Lithuania Premier Plans Energy Accord as Nuclear Not a Priority

Lithuania’s government will seek an accord on energy policy from across the Baltic nation’s political spectrum as it nears a decision on whether to build a nuclear plant, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said.

The agreement would cement the shared goals of energy autonomy from Russia and integration into European Union power and natural gas markets, Butkevicius told reporters today in the capital, Vilnius.

Lithuania, which isn’t connected to EU energy grids, relies on imports of Russian power and gas, particularly since closing the Soviet-built Ignalina nuclear plant in 2009. The Cabinet, which took office in December, must propose an energy-independence strategy to Parliament by May 15.

“One can see from the debates and programs that there is in fact a common underlying vision,” Energy Minister Jaroslav Neverovic said, speaking at the same news conference. “An accord is key for energy-policy stability and project continuity over the longer term, even when governments change.”

Earlier in the day, Butkevicius said he didn’t think building a new nuclear plant to replace Ignalina was a priority.

Multiple Projects

“We’re already working on several hugely expensive energy projects and there are limits to how much we can manage,” Butkevicius said on Ziniu radio. “I lean to prioritizing other efforts that offer bigger benefits relative to the cost.”

The government’s priorities are to complete by 2015 the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Baltic Sea and power links to Sweden and Poland, Butkevicius said.

Also needed are efficiency improvements in systems for heating homes, schools and other buildings, which cause a large portion of annual energy costs, he said.

In a referendum in October, voters rejected the previous government’s plan to hire Japan’s Hitachi Ltd. to build a 1,300-megawatt reactor in the town of Visaginas.

A final decision on whether and when to build a possible new nuclear plant will be taken based on detailed cost-benefit calculations that a working group will present by May, he said.