Ensuring uninterrupted, secure supplies of electricity is one of the most important tasks of the European Union’s electricity market. Poland, on account of its location in the central part of Europe, is obligated to create conditions for the safe transit of electricity between the eastern and western parts of the continent. Therefore, in order to connect the EU electricity market with the electricity markets of the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), in 2008, a project was launched to build a power link between Poland and Lithuania (the LitPol Link).
As part of this project, a stretch of a cross-border line connecting the two countries, has been built on the Polish side, and a total of 11 investment projects have been carried out. These include the construction of four 400 kV power lines and the construction of five new high-voltage power stations and the expansion of two existing high-voltage power stations.
The construction of the interconnector, and work to ensure a specific level of transmission capacity for the constructed line, were associated with the need to adjust the whole network infrastructure on the Polish side, in such a way, that it could withstand specific loads. The Polish Transmission System Operator was tasked with creating such conditions for transmission, so that energy could be transported in a continuous manner, without running the risk of any interruptions.
Domestically, the project will contribute to an improvement in the conditions, in which the National Power System operates, and it will also help increase the transmission capacity of cross-border interconnectors. The project will provide Poland with another cross-border link that will create opportunities for increased imports and exports of electricity. After the link with Lithuania is put in place, it will be possible to ensure the full capacity of this interconnector for imports at 500 MW, equivalent to the total installed capacity of the high-voltage direct current (HVDC) converter station near Alytus, Lithuania. Export capacity will depend to a greater extent on the operating conditions of the Polish power system at a given time. The system will be able to run at full capacity, regardless of conditions, after a 400 kV line between Ostrołęka and Olsztyn Mątki, and a 400 kV line between Ostrołęka and Stanisławów, are built in Poland.
After the launch of the LitPol Link, the so-called market coupling mechanism will go into operation. On the Lithuanian side, the project included the construction of a new station in Alytus and a 400 kV line toward the Polish border. Moreover, a “back-to-back” HVDC converter station was constructed at Alytus, that makes it possible to link the Lithuanian and Polish power grids, which work in different systems.
When finished, all these investment projects and the launch of the cross-border link will mark the completion of the so-called ‘Baltic Ring’, thus contributing to the development of the European electricity market. The project is also extremely important domestically for Poland, because strengthening and expanding the transmission network increases the security of stable power supplies, which are necessary for the economic development of Poland’s central and north-eastern regions. A reliable infrastructure guaranteeing an uninterrupted supply of electricity is a major factor contributing to economic growth and helps increase investment opportunities in the country.
Internationally, the project enables cross-border energy exchange, thus meeting the requirements of EU directives, calling for efforts by Member States to ensure an appropriate level of interconnectedness for the development of the EU’s internal market. Increased opportunities for power exchange mean greater energy security.
The project to build the power link between Poland and Lithuania was on the EU’s list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI), and has been co-financed from funds available under the Infrastructure and Environment Operational Programme 2007-2013, under Priority X: Energy Security, including diversification of energy sources (“Measure 10.1. The development of transmission systems for electricity, natural gas and crude oil and the construction and reconstruction of natural gas storage facilities”). Investment in the LitPol link project on the Polish side has amounted to 430 million euros, and on the Lithuanian side, 150 million euros has been spent. Total EU co-financing for the LitPol project came to over 230 million euros (of this: around 200 million euros on the Polish side, and 32 million euros on the Lithuanian side).
This joint project, carried out with the support of international institutions, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Commission, has shown that Poland and Lithuania, after overcoming a number of barriers, can successfully handle even the most complex projects.
A ceremony to mark the completion of the power bridge project between Poland and Lithuania is scheduled to take place in Brussels in November.
Henryk Majchrzak, CEO of PSE, CEEP member