President gives assent to controversial wood-burning energy bill

President Alar Karis at his desk during his first week in office.
President Alar Karis at his desk during his first week in office. Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia.

President Alar Karis promulgated three laws Monday, one of which is a controversial piece of legislation which will facilitate state support for burning woody biomass at power plants in the eastern city of Narva, and which had been inherited from Kersti Kaljulaid's presidency.

In line with his constitutional role, President Karis, who was sworn in as head of state a week ago to the day, gave his assent to a legislative amendment to the Electricity Market Act.

The act provides for the option of support for generating electricity from renewable energy sources, to make up 40 percent of Estonia's total end-use electricity consumption by 2030.

In late September, as the law passed, opposition Social Democratic (SDE) MP Jevgeni Ossinovski urged Karis' predecessor, Kersti Kaljulaid, to send the law back to the Riigikogu unsigned.

Ossinovski said the law would further inflate the price of electricity, at a time when prices are already soaring, while increasing deforestation.

The act in its current form is unconstitutional, Ossinovski added.

SDE in fact proved a lone voice of opposition since the amendment is in effect a multi-party one; it was originally tabled by the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition and passed its third reading at the Riigikogu with a Center/Reform lineup in office. SDE is the only other party.

In the event time caught up with events as Kaljulaid's term ended and Karis' began.

The amendment will improve the conditions of competition in the transition of domestic supply of electricity to renewable energy sources, the president's office said.

The Center/Reform coalition reduced the woody biomass-burning subsidy from three years to two.

In the 1990s, burning wood at power stations constituted an environmentally-friendly fuel source, but the practice has ceased to be seen as such at EU-level since then. The power stations using it were designed to be fueled by shale oil, mined and refined in Ida-Viru County and a sector also under immense pressure as a result partly of EU climate change policies.

President Karis also on Monday promulgated amendments to the Employment Contracts Act and the Product Conformity Act.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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