The Competition Authority (Konkurentsiamet) is worried about the sustainability of the district heating network in Narva and has called for state-owned electricity generator Eesti Energia to find a new heating solution in the city.
Competition Authority director general Märt Ots said nothing terrible should happen to Narva's heating network in the near future, since the 11th energy bloc of the Baltic thermal electricity station is still operational and can use both oil shale and bio-fuel. But things are set to change soon.
"If we are looking at the European Commission's climate plan, it is clear that there is not much perspective to using fossil fuels in Narva and that is why Eesti Energia must take steps today and draw up exact plans for what will happen in the next five to six-year perspective," Ots said.
The authority's director assessed that contest conditions for an environmentally friendly alternative to oil shale must be drawn up soon, but there is less time for it with each day.
"Planning larger production units will take at least five years and for multiple different companies to provide offers, the time is now to announce a public contest," Ots noted.
He added that Eesti Energia's joint stock company Narva Soojusvõrk should prepare contest documents by November and announce a contest by the start of next year.
Eesti Energia's press officer Priit Luts said the group's management is aware of the issue and that a contest for Narva's district heating network is in the works, but that it is still too early to talk about technical details.
Estonian Power and Heat Association board chair Andres Taukar said district heating companies are very interested in entering the contest. "There are certainly those interested in a city such as Narva, hoping to produce and sell electricity to the final consumer there, so hopefully the contest conditions are open to everyone, which will undoubtedly lead to many offers," Taukar said.
What could replace oil shale in the city, however? "If we look at how the rest of Estonia is heating their rooms, wood chips are highly likely. And cogeneration would certainly happen in a city the size of Narva. I do not believe in other alternatives, such as natural gas or oil, currently. These are not solutions today," Taukar responded.
Currently, the consumer price for district heating in Narva is the lowest in Estonia, largely stemming from cogeneration of electricity and heating from oil shale. Taukar said cogeneration plants working on wood chips would not be able to offer such low prices, but competition on the heating market and EU aid in developing heating systems would help.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste