TALLINN - Estonian Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Riina Sikkut is taking part on Tuesday in an extraordinary meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels focusing on the security of energy supply in the upcoming winter.
The European Commission announced last week a package for preparing for the winter whereby non-binding targets for reducing natural gas demand are to be set for member states. The goal is to reduce the consumption of natural gas 15 percent during this fall-winter season. If severe disruptions in supply occur in the natural gas market, a Union-wide state of emergency may be declared by the decision of the member states, which would make the target mandatory.
"What Estonia prioritizes is the unity of the European Union and sending Russia the message that energy cannot be weaponized and that the EU is prepared to make hard decisions," Sikkut said. "In addition, it is important that member states' natural gas savings so far should also be taken into consideration when meeting the target. Our consumers and businesses have already made efforts, which should be taken into account when setting the targets in question."
Sikkut noted that uncertainty in the natural gas market and fluctuating prices have already made Estonian consumers take up alternative fuels and reduce their consumption.
"Various businesses and heat producers have voluntarily switched to either biomass of the domestic shale oil," she said.
The minister noted that gas consumption is estimated to be lower by one-fifth this year compared with the past few years. She underscored that the switch to shale oil, which as partially made it possible, is a temporary one, however, it is an important and fast way to ensure Estonia's energy security. In the longer term perspective, the focus must be placed on the large-scale introduction of renewable energy, however.
Sikkut added that close cooperation at a regional level and across the European Union is also important, particularly when it comes to the prioritization of natural gas consumer groups. It enables to ensure a common approach and equal competition in the EU internal market.
"Hopefully, we'll reach an interregional agreement in this regard already before next winter," she said.
In addition to the EU energy ministers' meeting on Tuesday, Sikkut also met with Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintila to discuss energy cooperation, including the capacity to receive liquefied natural gas. EU ministers are also scheduled to meet with Ukrainian minister of energy German Galushchenko. Estonia expresses comprehensive support to Ukraine, including with regard to Ukraine joining the EU and the electricity market.