28 March, 2002 – Synchronising the power grids of eastern and western Europe could be a very effective way of exchanging electricity says Anatoly Chubais, chief executive of Russia’s Unified Energy System (UES) company.

In an interview this week with the Financial Times he said that the cost could be as little as $100m and that a grid linkage could provide substantial savings for generators and customers.

Last week, Mr Chubais, as head of the electricity council of the Commonwealth of Independent States, signed a protocol with Eurelectric, the west European power generators association, to study the east-west grid link.

Mr Chubais told the FT that the CIS countries had reconnected their grids last summer and were now ready to connect to the western grid. The two AC grids operate at slightly different cycles and a recent study by Western electricity companies and funded by the European Commission’s Tacis programme had concluded that synchronization would be a cheaper solution than linking through a series of “back to back” interconnectors.

Their preliminary estimate for such a link was $100m but Mr Chubais said “the money could be paid back within five years in the form of cost savings”.

Some west European generators who are concerned that Russia is looking to rush into a link before upgrading the quality and reliability of its power do not welcome the idea of a grid synchronization at this time.

The Brussels-based Union for the Co-ordination of the Transmission of Electricity (UCTE) contrasts this with the years that central European countries spent upgrading their grids before putting them on the same cycle as Western Europe.

Eurelectric has expressed concerns that the Russian market operates on very different commercial, environmental and nuclear safety standards.