How can France take inspiration from Lithuania, which operates without Russian energy

The rupture is broken. Gas, oil, then electricity: Lithuania has stopped all energy imports from Russia. Energy Minister praised “An important step on the road to energy independence”as well as a “Expression of Solidarity with Ukraine”The news was announced on Friday, May 20. If the war in Ukraine accelerated the weaning of Vilnius, it was prepared in the early 1990s. How did the tiny Baltic state free itself from its main resource of gas, oil and electricity?

While the European Union has been talking for several months about a possible embargo on Russian oil without successfully setting it up, Lithuania could be a model. Can France learn lessons from this by passing?

By building a new infrastructure

After declaring its independence in 1990, Lithuania remained dependent on energy from the former Soviet Union. Moscow immediately imposed a severe embargo on the young Baltic Republic by boycotting oil shipments for three months. Hence, issues of energy, sovereignty and security have been linked from the beginning. says Trine Philomsen-Berling, a researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, who specializes in energy security in the Baltic region. A few years later, in 1994, 90% of the oil consumed in Lithuania came from Russia, according to the World Bank*, as did all its gas, until 2013, according to the International Energy Agency*.

Lithuania quickly realized the need to find other suppliers. However, it was associated exclusively with other members of the former Soviet Union: Russia, Belarus and its Baltic neighbors. He had to communicate with other partners. The construction of a new refinery, completed in 1999, the operation of electric cables to Sweden and the expansion of the gas pipeline network (such as the one with Poland, which came into operation at the beginning of May) … These projects, in addition to being expensive, have risks Troublesome says Russia, which explains the long delay in implementation Washington Post*. Contact with Sweden was first mentioned in 2004, a call for bids was launched in 2009, and the result opened at the end of 2015. But increasing pressure from Russia under Vladimir Putin, who suspended gas shipments to Georgia and Ukraine in 2006, convinced Lithuania to Continue on its path to energy independence.

The centerpiece of this strategy today floats in the port of Klaipeda. well named independence, a vessel that entered service in 2014, serves as a processing plant for liquefied natural gas imported by sea. Thanks to her, Lithuania can buy LNG anywhere in the world without being restricted by the gas pipeline route. It can even sell gas to other Baltic countries because the capacities of the boat are very large.

and France? France is already connected to the European electricity grid and has four LNG ground stations (Dunkirk, Montoir-de-Bretagne, Fos-Cavaou and Fos-Tonkin). If the whole of Europe wanted to shut off the tap for Russian gas transported through the pipeline, it would have to get its supply from the ocean in the form of LNG, and France would be on the front line to tackle it: so the current capacities may not be. be sufficient. That’s why it could rent a floating LNG plant in the summer of 2022, according to reverberation. If she wanted to rent one or build others, she would have to wait in line or pay a high price. The financial times* It is reported that there are very few boats of this type available, and due to numerous orders, new models may not leave shipyards before 2027.

Finding new suppliers

These new infrastructures have enabled Lithuania to hand over the years to other suppliers. In 2013, Vilnius was still importing all of its gas from Russia. Since then, thanksindependence, the country consumes gas from the United States and Norway, according to Energy Monitor*. The same applies to its oil, which still comes to more than 70% of Russia in 2019: the country’s only refinery reached an agreement in March with oil company Saudi Aramco to make up for the Russian loss, BBC reports*. As for electricity, the share from Russia gradually decreased in favor of Sweden.

and France? The restrictions are different. France does not depend on Russian electricity because it is a “net exporter” (it exports more than it imports), according to the Ministry of Environmental Transformation. With only 17% of Russian gas in the pipes, “France’s dependence on Russia is much less than that of other European countries”, explains Morgan Krens, director of research and innovation at data provider Enerdata. It adds“We can increase the gas supply a little bit from Norway or Algeria”. Finally, Russian oil accounts for 10 to 12% of French crude imports and 20 to 25% of diesel imports, according to the head of Ufip told AFP, but there will be no “great difficulty” In the event of a ban. Morgan Krenns explains it“It will be easier to replace Russian oil than gas, because it is easier to transport and the market is less concentrated.”

With that said, it’s easier to find stockpile for a country of 2.8 million people like Lithuania than it is for France. However, many countries are striving to access other sources of the precious LNG, “On which the main part of diversification must be based” According to Morgan Cranes, producers like the United States or Qatar will take time to ramp up their capabilities. “It would be possible to find somewhere far enough away, as in Asia or Australia”Jacques Persebois, Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Montpellier explains. “But you have to pay.”

By replacing gas with biomass

Banning Russian gas without an alternative has thrown a chill in Lithuania: 62% of the country’s heat production passed through Russian natural gas in 2010. Lithuanians found the solution at home. Today, wood (largely locally produced) provides nearly 75% of the heat consumed in the country, according to the International Energy Agency*. This shift towards biomass has been encouraged by favorable taxation, higher hydrocarbon prices and existing infrastructure. The majority of homes are connected to heating networks and underground piping systems that can connect entire conglomerates to one or more common boiler rooms.

and France? In 2018, 27% of the energy used for residential heating came from wood, compared to 39% from gas, a report by Carbone 4 notes. The possibility is there: French forests are being regenerated naturally twice as fast than we collect, according to Ademe. So France can use more.

but, “If we develop the energy use of biomass, it may conflict with other land uses such as agriculture”, warns Jacques Perseboa. Especially since the heating networks at the heart of the Lithuanian strategy are very few in France. They will account for about 5% of residential heating demand in 2018, again according to Carbone 4. “I’ve never been so popular in France”As Jacques Persebois says, “Because we preferred to use this heat to produce electricity as we do in nuclear power plants.”

By achieving significant energy savings

To reduce dependence on foreign energy, the most effective way is to reduce its consumption. Since Lithuania’s independence, it has embarked on major energy renewal programmes, with the encouragement of its neighbors. “Denmark has helped a lot in promoting energy efficiency measures such as insulating homes, installing thermostats, and setting up district heating systems.”remembers Trane Philomsen Berling.

and France? By focusing on energy renewal, France can kill two birds with one stone: reduce its consumption of energy imported from Russia and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. “It would not be consistent to build new gas infrastructure as part of the low-carbon transition”Anna Kriti, professor of economics at Paris Dauphine University confirms.

The researcher notes, however, that France accuses ‘big delay’ In this area. Investments in energy renewal now amount to about 15 billion euros per year, while that would take nearly three times as much, according to a report by the I4CE think tank, citing the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (Iddri). France also received an official notification by the European Commission of the incomplete transfer of the European Directive on Energy Efficiency, on May 19.

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