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The St.Petersburg Times - the English-language newspaper of St. Petersburg, Russia.

#911, Friday, October 17, 2003


EU and Russia Agree On Grid Integration

By Alla Startseva

MOSCOW - The European Union and Russia agreed Thursday to move toward full integration of their respective electricity grids, an ambitious project both sides said could be completed by 2007.

"This is a groundbreaking proposal that is of tremendous interest to us," Anatoly Chubais, CEO of national power monopoly UES, told reporters after a roundtable meeting between senior energy officials from both sides.

Europe's top energy and transportation official, Francois Lamoureux, said the ultimate goal was the complete synchronization of the massive grids to form a common electricity market and ensure the safety of energy supplies.

He said he would officially recommend that Brussels and Moscow draft an agreement establishing joint institutions to work on the details.

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, whose brief includes the energy sector, led the Russian delegation at Thursday's roundtable, held under the auspices the EU-Russia Energy Dialog and attended by more than 50 officials and industry experts.

Chubais, who also represented the Commonwealth of Independent States at the meeting as chairman of the CIS Energy Council, called the need for nations to synchronize their power grids "a global problem."

Khristenko said that in light of the massive blackouts that have occurred in Europe and America this year, "the problem of the reliability of power supplies must be rethought."

UES, which has already synchronized the grids of all 14 of Russia's neighbors, is already studying how to do the same with Europe, Chubais said.

Experts set up a working group in March to draft a "comprehensive report" on the issue, said Stephan Gewaltig of the EU's energy and transport directorate. He said it would be finalized and presented to Brussels early next year.

Synchronizing electricity grids is a "significant issue" for the industry as a whole, but it benefits consumers the most because it increases both the reliability of power supplies and competition, which eventually leads to lower prices, Chubais said.

Both sides said it was technically feasible for the EU and Russia to fully integrate their electricity grids within four years.

"The most optimistic scenario is 2007," Khristenko said.