TALLINN – Taavi Veskimagi, CEO of Estonia's state-owned system operator Elering, said on Thursday the government must decide whether the goal of the development of the electricity grid is to just ensure the security of supply of Estonia using renewable sources, or to take a step forward and start exporting renewable electricity in the future.
However, in order to export electricity, it is necessary to make different and much larger investments than has been the case to date. Therefore, Veskimagi said, the state must ask itself whether it is ready to pay for the construction of cross-regional grid connections for the export of renewable electricity to Europe, which in the future will allow to earn income from the sale of renewable electricity and contribute to the development of the economy.
"If we want to move forward and see that it is necessary and possible to increase the production of renewable electricity in Estonia for the development of the economy, then the transmission system operator should be clearly given the obligation with the Electricity Market Act to develop the grid in advance. The government must signal that this is acceptable to society, that these costs must be paid for by all of us through an increase in network charges. Elering knows how to build power grids, but such a task must then be assigned to us. This is what has been done in Lithuania," the Elerong CEO said in his presentation to the Riigikogu.
According to Veskimagi, the available capacity in Estonia currently is 2,350 megawatts, of which 900 megawatts is capacity from renewable sources. This enables to generate 2.7 terawatt-hours of electricity per year.
"However, a future potential of about 2 gigawatts of renewable energy, which would be capable of producing 10-10.5 terawatt-hours, is already covered by grid connection agreements. It is important that these generating capacities will be actually built," Veskimagi said.
Elering estimates Estonia's total consumption to be around 9-9.5 terawatt-hours by 2030, so the network resource booked today by production facilities is, according to the Elering CEO, sufficient to provide for Estonia's own electricity consumption with 100 percent renewable electricity sources in 2030.
However, Veskimagi added, in addition to the renewable electricity contracts already signed, there are more developers who are planning wind, solar or other renewable energy projects, which means that the supply of electricity could be much higher than the domestic market demand. Therefore, he believes that the government could consider making the principles of Estonia's energy policy development plan export-driven and focus on the activities needed to achieve this.
"When this is the case, connections across national borders will be extremely important especially towards continental Europe, where there are large consumption hubs, especially in Germany. For the first time, Germany has shown a clear interest in the offshore wind areas of the Eastern Baltic Sea, in order to partially replace the energy that they used earlier in the form of gas with wind that they could tap into in the Eastern Baltic region, from Estonia to Germany," he said.