An amendment to the Electricity Market Act will increase the amount of wood to be burned by the power plants in Narva fivefold beginning next year, as a result of which renewable energy fees will increase by €5 million. The Estonian Renewable Energy Association (EREA) thinks that by paying for the burning of wood, the state has abandoned the principles of supporting renewable energy.
The government approved the amendment to the law last week, despite years of protests by environmental groups against the burning of wood. The amendment will allow the burning of five times more wood than previously. According to the law, while some 100 gigawatt-hours of wood waste was previously used to produce electricity, the amendment will allow for the production of up to 500 gigawatt-hours, ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.
"The terms in the bill indicate that only the power plants in Narva are capable of fulfilling them," EREA board member Mihkel Annus noted.
While renewable energy subsidies had until now been meant to support new companies, already operating power plants will now also be eligible for them as well. Controllable energy, i.e. energy generated by combustion in a power plant's boiler, will now be supported as well. Although underbidding will be arranged for additional production, according to Annus, this will help simply keep the power plants in Narva in operation after the production of oil shale-based electricity is reduced.
"This is clearly meant moreso for the leveling of one company's economic considerations and relieving of socioeconomic effects," Annus said. "In the energy sector, this kind of step isn't actually needed."
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications Deputy Secretary General for Energy Timo Tatar said that considering the 600 megawatt capacity of Eesti Energia's new energy blocks, the additional capacity won't mean a mass burning of wood.
"Considering Narva's 500 gigawatt-hour production capacities, it definitely won't be in mass now, but yes, if the bill is passed, the current renewable energy support scheme will be opened to a limited extent to include the Narva power plants," Tatar said. "There are actually very many existing power plants in Estonia that, with a little support, could contribute to Estonia's renewable energy goals. It isn't reasonable to exclude these existing ones from the scheme and let them burn fossil fuels if the state is in control of these levers, so that with a little support, these plants could produce renewable energy."
While renewable energy subsidies currently total approximately €90 million per year, the Estonian state-owned energy group Eesti Energia could receive an additional €5 million if it expands its capacity. Eesti Energia said in a written comment that the bill will eliminate an anomaly under which it has not been possible to pay support for the use of renewable energy sources to Baltic Power Plant's cogeneration block.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Aili Vahtla