Estonian parlt discussion focuses on solving energy crisis

  • 2022-11-24
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – The Estonian parliament on Thursday held a discussion concerning the energy crisis as a matter of great national importance at the initiative of the economic affairs committee.

The sitting saw presentations by chairman of the economic affairs committee Kristen Michal, member of the management board of energy company OU Utilitas Wind Rene Tammist, chairman of the management board of Estonian electricity system operator Elering Taavi Veskimagi and green policy coordinator at the Government Office Kristi Klaas.

Chairman of the economic affairs committee Kristen Michal said in his presentation that many people are currently feeling as if the worst part of the energy war is over, but people have to be prepared and think through all the options that may be unpleasant. Meanwhile, according to Michal, Russia's malice may affect Estonia's energy sector both this winter and possibly next winter as well.

Michal summarized the measures the legislator has adopted to ease the difficult situation in the field of energy, which, among other things, include creating the prerequisites for a gas reserve, the capacity to receive liquefied natural gas (LNG), raising the goal of renewable energy, establishing a universal service and a wind turbine fee.

He also highlighted the work that is going on to simplify and speed up planning and what could be discussed and decided by the next parliament composition in the field of energy.

According to him, everything related to making the housing stock more energy efficient is of critical importance. In addition, he highlighted energy security and security of supply reproduction and growth.

"Choices of controlled capacities must be made, nuclear plant choices, until then oil shale should be used," he added.

"When it comes to building large offhsore farms, we are in competition with the rest of the world or our neighbors. We should think about how we as a country and a nation can grow our economy by attracting new developments here," Michal said.

Member of the management board of energy company OU Utilitas Wind Rene Tammist said that Russia's war of conquest in Ukraine and the use of energy weapons against European countries has had a devastating effect on our economy, leading to economic decline and inflation figures that we have not seen since three decades ago.

"There is only one way out of this situation, which is the establishment of new and cheaper production capacities that would replace more expensive ones, reduce dependence on imported fuels and provide long-term security to companies and households," he said.

According to Tammist, wind energy has the greatest growth potential, while the production of it should increase nine times in order to achieve the aforementioned goal. However, this requires the establishment of wind energy production capacities on land and at sea.

"With the continued use of oil shale and wood grid-blocks suitable for covering wind gaps and the existing cogeneration plants, it would also be possible to respond to the question of where we will get electricity when there is no wind and no sunshine. However, this response cannot be given forever," he said, adding that therefore, this year the creators of the energy roadmap of the Green Tiger platform paid special attention to how the production portfolio could look like in the future, where depreciated hybrid blocks are gradually replaced by alternatives.

"The answer is a combination of additional generation capacity, storage solutions, peaking power plants and consumption management solutions. In one possible scenario, future-proof electricity production requires additional hundreds of megawatts of solar panels, around a thousand megawatts of offshore wind farms and onshore wind farms and the implementation of cogeneration potential. Such a production portfolio would cover consumption 95 percent of the time. If we add, as short-term storage, batteries, water pump storage and peaking power plants running on biomethane or methane produced from hydrogen to this, we will be able to supply ourselves with electricity," Tammist said.

He added that affordable energy prices are a good problem to have, as solving it would both help the exporting industry and increase the attractiveness of our country in terms of new investments.

"The production portfolio of the future would be almost three times cheaper for consumers than the universal service price requested by Eesti Energia, would help the exporting industry and the service sector with climate-neutral products and services in foreign markets, would contribute to economic growth and employment," Tammist said.

According to him, it is clear that these are significant investments, but Estonia would not be able to escape investing one way or another, because we cannot rely on oil shale plants forever.

Chairman of the management board of electricity system operator Elering Taavi Veskimagi focused on the development of the power grid and said that, in the last decade, the development of the Estonian electricity grid has been largely guided by four main goals.

"Of course, the most important thing in ensuring security of supply is that the government has set the goal, together with other Baltic states and the European Commission, to synchronize the Baltic states with the continental European electricity system by the end of 2025," he said.

According to Veskimagi, this means that Elering has invested and is in the process of investing some 350 million euros in the development of the electricity system.

Veskimagi added that another important goal in the development of the network has been to ensure security of supply in a climate-neutral way, the third goal is related to the replacement of the depreciated network and equipment, and fourthly, energy production as an economic branch is coming more and more clearly into focus.

As for security of supply in a climate-neutral way, Veskimagi wants the main message to be that the capacity of the main grid will not be an obstacle to ensuring Estonia's electricity supply in 2030 in a climate-neutral way.

When it comes to renewable sources, according to Veskimagi, the usable capacity in Estonia is somewhere around 2,350 megawatts, of which the production capacity based on renewable sources is somewhere around 900 megawatts, and these 900 megawatts could produce somewhere around 2.7 terawatt-hours of electricity per year in the 2030 perspective.

"The potential already covered by a connection agreement is 1.8 gigawatts of renewable energy, which would be able to produce 3.1 terawatt-hours, taking into account the average utilization factors of both wind and sun. And if we add just one gigawatt of offshore wind to that, then if we see that the electricity consumption of Estonia in 2030, the domestic electricity consumption could be 9-9.5 terawatt-hours, then it would be possible to produce somewhere between 10-10.5 terawatt-hours with these production equipment covered with a grid contract, connection contract today. That is, we can see that already today this network resource, which is booked by production equipment, is sufficient to ensure Estonia's own electricity consumption based on renewable energy sources. It is important that they are completed," Veskimagi said

Green policy coordinator at the Government Office Kristi Klaas said that one important solution to the energy crisis is to rapidly increase the share of renewable energy, and in this regard, Estonia has set itself the goal that by 2030 the country would produce as much renewable electricity as its total annual consumption.

According to Klaas, it was agreed in the government action program that, under the leadership of the Government Office, audits of planning, environmental impact assessment and the permit process will be carried out with the aim of finding ways to speed up the implementation of renewable energy projects.

"If we want to be able to produce as much renewable electricity as we consume by 2030, it is necessary to replace approximately seven terawatt-hours of electricity based on fossil fuels with renewable sources," she said, adding that, according to the national energy and climate plan, wind energy has the decisive impact on achieving said goal. 

Thus, when conducting the audit, the goal set as the basis was that, in terms of capacity, approximately one gigawatt of wind energy at sea and one gigawatt on land would quickly reach the developments.

"An important focus is namely on speeding up the existing procedures, because there is currently a lot of interest from developers and we want to be able to offer those developments, which have already reached various stages, as many reliefs and accelerations as possible," Klaas said, adding that development can be accelerated in all stages.

According to her, it is possible to introduce changes in legislation in two stages. First, there are a number of such changes that can be implemented fairly immediately. The development of other changes will take time and will be possible by February next year.

Statements were also made by MPs Taavi Aas, Heiki Hepner, Timo Suslov, Riho Breivel, Peeter Ernits, Tarmo Kruusimae and Jurgen Ligi.