Biomass fuel is the future for Estonia

  • 2000-12-07
  • Devyani Banerjee
TALLINN - Estonia was among about 100 countries that participated in the recently concluded Executive Assembly of the World Energy Council held in New Delhi, India on Nov. 22-24.

Dr. Ulo Rudi, chairman of the Estonian Energy Council and director of the Estonian Energy Research Institute, represented Estonia.

The World Energy Council holds a World Congress every three years and an Executive Assembly every year to work out new goals for the development of energy and to shape the energy sector in such a way that all countries have equal access to energy sources. Every year the Executive Assembly suggests proposals to the Congress; if accepted the proposal is enacted into law.

"The last World Congress held in 1998 in Houston, Texas worked out goals for energy conservation. This year the focus was on energy conservation, through renewable sources of energy with particular emphasis on fossil fuel," said Rudi.

In developing countries about 80 percent of energy is generated through the use of fossil fuels. The Congress focused on those to avoid the increase of emissions in big developing countries like India, where great economic growth is expected to take place in the new century.

Rudi said that 96 percent of electricity in Estonia is produced from oil shale, which is a solid fossil fuel that causes environmental pollution. Problems arising from the combustion of oil shale are very serious and Estonia is planning to reduce the use of oil shale and replace it with renewable sources of energy, according to Rudi.

Estonia has a vast forest reserve which could be used as a renewable source of energy. "Of the four common sources of renewable energy, namely wind energy, biomass energy, hydro and solar energy, Estonia can use wind and biomass energy to its optimum potential," said Rudi. "Biomass energy, which includes energy from wood, wood chips and energy forest (trees specially planted for energy purposes). is best suited for Estonia," Rudi said.

Although there is not much possibility of using hydro and solar energy, due to adverse geographical and climatic conditions, Rudi is satisfied that certain private sector organizations like Vandra Hospital are using solar energy for heating purposes.

"Estonia is planning a new energy policy," said Rudi.

According to this policy, emphasis would be laid upon judicious and effective use of energy and development of new technology for clean coal energy.

"Estonia has also accepted the EU policy of keeping energy systems of member countries connected so that buying and selling of energy among member nations is easier and quicker," said Rudi.

He said there is a plan to construct a sea cable from Tallinn to Helsinki, so that Estonia can get access to the European electricity grid.

Rudi added that the program is quite expensive.

"It has been officially planned that next year Estonia will make new energy laws for electricity, gas and other fuels. Certain amendments to existing laws have become mandatory because they are not suitable for Estonia's new proposed open energy market policy," said Rudi.

In accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, which envisages reduction of emissions from the energy sector, Estonia has already reduced its emissions rate from 37 million tons of carbon dioxide per year in 1990 to 18 million tons in 1999. The provisions of the Kyoto Protocol have to be fulfilled by 2012.