State-owned energy group Eesti Energia aims to almost quadruple its generation capacity for renewable electricity by the end of 2026.
Over the next five years, Eesti Energia, which operates in Finland, Poland and the Baltic States, will invest approximately €2 billion in new development projects, most of which will be used to create new wind farms and solar parks.
"Finding a balance between energy affordability, environmental impact and security of supply has become a socially critical issue in all of Eesti Energia's home markets," said Hando Sutter, CEO of Eesti Energia and chairman of the supervisory board of subsidiary Enefit Green.
"The fastest and most cost-effective solution for society is electrification, whereby renewable electricity replaces fossil fuel energy sources, such as motor fuels in transport or natural gas in thermal energy. We have promised to provide our customers with a sufficient amount of renewable electricity during this energy revolution, either by producing it ourselves or by purchasing it from other developers," he added.
Eesti Energia's five-year plan means its annual production of renewable electricity is expected to climb from 1.5 terawatt-hours in 2021, to almost 5 terawatt-hours in home markets by 2026, which is enough to cover the annual electricity consumption of up to 1.5 million average households.
Construction of the 21 MW Purtse wind farm in Estonia, is currently underway, and work has also begun on two new solar parks in Poland, the Tolpanvaara (72 MW) wind farm in Finland, and the Akmene (75 MW) and Šilale II (43 MW) wind farms in Lithuania.
An additional 600 MW of onshore wind farms are scheduled to be completed in Estonia and Lithuania, as well as almost 600 MW of solar power plants throughout the Baltic States and Poland by the end of 2026.
"We have given a name to our transition to carbon-free production and wider introduction of energy solutions based on green electricity: 'Journey to Zero.' At the same time, Eesti Energia's customers, by fixing their electricity costs for years and consuming clean local energy, offer us investment security, helping us build new wind farms and solar parks in a mutually beneficial 'green' partnership," Sutter said.
According to Eesti Energia, over 35,000 of the group's business and household customers have so far chosen this solution, consuming 13 TWh of energy.
Network company Elektrilevi's role in this journey to zero is to ensure small Estonian producers, particularly new solar power plants, are connected to the distribution network. At the end of 2021, there were nearly 12,000 solar power plants in Elektrilevi's network, with a total capacity of 385 MW. However, this is expected to triple by the end of 2026 to more than 1,100 MW, meaning on a sunny summer day, all Estonia's electricity could be provided by solar power plants.
Narva's thermal power plants will have a flexible role in production, contributing to the electricity market during periods of high demand.
Eesti Energia is also ready to continue offering switchable generation capacity and the services necessary to maintain the frequency of the electricity system to operator Elering, which is responsible for the security of electricity supply, after 2023.
The focus of steerable power plants in the region is currently on Auvere Power Plant, which is the most competitive, as well as on the two remaining fluidized bed production units.
An important part of Eesti Energia's long-term carbon neutrality strategy involves gradual transition from the production of liquid fuels to the production of chemical feedstocks, a process in which the company has involved partners and research institutions.
"European chemical companies are interested in the feedstocks being produced by Eesti Energia in the future, as the process of obtaining them is more sustainable compared to crude oil processing. Namely, the Enefit technology enables the co-pyrolysis of waste with oil shale – waste tires and mixed plastic waste that has, so far, been treated as unusable. After further treatment, it will be possible to turn them into materials and items needed for everyday life," Sutter said, emphasizing that their perspective development based on a genuinely circular economy made industry in Ida-Virumaa sustainable.
"Nothing that requires burning will be produced from oil shale after 2040. Oil shale's greater value will, by then, have no connection with energy, while jobs that create high added value for Estonia will remain in Ida-Virumaa," he added.
Editor: Michael Cole