Lithuania’s pursuit of excellence in bioenergy brings the country forward in the European low-carbon energy scene

1 pic simontoplak com tum sto2783 700px Since it joined the European Union in 2004, Lithuania has boosted the already ongoing transformation of its energy sector in pursuance of energy security and independence, as well as to align it with the European energy strategies and policies. With the decommissioning of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in 2009, Vilnius has increased its reliance on renewable energy sources – the principal being bioenergy – and shifted from a net exporter to a net importer role in terms of electricity.

The Lithuanian National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) has traced an ambitious path towards 2030, reducing emissions by 55%, increasing the share of renewables in the final energy consumption to at least 45%, and raising the percentage of domestic electricity production to 70%[1]. The biggest of the Baltic countries participates in the execution of the SET Plan, namely in the Implementation Working Groups on Batteries and Nuclear safety. Cooperation with the latter is broadly addressed in the NECP, which identifies the alignment between nine thematic areas of the SET Plan and the respective national targets for Research and Innovation (R&I) in the energy sector[2]. 

2 shutterstock 217893892 reducedLithuania’s success story traces back to 1990, when the independence ignited the process of transformation of the energy sector. Thereafter, Vilnius sought to emancipate from natural gas imported from the Russian Federation and pursue energy independence through bioenergy and waste for co-generation and heating. More recent data shows that natural gas went down from 61% of the total heat generation in 2000 to 18% in 2019, while bioenergy and waste increased from 3% in 2000 to 56% in 2019. Today, roughly 75% of the entire heating is generated through the combustion of woody biomass harvested in Lithuania or imported from the Belarussian side of the regional Baltpool platform[3]. 

 

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Acknowledging the role of Lithuanian forests as a major carbon sink and hence a key resource to achieve 2030’s emissions reduction targets, together with the growing concerns over deforestation in the neighbour Belarus, Lithuania has bet on modern forms of bioenergy such as Waste-to-Energy (WtE) and Power-to-X (PtX)[4]. Through such technologies, Lithuania aims at transforming waste into alternative fuels and hydrogen. More specifically, waste material not suitable for recycling but still possessing energetic value (e.g., municipal solid waste (MSW), refuse derived fuels (RDF), solid recovered fuels (SRF)) can be utilised for energy, fuel or chemical production through thermochemical pathways.

4 lei logo horiz en web 1200pxThe Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI)[5], an energy-related research and technology competence centre established in 1956, emerges in this context as the main character of this story. LEI is a state budgetary institution playing a key role at a national level by contributing to drafting national energy strategies and bridging the government and the industry in overarching research projects. Over and above, it is also actively involved in international cooperation with other research institutions as its numerous participations in international initiatives, included several Horizon 2020 projects, account for.

5 twinpeaks logoAmong these is TWIN-PEAKS (Twinning for Promoting Excellence, Ability and Knowledge to develop advanced waste gasification Solutions)[6], a Horizon 2020 project coordinated by LEI, aiming to foster the uptake of Waste-to-Energy research and innovation in Lithuania and to engage the country in pan-European collaborative efforts on this matter. More in detail, through TWIN-PEAKS, LEI and the Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) are working together with two other partner research organisations from Germany and one from Sweden. The objectives are to develop a joint-research strategy, pool their research infrastructure, transfer scientific knowledge and know-how on WtE R&I, trace academic and non-academic networks, reach out to end-users of WtE solutions, and plan for joint applications for research grants to fund further research projects involving the consortium. Ultimately, TWIN-PEAKS is expected to increase the research excellence of LEI and VMU, enhance their international ties, and grow opportunities for collaboration with the industry in the field of WtE.

6 twinpeaks home anim 700px The success of the TWIN-PEAKS project lies in the many years of research and expertise that LEI has developed in the field of biomass usage and energy production and the related network of infrastructures and labs. According to LEI’s director, Dr Sigitas Rimkevičius, among the most relevant services provided is research on the identification of biomass fuel characteristics, research on combustion processes and the reduction of environmental emissions, and safety assessment and waste management at nuclear power plants. An example of LEI achievements in the field of thermal treatment of biomass and waste is the EUREKA’s project that led to the development of a prototype of gasification equipment automatically operated. It can regulate and adjust the gasification process to different types of fuels and generate gas that is later supplied to internal combustion engines or turbines that generate electricity or thermal energy.

7 screenshot 2021 08 23 at 155636It is also undeniably thanks to its laboratories and their specialised technological equipment that LEI was able to position itself as a key stakeholder in this field. Among these are the Laboratory of Plasma Processing and the Laboratory of Combustion Processes. A wide gamut of research is conducted in the former, for example, about plasma sources, diagnostics of plasma flows and jets, analysis of gas dynamic characteristics, and heat-mass transfer[7]. The latter, created more than twenty years ago, is specialised in heat and mass transfer, combustion and gasification, and environmental impact assessment[8].

A clear understanding of the country’s national priorities regarding energy security and the effort to align them with the European Energy Security Strategy is undoubtedly one of the critical elements of this success story. Other crucial aspects are the many decades of expertise and efficient technological facilities in place at the Lithuanian Energy Institute, together with the strong international ties and cooperation with other research and technology organisations within the European Union. Lithuania is well aware that by taking part in collaborative projects such as this as well as in the vast array of SET Plan initiatives, it can successfully develop the sought excellence in R&I.

In conclusion, LEI and the TWIN-PEAKS project show the importance of aligning with both national and European priorities and joining forces with partners from across the continent to take advantage of the many opportunities arising from international cooperation and participation in the SET Plan.


[1] Lithuania’s Ministry of Energy. 2019. National Energy and Climate Action Plan of the Republic of Lithuania for 2021-2030.

[2] European Commission. 2020. Assessment of the final national energy and climate plan of Lithuania, 12.

[3] International Energy Agency. 2021. Lithuania 2021, Energy Policy Review, 56.

[4] Ibid., 11-12.

[5] Lithuanian Energy Institute. https://www.lei.lt/en/.

[6] TWIN-PEAKS. “About TwinPeaks”. https://www.twinpeaks-h2020.eu/en/about-twinpeaks/.

[7] Lithuanian Energy Institute. “Plasma Processing Laboratory”. https://www.lei.lt/en/subdivision/plasma-processing-laboratory/.

[8] Lithuanian Energy Institute. “Laboratory of Combustion Processes”. https://www.lei.lt/en/subdivision/laboratory-of-combustion-processes/.

Contact

Andrius Tamosiunas Coordinator of TWIN-PEAKS project
Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI), Lithuania