Businessman hopes state-bought wind farm plot won't get support

Oleg Sõnajalg in the Vikerraadio studio on Thursday.
Oleg Sõnajalg in the Vikerraadio studio on Thursday. Source: Romi Hasa/ERR

The recent purchase of a plot of land at Tootsi, in Pärnu County by state-owned electricity generator Eesti Energia will hopefully not lead to the latter getting renewable energy support, said Oleg Sõnajalg, owner of a private company also engaged in the field.

Eesti Energia obtained the plot for €51.5 million on Tuesday, but may be eligible for renewables support from the state, even though it is a state company itself.

"We are still hoping that Eesti Energia doesn't qualify for this type of support scheme. But all the signs indicate that Eesti Energia is using all sorts of tricks to qualify for it," Sõnajalg said on ERR radio channel "Vikerraadio" Thursday.

"In my opinion, this is an extremely bad example of how the country is playing tricks. If Eesti Energia manages to qualify for this old support scheme with some kind of a trick, it means that the support scheme will break - the 600 Gigawatt hour limit will be exceeded. That would mean that every last cent of renewable energy support, and much from the pockets of wind farms that have already made their investments, will be withdrawn from the market. This is a clear distortion of the market and certainly sends a very bad message to foreign investors," Sõnajalg, who with his brother Oleg has been at the epicenter of a long-running battle over a part-constructed private wind farm in Ida Viru County, added.

Sõnajalg said that renewable energy support is meant for the undertaking of the new technology, as with his company's planned wind generators at Aidu.

The businessman accused the state of favoring Eesti Energia, and of obstructing any private companies operating in the field, in setting up wind farms.

As evidence for this, Sõnajalg pointed to the value of the 160-hectare plot, which while it sold at auction for €51.5 million, was originally valued at €4.1 million, and came with an opening asking price of €12.3 million at the auction. The growth in value was 12.5 times, he said, adding that this says it all.

"Seeing the process that has taken place around the Tootsi wind farm in its entirety, this result was predictable, and we didn't think it would be wise to go along with that circus," added Sõnajalg, referencing the fact that his own company, Eleon, did not take part in the auction.

Three other bidders, OÜ Utilitas, Tuuleenergia OÜ (Lithuania) and Energiainvesteeringute AS (Lithuania) were present at Tuesday's auction, organized by the (state-owned) forestry commission (RMK).

Sõnajalg even averred that Eesti Energia would have stretched to €150 million if needed.

Existing renewable energy producers receive up to 600 gigawatt hours-worth of subsidies per year, but new generators have to participate in a state-run bid to qualify for the subsidy due to a change in the law. 

Grid distributor Elering will have to decide in the future whether the Tootsi wind farm is considered an old or a new manufacturer, which has an effect on the subsidy qualification.

Eesti Energia spokesman Ain Köster told ERR Monday that Elering will decide only after the wind farm has been completed whether and to what extent the owner of a potential future wind farm at the site will receive support for renewable energy, adding the application has been received from the owner.

Andres and Oleg Sõnajalg have been involved in the legal battles surrounding the validity of construction permits for wind turbines at Aidu, in Ida-Viru County, going back to 2016. One of the principal obstacles came from defense ministry concerns about the turbines negatively affecting its military radar.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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