Estonian energy group Utilitas, which ultimately had to give up against Eesti Energia in the auction for the Tootsi wind farm property last week, is planning major investments into solar and wind energy. According to former entrepreneurship and IT minister Rene Tammist, who is in charge of Utilitas' wind and solar electricity development, the time is not yet right to reveal the energy group's exact plans.
Tammist, who served as director of the Estonian Renewable Energy Association (ETEK) prior to serving as minister, joined Utilitas last fall, and quit the Social Democratic Party (SDE) in November.
Speaking to ERR, he said that in addition to wind and solar electricity, Utilitas is also interested in developing energy storage solutions as well.
"We mapped out incomplete developments, and one of them was no doubt the Tootsi wind farm development — hence the interest," Tammist said, explaining why the company participated in the recent auction. "As Eesti Energia now acquired the development, then we will look at other potential developments, and will take a development risk ourselves as well — we will develop from scratch."
Which incomplete developments the group intends to target and where it plans on building new ones will be revealed in due course, Tammist said. Local residents will also be notified and local governments negotiated with during the process as well. These plans are only just in their early phases, however.
Tammist noted that no new wind farms have been built in Estonia in recent years, and no new developments launched, which is why Utilitas had been interested in the wind farm in Tootsi.
"If we now have to begin developing from scratch, then that is a fairly time-consuming process," he explained. "It will only be possible to report any business victories after sometime, as planning takes a long time in Estonia, including compared with neighboring countries, for example. This is something that the European Commission has drawn attention to as well, that the planning process should be faster in the future."
Tammist confirmed that Utilitas is planning major investments into wind and solar energy, noting that this is the energy group's business priority.
"We have a clear commitment to help the state achieve its renewable energy goals, and we no doubt have the capability to contribute to this," he said. "We have the proper expertise in this field, as well as the financial capacity to carry out these projects, as energy projects are very capital-intensive. This requires a strong partner to the state, to local governments, and to local communities."
A total of 784 bids were placed in the auction of Tootsi wind farm last week, with Eesti Energia placing the winning bid at €51.5 million. Utilitas' final bid came in second highest at €51.45 million.
No comment on interest in Fortum
Earlier this month, Finnish energy group Fortum announced that it was considering selling its heating businesses in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland's own Järvenpää. Utilitas declined to comment for now whether it may be among those interested in an acquisition.
Olga Petrova, head of marketing and communications at Utilitas, said that prior to commenting, the company should wait and see what Fortum itself wants to do.
"We don't have anything more precise to say if we don't know what exactly Fortum's plans are."
Fortum accounts for approximately 16 percent of the market share of the district heating business in Estonia.
Editor: Aili Vahtla