Even during construction Belarusian nuclear power plant in Ostrovets (BelNPP), the Belarusian authorities assumed that the surplus electricity produced by it would be sold for export, in particular, to the Baltic countries. However, due to the lack of transparency in the construction and commissioning of the station, as well as its close proximity to Lithuania, this country refused to buy Belarus had electricity and tried in every possible way to prevent it from entering the EU.
Belarus recently lost another sales market – the head of the board of Ukrenergo, Vladimir Kudritsky, said that Belarus would no longer be able to sell its electricity from the BelNPP to Ukraine and lost the Ukrainian market forever. Where is Belarus going to put the surplus electricity now – DW figured it out.
Belarus exported large volumes of electricity to Ukraine
Every year, Belarusians consume about 38 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity – the country is completely self-sufficient and has refused to import. After the full commissioning of two power units, the BelNPP, as the authorities say, will be able to produce about 17-18 billion kilowatt-hours per year (about 40% of energy consumption). However, so far only one power unit has been put into operation – after its inclusion to the integrated power system in November 2020, it generated a total of 7.6 billion kilowatt-hours.
As for electricity exports, the latest available data is for 2020 (in 2021, Belarus classified foreign trade statistics. – Red.) say that Belarus exported 653.2 billion kilowatt-hours. At the same time, in 2019, exports amounted to 2.4 billion, and in 2018 – more than 1 billion.
At the same time, already in 2021, according to Ukrenergo and Belenergo, Belarus supplied about 1.1-1.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to Ukraine. In the share of Ukrainian imports, Belarusian energy accounted for 69.5%.
Belarusian energy expert (DW does not name him for security reasons. – Red.) says that in that year Ukraine really needed electricity: “Belarus was able to offer it at competitive prices, so the supplies were quite large compared to the volumes that Belarus exported, in principle, in recent years. Now, during the war, when Belarus is recognized as an aggressor, there is no talk of buying Belarusian electricity.”
The Ukrainian market for Belarus is lost forever
At the same time, it should be noted that the supply of Belarusian electricity not possible to Ukraine not only for political, but also for technical reasons. As Yevgeny Makarchuk, an analyst at the ISANS Center’s Energy Security Department, explains, it is not so easy to drive electricity across the border, this requires synchronous operation of the system. “If our Belarusian system works in sync with the energy system of a neighboring country, then you can sell and buy energy. Before the war, we worked synchronously with Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic countries and could trade with them. But with Poland, which is synchronized with the EU system, no “, he says.
However, right before the war, as Makarchuk says, Ukraine began testing the energy system to see how it can work in isolation and in sync with the European Union, and after the outbreak of hostilities, the Europeans helped Ukraine completely synchronize with the EU system. “Therefore, now the issue of supply and exchange of electricity with Ukraine could not be resolved for technical reasons, our systems are not synchronized,” the analyst explains.
Yevgeny Makarchuk considers the loss of the Ukrainian market to be irretrievable: “After the end of the war, Ukraine is unlikely to take steps to desynchronize with the European Union. And in order for us to trade with it, we need to install special equipment at the border, which requires significant costs and is unlikely to be economically viable “.
NPP will work for the domestic market
Looking for export markets for electricity is an empty exercise, analyst Makarchuk believes, because it is technically impossible to Ukraine and Poland, to the Baltic countries – politically hopeless, and to Russia does not make economic sense. “Therefore, now no one is looking for where to sell energy from nuclear power plants, it will work for the domestic market. Now the Belarusian authorities are stimulating an increase in electricity consumption among the population, making cheap electricity tariffs,” says Makarchuk. Thus, Minister of Energy Viktor Karankevich believes that the volume of electricity consumption in the country will increase, and by the end of 2025 it will grow from 38 to 44 billion kilowatt-hours.
When asked about where to put electricity, an energy expert also talks about the domestic market and stimulating household electricity consumption among the population. “It should be noted that due to the appearance of nuclear energy, our stations that generate electricity will be switched to electricity, although they used to work on gas. Electric boilers are already being installed for this, this will be a new consumer,” the expert says.
In addition, as the Belarusian authorities assume, this will reduce the import of Russian gas. Thus, reporting on the energy produced by the first power unit of the nuclear power plant, Minister Viktor Karankevich said that this had already “enabled the replacement of about 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas.”
Belarus is speeding up the creation of a common energy market with Russia
Nevertheless, as an energy expert says, the Belarusian side understands that so far only one power unit of the nuclear power plant is operating, and if the second, as promised, is launched in the second quarter of this year, then together they will produce about 40% of the energy consumption in the country . “Two units will start to fully operate only in 2023. Therefore, Belarus is in a hurry and is making every effort to speed up the creation of a common energy market with the Russian Federation within the framework of union programs,” the expert believes.
Judging by the programs, it is planned to create a common full-fledged electricity market by 2027, but already from 2024, authorized operators will be able to trade on the common market of the Union State – for example, Minsk will be able to authorize Minenergo or BelNPP.
“But the Russian market is in surplus, there is no need for Belarusian energy – back in 2017, the parties wanted to launch a common market, but in Russia they were afraid of competition, because after the modernization our stations are quite efficient. Of course, the current situation puzzles our power engineers and the government, so they are trying faster create a common market with the Russian Federation. It is possible that Russia will make concessions at first, Belarus will have some preferential conditions so that the country can maintain exports. Otherwise, the commissioning of the second unit of the nuclear power plant will have to be postponed, and the Russian side is unlikely to be interested in this,” the expert thinks.