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It’s too expensive again: Belarus rejects electricity from Russia

In 2018, Belarus will not buy electricity from Russia, Belarusian Minister of Energy Vladimir Potupchik has stated during his speech in the parliament, reports Prime news agency. According to the head of the energy ministry, Minsk failed to come to terms with Moscow on the cost of electricity imports, so starting from 2018 the country refuses to purchase it.

"We have completed negotiations with Russia. We will not continue buying electricity at the prices that Russia offers to us; we will replace it with electricity produced locally. Since 2018, we have refused from electricity imports," said Vladimir Potupchik.

According the data of the Ministry of Energy of Belarus, until recently, the Russian electricity provided 8% of the country’s consumption. So, in 2016 the enterprises of "Belenergo" produced 29.9 billion kilowatt hours, and 2.5 billion kilowatt hours was bought from Russia.

The Ministry of Energy of Belarus stated that the import of electricity is constantly decreasing, as new generating capacities are put into operation in the country. So, according to the agency, since 2012 the country has reduced purchases of electricity by more than three times - from 7.9 billion kWh to 2.5 billion kWh.

At present, Belarus is building a nuclear power plant, which is being implemented by the Russian state corporation "Rosatom" at the expense of a Russian loan of $ 10 billion.

However, Deputy Head of the Belarusian government Vladimir Semashko said that the country will completely stop importing of electricity by 2020. "With the introduction of the power plant (the Belarusian NPP) there will be surplus electricity. We are going to stop importing electricity, and we plan to give up electricity imports by 2020," the deputy prime minister said to the MPs, Interfax reports. "Moreover, today we are holding talks on export of electricity."

Vladimir Semashko said that construction of the NPP is proceeding according to the schedule: "There was a slight hiccup last year with the reactor vessel. Today, we are working under the schedule again. I can say that in 2019 we will put into operation the first power unit, in 2020 we must put into operation the second one."

Senior analyst of the National Energy Security Fund Igor Yushkov believes that until commissioning of the nuclear power plant, Belarus will continue to purchase electricity from Russia, and now the Belarusian authorities are trying to bargain lower prices for themselves. "Blackmail is a traditional tool of Belarusian politicians in the country's relations with Russia in order to improve their negotiating positions," the expert says.

According to him, the gas conflict showed this, and today Russia remains the only source of electricity imports into the country. For example, in 2015, Belarus refused to import electricity from Ukraine, as the prices for Ukrainian electricity were by a third more expensive than Russia's.

"Russia supplies the cheapest energy resources to Belarus. This has already been demonstrated by the story of failure of Minsk to purchase Iranian and Venezuelan oil to replace the Russian oil," says Igor Yushkov. The analyst notes that if the country refuses to import, it will have to reduce consumption or increase its own generation."

Under the first scenario, it will be difficult, as it will hit the population and industry. Under the second scenario, most of the Belarusian power generation uses gas imported from Russia, and its consumption will have to be increased. At the same time, we remember the latest gas conflict: Minsk does not like prices for the Russian gas either, but it was forced to give in when it was offered preferential terms for oil supplies."

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