Riigikogu speaker: More energy costs support measures surely needed

Jüri Ratas appearing on Wednesday's 'Otse uudistemajast'.
Jüri Ratas appearing on Wednesday's 'Otse uudistemajast'. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Additional measures are needed to combat the continuing, soaring energy prices, with a long way to go until the end of winter, Center Party leader and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas says. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has tasked one of Center's ministers with coming up with such proposals by tomorrow, Thursday, mid-morning, Ratas says, adding that he does not think they will fly unmodified with Reform.

The Center Party is to submit proposals, which would see private customers  compensated up to half of their electricity and gas bills, while the network connection fee would be completely shelved – currently this is reduced by half on electricity bills.

The existing support package is complicated and not far-reaching enough for some people, Ratas said, appearing on ERR's politics webcast "Otse uudistemajast" Wednesday.

"The current measures are not sufficient," Ratas said.

"I hope that both government partners understand that we need to take new steps to help the people of Estonia," Ratas went on. "Decisions have to be made in the coming weeks, this can't be swept under the carpet."

While the existing support measure, whose drafting was overseen by public administration minister Jaak Aab (Center), has proved helpful, with several months of winter still to go, other solutions must be found, Ratas said.

"Naturally [the current system] is complex to install, but the alternative would be not having this agreement," he added.

Of potential solutions, Ratas said that if Reform, his party's coalition partner, came up with a proposal to raise the income tax-free threshold above €500 to compensate, the matter would be worth debating as it would now be in line with his party's worldview.

The additional measures would not be limited to those outlined in Center's proposal, which would cost €50 million via a supplementary budget but would require a much higher fixed expenditure for the country.

Ratas added that he was not sure Reform would support Center's proposals in any case, at Thursday's regular cabinet sitting (which as Riigikogu speaker Ratas will not be present at - ed.).

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has instructed economic affairs minister Taavi Aas (Center) to come up with some proposals aimed at resolving the crisis, ahead of Thursday's meeting, Ratas said.

Ratas: Estonia needs more wind farms

While the Riigikogu's EU affairs committee had done the right thing in not hurrying to adopt the EU's "Fit for 55" climate package, the pursuit of green energy us still necessary, Ratas went on.

This meant that, while it might seem counter-intuitive during winter, wind farms are on the table for discussion, and wind energy capacity should be boosted, Ratas said.

 This would mean erecting more turbines and wind farms, with support measures to be provided for those who take more of a "not in my back-yard" stance n the developments.

Nonetheless, the economy and society must also be taken into account, and in this light Estonia must stand up for its own interests.

"I do not anticipate a quick adoption of this package," Ratas said, leaving open the question of whether it would be adopted by the end of January.

Remodeling heating systems and insulation, as well as installing solar panels in the home – again an energy source which might seem counter-intuitive but which in fact is viable in Estonia during the long summer months – were other desirable goals, Ratas said.

EU targets require climate neutrality by 2050, and consequently a substantial drop in greenhouse gas emission in the 28 years between now and then. An interim measure calls for the cutting of harmful emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030, hence the name of the package.

While the government has approved the "Fit for 55" package, the Riigikogu has not yet.

The existing support measures entail a 50 percent (electricity) or 100 percent (natural gas) reduction in network connection fees, which really only significantly benefits larger consumers such as businesses and which sees the state reimbursing the utility companies, along with up to 80 percent discounts on electricity, natural gas and district heating bills through to the end of March, for households below the threshold of €1,126 per month in gross take-home pay (in the case of one adult earner) or €2,365 in the case of a household with two or more children.

The latter measure must be applied for, and the administrative burden has been placed on the 79 local municipalities.

President Alar Karis recently criticized the scheme as being ineffective and not making use of Estonia's e-state systems.

The Reform Party has consistently blocked a proposal, actually tabled by opposition party Isamaa in a bill, to cut VAT on energy bills from the current 20 percent to 8 percent, for the rest of this year, a move which isolates it from the other four Riigikogu parties.

The prime minister said Wednesday, in respect of one at-risk group, rebutted a supposed syllogism regarding that demographic.

"Not all pensioners are in need. My parents are pensioners, but they are not in need," she said. Kallas' father Siim is an MP, former Viimsi mayor, former European Commissioner and former prime minister of Estonia.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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