An Assembled Collective: The Energy Landscape of the Baltic States

Apr 26, 2016

September 2015 - Energy companies from the Baltic states are actively engaged in the global energy debate, and this region of the world has far more to offer than just being a picturesque holiday destination. What these companies and countries offer stems from a fascinating track record of innovation, integration and fast-tracking renewable energy targets.

The Baltic Sea coastline has long been known as a beautiful place to spend your time away from work, and it is one of my favourite summertime destinations. But we are increasingly thinking about the Baltic Sea region as a good place for business, which makes Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, known as the Baltic states, interesting destinations for your professional life.

Together the Baltic states have a population of 6.2 million and all three countries are members of NATO and have joined the European Union and adopted the euro. The Baltic Sea has always been hugely important for the economic growth of the region, which is why in 1990 Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia formed a political alliance called the Baltic Assembly. It was first established to represent Baltic states’ interests vis-à-vis Russian influence, but by the mid-90s shifted its focus to help with European integration.  

Energy companies from the Baltic states are actively engaged in the global energy debate. In May, they were present at a regional panel titled “How to drive energy and economic growth in CEE”, by GE in Warsaw.

Focusing particularly on increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the European energy mix, all three Baltic states remain strongly committed to 20-20-20 targets adopted by the European Union. Thanks to hydropower featuring significantly in Lithuanian and Latvian energy supply, both countries are on a fast track to meet their renewable energy targets for 2020 (set at the level of 23% and 40%, respectively). Estonia has already succeeded in reaching its target of 25% share of renewable energy sources. Since the region boasts favourable wind conditions, in recent times the local wind power sector has recorded growth. GE has contributed to this process: its turbines are installed in the largest wind farm in Estonia (Paldiski, 45MW) and it will deliver turbines to the biggest wind project in Lithuania (Silute, 60MW). But GE’s regional presence is not limited to wind technologies: in 2012, GE supplied a 455MW combined-cycle turbine for a Lithuanian power plant Elektrenai, and two similar units operate in a Latvian CHP plant.

In addition, the Baltic states are also CEE leaders in innovation. This was confirmed last year when Estonia ranked 24th and Lithuania 34th in the Global Innovation Index 2014. Estonia in particular stands out as the breeding ground for innovation, leading the way with marketable ideas that take the world by storm. Estonian flagship products include Skype, and globally acclaimed start-ups include GrabCAD, Transferwise, Pipedrive, Fortumo, Playtech or Erply. According to a study carried out by Wall Street Journal, Estonia has more start-ups per capita than any other European country, and almost two-thirds of their fledgling businesses innovate in the information technology sector. The country’s IT potential was recognized by NATO, which chose Tallinn for headquarters of its Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.

Finally, Lithuania has emerged as a global leader in ultrashort pulse laser technology. These picoseconds or femtoseconds lasers are used in a wide range of applications, from manufacturing to medicine. Lithuanian companies produce half of the ultrashort pulse lasers sold worldwide, and their light amplifiers are dominating the competition with 80% of the global market.

The Baltic states definitely deserve a closer look and I am excited to see how things will turn out for them. What do you think; will Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia make the most of their emerging opportunities?