Latvia completed a new high-voltage power line to Estonia on Monday in the latest step in aligning electricity grids in the Baltic states with European Union neighbours instead of Russia.
The three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which were once under Soviet rule and are now all EU member states, are hoping to synchronise with the EU’s grid in 2025.
But Baltic electricity and gas transmission networks are still linked mainly with Russia.
“Completion of the project is an important step in strengthening the energy independence of Latvia and the Baltic,” Varis Boks, chairman of the state enterprise Augstsprieguma Tikls, which is responsible for the operation of high-voltage power lines in Latvia, said in statement.
The new power line is being tested and is planned to be fully operational in 2021.
It connects the TEC-2 power plant near Riga with Estonia and is already the third such connection built with the help of EU investment.
The biggest electrical infrastructure project in Latvia over the last 50 years, the line cost around 220 million euros ($269 million) — half of which was provided by Brussels.
But end users in Latvia are already complaining about an increase in electricity bills.
Janis Katlaps, a farmer and retired electrician with utility company Latvenergo, said it was “the price for increased power security”.
Currently, 16 percent of Latvia’s electricity consumption comes from Russia and Belarus.
The Baltics are also synchronised with the Russian grid, which means that they depend on Moscow for a stable supply of electricity.
Russia has criticised their plan to switch away, warning that it could affect its exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland and Lithuania.
In recent years, new gas and power connections have been built between the Baltic states.
The new power lines in Latvia are also part of the NordBalt network, which was linked up with the Scandinavian market in 2016 via an undersea cable from Lithuania to Sweden.