NARVA - Meelis Atonen, minister of economic affairs and communications, has said that there will be no alternative to oil shale-based power in Estonia in the next 10 - 15 years, although he is working with one company to have heat and electricity generated from peat and processed waste as early as 2008.
During his trip to the northeastern region Atonen visited Narva Power Plants and inspected the renovation of the Eesti and Balti power stations. The minister said his was mostly interested in visiting those objects as a representative of Eesti Energia, the state-controlled company which owns Narva Power Plants.
The existing plan to renovate the two power stations would help assure the sustainability of oil shale-based power in Estonia, according to Atonen.
"Without investments into the renovation and taking into account the EU's demands, oil shale power engineering will lose its future," he said.
"The plans to develop Narva Power Plants exist, and those plans are fairly real," he added.
The state currently does not take dividends from Eesti Energia, which gives the power company an opportunity to invest in the energy sector, Atonen said.
"As a representative of the owner of [Narva Power Plants], I can say the state has not taken any dividends from Eesti Energia for two years now and is not going to take them in the future," said Atonen.
However, the minister admitted the state must think about alternative methods of energy production, but he added that this was not a crucial issue.
"The government's program for fuel and energy sector development does not consider liquidation of domestic power engineering. We do not plan to get rid of our own energy production," Atonen said.
However, Eesti Energia is already working on finding alternatives to oil shale, an environmentally unfriendly source of energy.
The Ahtme power station in Kohtla-Jarve in northeastern Estonia, which is scheduled for reconstruction by 2008, will most likely use peat and waste from wood processing industries to generate heat and electricity.
The 700 million kroon (44 million euro) project, which is expected to slightly reduce general oil shale use in Estonia, is currently on the stage of ecological and economic risk analysis. The Kohtla-Jarve heating company, which runs the Ahtme station, hopes to receive up to 85 percent of the reconstruction money from the European Fund of EC Unification.
Gunnar Okk, chief executive officer of Eesti Energia, said he considered the reconstruction of the Ahtme power station, which currently provides heat and electricity for nearly 40,000 people, a testing ground for alternative power engineering.
"Our goal is to renovate the power station and use an alternative energy source there. Although the Ahtme station gives only a small part of the energy produced in Estonia, we will still receive information and experience on alternative energy production," he said.