Should Russia's Gazprom shut off the taps - considered an unlikely scenario by experts polled by uudised.err.ee - the Economic Affairs Ministry says 80 percent of district heating needs could be covered by reserve fuels.
Ando Leppiman, the undersecretary for energy, said with several dozen boiler plants in Estonia operating on natural gas, an interruption would be a blow, but shale oil reserves would be marshalled in such an event.
"In this light, a majority of those boiler units are actually currently supplied with reserve fuel and consumers should not face loss of service," Leppiman said.
Energy expert Andres Mäe said it is unlikely that the flow of gas from Russia will be interrupted to Estonia. "Gas sales are Gazprom's business; why should it give up its bottom line? Such threats are heard from Russia, but they have never been implemented to my knowledge," Mäe said.
Mäe said natural gas should remain an important fuel for Estonia. "What we should do is retain parallel heat generating capacities - one system based on liquid fuel and natural gas and another on solid fuel. That would mean the existence of double boilers."
Raul Kotov, a management board member for Eesti Gaas, which is part owned by Gazprom, agreed it was unlikely that gas deliveries would be interrupted. Kotov also concurred that gas should remain a key fuel, noting that two gas links are in the works between Lithuania and Poland as well as between Estonia and Finland.
Estonia is currently supplied with gas from Latvia, and gas reserves exist along that route, he said. "The Latvian prime minister says three years' worth. That's clearly an overestimate, but there is certainly enough to get by through a crisis, when the weather is still cold and there's a need for heating."