Minister of the Environment Tõnis Mölder (Center) told ETV's political discussion show "Esimene stuudio" that oil shale production in Ida-Viru County will not be given up on until Estonia's energy supplies are secured.
Mölder said the government's plan to stop the production of oil shale power by 2035 will not happen overnight and the drastic step will be calculated. "That we have established long-term goals in the coalition agreement is not incorrect, because as we see, the oil shale sector in today's perspective is not sustainable and competitive with the current technology, in these conditions," the minister noted.
Mölder confirmed that there will be no steps taken toward the halt of oil shale production until Estonia's supplies are secured.
"I think that before there are alternative solutions, so that Estonia would not depend on a neighboring country for energy, the oil shale industry will not be closed down. We also know, which is also important, that a common understanding has been reached in the coalition that if there are resources from the EU - the transition fund and all that - it will go toward Ida-Viru County and for the transition from exiting from oil shale to be as painless as possible," Mölder noted.
He explained that a new climate-friendly economic environment must first be developed for Ida-Viru County, also allowing for new jobs to be created.
According to a government decision, the entirety of the EU's Just Transition Fund - €340 million - will be allocated to Ida-Viru County. Mölder admitted that the government does not have a specific plan for the fund's allocation yet.
The environment minister pointed out alternatives to oil shale in Ida-Viru County. "The working environment and economic potential there is very capable. It is not insignificant that some Estonian investors are interested in investing in the IT-sector there in particular," Mölder noted.
Mölder's assessment is that there will be no equal industry to oil shale in Ida-Viru County going forward. "The share that the oil shale industry holds in Estonian economy, I think there will be no such alternative sector. It will however consist of several different facets, several pieces. There are different alternatives and variants. If the plan was very clear and concrete today, the goals and dates would be much closer," he added.
Mölder: Societal agreement needed for nuclear energy
According to Tõnis Mölder, the alternative for oil shale in energy production is renewable energy. The minister told show host Johannes Tralla that Estonia has taken great steps over the last 15 years when it comes to solar and wind energy. "I agree that it does not ensure 100 percent of power supply. It only leaves us dependent on northern neighbors and other countries in the area," he noted.
Responding to a question about nuclear power plants in Estonia, Mölder said an expert committee will look into it. "The coalition agreed that an expert committee will assess the possibility and reasonableness of developing a nuclear plant. What should it be like, which generation and if it is possible to be developed in cooperation with a neighboring country with Finland especially in mind," he explained.
"We have not made any political decisions today of Estonia going and contributing to nuclear energy. I think we still need to reach a societal agreement on the topic. I will not blame anyone for having fears or certain questions, expectations and confidence and those need clear and concrete answers. If that does not happen, there is no talk of nuclear energy in the next ten years," the environment minister said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste