Professor: Estonia should not leave Russian electricity system lightly

Professor Alar Konist.
Professor Alar Konist. Source: TalTech

Estonia should not give up its production capacities or simply cut off the connection to the Russian electricity system, Alar Konist, professor of energy technology at the Tallinn Technology University, said on Vikerraadio morning program on Friday.

Last year, during the cold snap and energy crisis that hit the U.S. state of Texas, Konist warned that something similar could happen in Estonia - the problem is our security of supply, which could hit electricity prices.

A year later, Konist admitted that he could not expect this to happen so quickly. "I thought it would happen in five years, not a year."

The professor said one of the lessons that should be taken away is that a coincidence of all bad scenarios happening at once must not be ruled out. For example, currently, we have no gas, no wind turbine capacity, solar panels are under snow and existing old power plants are undergoing scheduled or emergency repairs.

"These things must be planned in advance. But our companies have no obligation, Eesti Energia must keep 1,000 megawatts in operation, but it will not bring them any substantial economic benefits."

Speaking about the solutions to the current energy crisis and whether they would be available at all, Konist replied there are solutions, but not everyone would like them.

"The solution is that as long as we don't have a new well dug, we can't close the old well. If so far it has been assumed that someone else will build regulated production capacity for everybody, it's clear today that in a market-based production, it's not going to happen. We have to invest in it the same way the state builds roads, for example," Konist said.

He added that, of course, wind farms must be built, but we should also talk about network expansion and storage technologies. "We'll get a unit of power [with wind farms], But when can we use that power?"

The professor added that he is very much looking forward to the parties having a strong platform in the run-up to next year's parliamentary elections in March, about how they plan to avoid similar situations happening in the future.

"Today it is a stock market and a market. Every company wants to sell its goods, but we need to look at the system as a whole from the perspective of society. For it to work, for quality to exist at all times, for energy to be affordable for people."

He said that it would be naive to expect electricity to become cheap quickly in the future.

"But what we can do is figure out how we can stop the problem of high prices in the future. How are we meeting the climate transition so that people accept it. When people don't have money to pay for the electricity carriers or after paying for them, they don't have money for food, then it's a serious issue which we have unfortunately created ourselves because we have run too fast. "

When asked whether Estonia should prefer electricity produced from wind, solar and oil shale, or whether a nuclear power plant should be built instead, Konist replied that all of them should fit into the system because they help to balance each other.

"Soup is not cooked only from potatoes, only from carrots or only from water. From the point of view of the state, it is important that we have production capacity and which would ideally exceed the peak consumption of a year. Even if we could produce 2/3, everything would be fine," he said.

Konist added that one of the important factors is the connections with Russia, which is one of the great arteries that helps us to keep the frequency and, in some cases, gives us the opportunity to move energy.

"And even if we don't have it anymore, it creates more risks. If it is perfectly normal to buy gas from Russia, why should we stop buying electricity if, for example, our neighbor Finland does? Yes, if the whole of Europe decides that we no longer buy energy sources from Russia, then yes," he said.

Konist added that if we have fewer production plants and not enough new ones, we will have more problems.

"Germany, for example, is closing down nuclear power plants, and regulated production capacity is falling, so we have to do something ourselves."

He added that oil shale can also be used to produce electricity in a more environmentally friendly way than before, and that little has been said about how oil shale can successfully be used in the circular economy, for example in construction.

"If we do not control the price of gas, then the resource fee for oil shale is set by the state. Oil shale can be used much more environmentally friendly than it is used today," Konist said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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