14.07.2022 - Green technology

Fast track to creating 1 gigawatt in wind and solar energy in Latvia

The team behind Baltic Renewables came to Latvia in 2017 to scout out new business opportunities. They had already become the main developers of wind turbines in Denmark and were looking for ways to reapply their existing knowledge and experience in other places. 

What they found was an underserved, open market, that was incredibly open to green energy, and the government authorities that were very interested in helping them succeed.

Five years and several million euros in investment later, Baltic Renewables has become the pioneering developer of wind and solar energy in Latvia and the Baltics. Of the three Baltic countries, the team has made the most progress in Latvia. They have many projects underway – Ventspils, Rēzekne, etc., and are one track to contribute 1 GW of wind and solar energy to the power grid. 

Replicating what already works     

In their home market of Denmark, the four founders of Baltic Renewables have developed the technology, processes, and market strategy to build commercially viable, investment-grade wind and solar energy parks. No subsidies necessary, quality products (they don't use pre-fabricated components), fully market-driven. They are interested in replicating the same profitable and qualitative process that they had developed in Denmark, in the Baltics. 

This approach was met with skepticism – they say that many high-level officials they spoke with were surprised that they weren't looking for government subsidies, and it took a while to convince them. This conceptual buy-in from the political and governmental sphere was critical because, since this is the first-such wind and solar park in Latvia, many regulatory barriers had to be overcome.

But why choose Latvia for a wind and solar energy hub?

Baltic Renewables saw many benefits to choosing Latvia as their next destination. For one, Latvia is part of the Nord Pool power exchange – a power market that is present in much of Northern Europe. The regulation of the Nord Pool market is well-known to investors and to Baltic Renewables themselves. 

They also saw that the amount of renewable energy in the Latvian grid coming from solar and wind is still low (the vast majority of renewable energy in Latvia comes from hydro). Seeing that the evident future trend was that more solar and wind energy sources would have to be added to orbit systems, they saw this as an opportunity to be those to fill that demand. 

“Here is a market tapping into the same regulation, the same market pool. Knowing it's a good, stable market, we could see the potential. Historically there are also ties between Denmark and the Baltics, and we could use our knowledge to export it and do the same thing we've been doing in Denmark – the same compensation, authority. I think we're the first in the Baltics to do that. That's why LIAA has helped from the beginning.” - Jacob Hänel Christensen, Baltic Renewables

Green channel – from zero network to being in the room with all the right people

The team behind Baltic Renewables had a support system backing them in Latvia from day 1. Having contacted their Latvian Embassy, who connected them with LIAA, LIAA was able to enact the Green Channel to fast track Baltic Renewables' progress in Latvia. They say this was also one of the reasons they chose Latvia as their first target market in the Baltics. 

“The whole spirit and willingness in Latvia in general to look into renewable energy – the success is really how good partners in cooperation you can have through LIAA with all the relevant stakeholders in the process. That's something Latvia as a country can be proud of. We don't see such strong setups in different countries – this is a well functioning system that you have in Latvia.” - Jacob, Baltic Renewables

Having started out with zero network in Latvia, LIAA was able to arrange meetings with the key decision makers in order to move the sustainable energy projects forward. Because this is the first-such sustainable energy plant being created, there's a host of regulations and legislation that hasn't yet been put in place, which is needed to be able to complete the project. 

One major example of missing regulatory practices is having the criteria in place to finalize the EIA – Environmental Impact Assessment, which must be obtained before construction work can begin. Latvia did not have set EIA criteria, and thus, Baltic Renewables has been working closely with the authorities to educate them on how to complete them to EU standards. The connections provided through LIAA have proved invaluable to facilitate those crucial meetings.

One reference case to open the door to future wind energy projects

Baltic Renewables has been investing their time and several million euros into creating the first reference case in Latvia because they believe that once that reference case has been created, it will open the floodgates to being able to plan and construct even more wind and solar plants with relative ease. Not just to their benefit, but also to that of any future investors looking to develop renewable energy in Latvia as well. 

Work on the reference case hasn't been limited to governmental authorities. They've also been working together with local partners that LIAA had suggested – ranging from legal representatives to manufacturers and builders (such as Reģionālie Projekti, Vides Eksperti, Elko, Sorainen, and more). 

“Our partners are very important to us. They have a lot of experience with local plans, and we need to follow the Latvian system. All that was missing was education on the EIA and greenfield development, since there has been no history of doing it in Latvia. It's been a long road for our projects to adapt to the EU and find the correct way forward.”

Those partners have even been on a trip to Denmark to see how it's done there, thus, becoming more educated in the field. In other words – Baltic Renewables has also been investing in the knowledge transfer to Latvia. 

The process has not been quick in developing this first reference case. Baltic Renewables say that the first year was spent just convincing the whole system of the viability of their project. Then the next two years were spent ensuring that everything was filled out according to local procedure. The team behind Baltic Renewables are very sensitive to local norms, emphasizing that it is key to eventual success:

“In meetings, we make sure that all stakeholders are present, that we focus on the goal, and with respect for all things that need to be done. If we do not respect that, then the project won't be of investment quality.”

Gearing up for 1 GW in electricity

With their three renewable energy plants in Latvia, Baltic Renewables are laying the groundwork to meet their goal of generating 1 gigawatt of electricity. For reference, that's enough to power 10 million halogen lightbulbs or power 9,000 electric vehicles. It took the team 25 years to reach this milestone in Denmark, and they hope to reach the same in just a few years in Latvia. 

They emphasize that this is not an “in and out” project. They're here to build value, both for the local community, as well as for investors and stakeholders. With three sites in Latvia well underway, the team has already begun to expand into neighbouring countries to continue their work in developing renewable energy in the Baltics.


 

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