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The first half year with new power links: more security and lower prices

The first half year with new power links: more security and lower prices

Over the first six months this year the electricity price at the Nord Pool Lithuanian bidding area fell 4 per cent compared to the same period last year. The average electricity price was 36.2 EUR/MWh. 
“Compared to the first half of 2014, prices decreased by 22%. This decline was triggered by the launch of two new power interconnections NordBalt and LitPol Link, which boosted the supply of imported electricity, increased competition on the market and equalized electricity prices in the three Baltic countries”, – the vice-minister of Energy Rokas Baliukovas said after the meeting of the Electricity Market Development Committee.  
The LitPol Link has been operating in normal mode since February and helped ensure the reliability of the electricity system. Litgrid used this power interconnection as an emergency reserve. According to Virbickas, the LitPol Link could be used more efficiently having in view that over the first six months this year the LitPol Link transmitted electricity from Poland to Lithuania operating at a capacity of 221MW, which is less than half of its total capacity. More than two thirds of the time, when LitPol Link is in the operation, the power flow to Lithuania was not possible at all. 
“The power interconnection operates with great stability and reliability, availability rates are high, but Poland is inclined to restrict the power interconnection’s capacity fearing a risk to its system reliability. So, if the electricity price in Lithuania is higher than in Poland we cannot take full advantage of this difference in prices. On the other hand, with NordBalt and other Baltic-Nordic interconnections, Poland remains the area of the highest prices in the region,” Daivis Virbickas, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Litgrid, the Lithuanian Electricity Transmission System Operator said.
In contrast, the NordBalt power interconnection between Lithuania and Sweden is operated at more than 90 per cent of its capacity.
“In a couple of months the Lithuanian electricity system became reliant on electricity imports from Sweden, with the amount of electricity imported from this country reaching the level of electricity brought in from third countries,” pointed out Virbickas.
During the trial period the NordBalt experienced twelve disruptions, including those intended for scheduled maintenance.
“According to the statistics of HVDC power cables in the Baltic Sea region, most of disruptions occur during the first three years of a power cable’s operation.  A power cable can be out of operation on average about one third of its time,” suggested Virbickas. 
More than half of the NordBalt’s disruptions were caused by the flaws of operation systems on both sides of the cable.  Four times the NordBalt disrupted due to the malfunction of joints which join the parts of the cable. It takes more time – from a few to twelve days – to fix such malfunctions as special equipment is needed to locate the point of disruption on land or submarine cables. Until now the reason of the joints’ defect has not been established and to find out what is wrong the leading global technology company ABB, which designed and installed the NordBalt, has deployed huge resources. Once the exact reason of the defect has been identified, a decision on further actions will be taken. About 130 such joints connect the separate sections of the cable.
At the meeting of the Electricity Market Development Committee, the participants were presented with the overview of the electricity market in the first half of 2016 and the progress achieved in the implementation of electricity market projects. Traditionally, the Electricity Market Development Committee holds four meetings per year. At the meetings the representatives of electricity market participants, electricity generation and transmission companies, associated businesses and state institutions discuss the vital issues of the electricity market.
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