With the unanimous adoption of the 32nd resolution on 29 August 2023, the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference established a new Working Group on Energy Security, Self-sustainability, Resilience and Connectivity. The ESSRC Working Group held its first meeting on 15-16 November 2023 in Riga, Latvia. More than 30 participants – mainly delegations from the Åland Islands, the Baltic Assembly, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hamburg, Latvia, Lithuania, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Norway, Poland, Schleswig-Holstein, and Sweden – participated. Within the framework of a comprehensive programme, the working group discussed intensively plans to strengthen cooperation for ensuring energy security, self-sustainability, resilience, and connectivity in the region.
BSPC President Henrik Møller opened the inaugural meeting and wished the working group great success in reaching its goals.
The working group unanimously appointed Mr Andris Kulbergs, Latvia, as chairman.
Chair of the WG ESSRC Andris Kulbergs emphasised that the primary focus of the meeting was to establish a plan and the main principles that would guide the discussions and activities within the working group from October 2023 to June 2025.
On-Site Visits: Hydroelectric Power and Rail Baltica
Before the start of the detailed deliberations, the participants had the opportunity to visit the Riga Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP). During the visit, the Manager of Riga HPP Automation Service, Mr Dainis Pāls, and the Board Member responsible for Production, Mr Harijs Teters, informed the working group about the history and work of the HPP. They explained that the HPP is the newest and second largest power plant on the river Daugava, producing 402 MW generated by 6 hydraulic aggregates. The reservoir serves for the production of green energy as well as providing the city of Riga with technical and drinking water.
Afterwards, the members of the working group undertook an on-site visit to the Riga Central Station. They were welcomed by the Minister of Transport of the Republic of Latvia, Mr Kaspars Briškens, who emphasised the importance of the Rail Baltica project and the progress that had been achieved. He stressed that Rail Baltica was not just a railway project – rather, it was an ecosystem that would 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 said.
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, Mr Emilien Dang. Afterwards, the Chairman of the Board of the national implementing body Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas, Mr Kaspars Vingris, spoke about Latvia’s progress implementing the project, especially the ongoing work at two construction sites – Riga Airport and the Riga Central Station. Lastly, Mr Guntis Āboltiņš-Āboliņš, executive director of the construction association BERERIX, presented a video on the progress of the construction at the Rail Baltica Riga Central Junction facility.
Later on during their visit, the parliamentarians were given a tour of one of the largest construction sites of Rail Baltica, representing a highly complex engineering task. Seeing that allowed the visitors to visually understand the project’s size and future functionality.
During the meeting, 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 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. Mr Briškens emphasised 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 the project would encompass increasing the potential of the infrastructure, enhancing regional connectivity and ensuring better integration into the national transport network as well as regional traffic.
Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Climate and Energy of Latvia, Ms Līga Rozentāle, underlined Latvia’s reliance on renewable energy sources, particularly hydropower constituting 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. Ms Rozentāle also presented the energy policy roadmap and its focus on self-consumption improvement, wind energy development, synchronisation with continental Europe, and various initiatives to address energy poverty while stressing efficient resource utilisation and grid optimisation.
Mr Kristaps Ločmelis, Regulatory Affairs Director of the state-owned Latvian electric utility company “Latvenergo” and Chairman of the Supervisory Board at “Sadales tīkls” maintaining and developing the country’s electrical network, gave another presentation. He emphasised his company’s leading role in energy supply and green energy generation within the Baltic States. He informed the participants about the company’s diversified portfolio, covering hydropower plants, combined heat and power facilities, district heating plants, and small decentralised units, all operating within the market. Mr Ločmelis also added that Latvenergo’s strategy was focused on climate neutrality, welcoming connectivity initiatives to tap into the Baltic States’ renewable energy potential, and drawing inspiration from neighbours dedicated to this path.
Energy market analyst Reinis Āboltiņš informed the parliamentarians of the Baltic Sea states about the underutilisation of wind energy in the Nordic-Baltic region, particularly where demand was exceeding supply. He also underlined the importance of diversifying energy portfolios and implementing hybrid energy systems, further noting the challenges in competing with LNG. Mr Āboltiņš added that increasing the interconnectivity of markets in the region was vital but also that the potential for green gas to partially replace natural gas could be explored further.
Chairman Andris Kulbergs concluded very active discussions between the members of the WG by emphasising the opportunity for 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 could be observed in Ukraine. Mr Kulbergs noted the necessity for harmonised 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 pointed out 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 Mr Philipp da Cunha, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Mr Marius Arion Nilsen, Norway, vice-chairs.
The WG ESSRC has two main directions. The first concerns energy security and self-sustainability of the region, with the main topics including 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. The second direction deals with interconnectivity and resilience of the Baltic Sea states, focusing on 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.