the working group went on an on-site visit to the Riga Central station works. They were welcomed by the Minister of Transport of the Republic of Latvia Kaspars Briškens, who emphasized the importance of the Rail Baltica project and the progress that has been achieved. He informed that Rail Baltica is not just a railway project – it is an ecosystem that will help form a new economic and security corridor. “The construction site in Riga will create a modern and multimodal traffic hub. The construction and design progress can be seen throughout the Baltics," Briškens emphasized.
The most important elements of the Rail Baltica global project update were presented by the Chief Technical Officer and Member of the Management Board at RB Rail AS Emilien Dang. Afterwards, the Chairman of the Board of the national implementing body Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas Kaspars Vingris informed about Latvia's progress in the implementation of the project, especially the ongoing work in two construction sites – Riga Airport and the Riga Central Station. Lastly, Guntis Āboltiņš-Āboliņš, executive director of the construction association BERERIX, presented a video on the progress of the construction works at the Rail Baltica Riga Central Junction facility.
In the continuation of the visit, the parliamentarians had the possibility to visit one of the most engineering-technically complex and largest construction sites of Rail Baltica, the progress of which already allowed the visitors to visually understand its size and future functionality.
© Reinis Inkēns, Saeima & Ministry of Transport of Latvia & BA Secretariat