Mihhail Kõlvart: an energy-deficient country does not have the luxury of simply hitting oil shale with its hand

The National Audit Office’s assessment of energy policy is not a surprise. It was rather an open secret, where different governments have hid their heads in the sand like an ostrich one after the other and ignored the problem. Only the second government of Jüri Ratas, where it was decided that at least 1000 MW of oil shale production capacity must be in reserve, can be singled out as a positive ray of hope. Recent years have shown that these reserves have been needed more than anyone could have predicted at the time.

The root problem of energy policy has been the ignorance of both ministries and politicians. Only slogans have been thrown and hoped that the market will somehow miraculously solve all the problems. Investments will not be made if there are no firm orders from the public sector and assurance that the rules will not be changed overnight and without consultation with the sector.

We must ensure energy independence

We have long heard the praises of the former manager of Elering, Taavi Veskimäe, how the network is enough and the lights will not go out. It is not desirable to discuss Plan B or, even more so, Estonia’s energy independence, let alone implement it. However, recent years have clearly shown how fragile these international connections and supply chains are.

We are used to a good situation and do not really perceive what is needed to provide quality and volumes sustainably. In order for Estonia to be energetically independent, we must have the ability to produce all the electricity we need. Solar panels and wind generators are necessary, but they need sun and wind to function. Neither of these solutions is controllable, i.e. we cannot generate as much sun and wind as we need and when we need.

Controllable production capacities are needed, which so far have worked primarily with oil shale. In today’s situation, the state cannot hit oil shale with its hand. We don’t have that luxury, and in fact neither does Europe, considering, for example, Germany’s decision to start up coal plants. Oil shale is our own mineral, thanks to which our energy needs have not only been met, but Estonia has been energy independent and previously an exporter, not an importer.

Have we searched for solutions and invested enough to increase the competitiveness of oil shale plants? We see that the truths that were valid before the energy crisis and Russian aggression are no longer valid. Both Estonia and the whole of Europe need to review regulations and decisions in such a way that the lack of energy and its price do not harm competitiveness and security.

Investors need certainty

If we want to end the use of oil shale in energy, or if we have to do it, we have to build alternative controllable production capacities. Be it a nuclear power plant, geothermal power plants, storage or gas-fired power plants. However, decisions about which power plants and in what capacity Estonia needs have not been made for decades. It is only hoped that it will come from the network. Most of the time it comes, but at what price and will it still come if the network is broken…

In order to move forward quickly, we need to set clear goals for each year, how much controllable and uncontrollable production capacities we must have. What is the financing plan for these production capacities. Our neighbors are fighting for investment to come to them.

It is also high time for Estonia to show activity and provide investors with assurance that these goals will remain and that the expected production capacities can be on the market at least for the entire promised period. And the most important thing – we will not close the existing production capacities until alternative adjustable production capacities of at least the same volume are ready.

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