"The NRG deal will give vitality to the power plants and prevent their decay," Estonian Energy Workers Union chairman Tonu Paasuke said at a press conference.
He was seconded by the union leader at the Estonian Power Plant, Vladimir Alekseyev, who said the plants would end up as scrap metal without big investments. Eesti Energias spokesman Erki Peegel said abandoning the plan put forward by NRG to build new power generating blocks at the two power stations of Narva Elektrijaamad company doesn't mean the plants would have to be closed.
Regardless of whether the new blocks are built, Eesti Energia plans to invest 600 million kroons in the two large power plants over the next three years, he said.
Renovation of an energy block would be more expedient at the company's other large power station, the Baltic Power Plant, which also sells thermal energy, thus making the payback period of the investment shorter, Peegel said.
Speaking from the Baltic Power Plant, the plant's trade union leader Vladislav Poniatovsky said the large power stations should have been privatized a couple of years earlier, as the European energy market has opened up to competition in the meantime.
If privatization of the power stations is delayed, and the new power generating blocs aren't built, this may lead to a situation where one of the power stations will have to be closed in 2003 because of pollution exceeding EU norms, the union leaders said.
They underscored that because of the special character of the energy sector, it wasn't right if the decision about privatization of the power stations was made by the people. The decision must be made by experts, the unions say.
The union leaders met during several hours on July 21 with Hillar Lauri, representative of NRG Energy in Estonia, who said NRG had no plan to lay off any workers at the power stations in the next few years. Job cuts would be made by mutual agreement, and for each person a positive solution would be found, Paasuke said.
Commenting on reports published in the press which suggest that only 500 jobs would be left at the power stations, Paasuke said the figure applied to the worst case scenario when the power plants shut down.