Coalition talks Monday focused on electricity price solutions

SDE leader Lauri Läänemets has expressed more hope for a coalition talks breakthrough than his expression in this picture, taken earlier in the negotiations, might suggest.
SDE leader Lauri Läänemets has expressed more hope for a coalition talks breakthrough than his expression in this picture, taken earlier in the negotiations, might suggest. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The three parties locked into coalition talks, Reform, Isamaa and the Social Democrats (SDE), mostly focused on the concept of 'social electricity' in Monday's session, SDE leader Lauri Läänemets says. Läänemets also hinted that a breakthrough in the talks may be imminent this week, saying it would be 'strange not to agree' by this stage.

As the talks enter their fourth week, the ideas tabled were a way of compromising on Isama's desire to reform the electricity market and SDEs policies aimed at compensating for soaring prices, particularly for the lowest-income customer groups.

The SDE leader told ERR on Tuesday that social electricity is only aimed at private, and not business, customers:  "At present, when it comes to social electricity, we are still talking about the individual. As a rule, social electricity has not been conducted for entrepreneurs in this form," noting that the parties have not agreed to instigate such a system as things stand.

During the period of soaring energy prices last autumn and winter, the Reform/Center coalition put in place two main compensation measures, aimed at lower income households (Center) and at businesses (Reform), and for all the main types of energy consumption: Electricity, natural gas and district heating – the latter a type of centrally controlled hot water piped into many older apartment blocks, sometimes as a by-product of power stations' activities.

A "more ambitious" suite of support measures needs to be put in place than was the case last winter, Läänemets added, as rising inflation in general will cut even further more into people's ability to pay.

Social electricity as it exists elsewhere in Europe refers to a solution where the state's part in shaping the price of electricity is substantial.

"While it may have been reported many times that the state guarantees a certain price, staying within certain market rules it affects it a little," the SDE leader noted.

The potential ceiling for the price of electricity per MWh has not been agreed on either, SDE said, and while Isamaa has put a figure of €50, SDE would certainly prefer it to be as far below the €100-mark as is possible.

How to compensate the price of electricity for private consumers who have fixed-price contracts has been discussed, but again no solution has yet been found, while it is not ruled out that another overall solution than one of social electricity may be found in the course of the talks, Läänemets went on.

Läänemets: 'Strange' if coalition compromise not reached

In general, Läänemets said that reaching an agreement deal between the three parties was desirable this week.

He said: "If we haven't agreed on the variants and possibilities on the table in the next few days, I would start to think that the issue is something new. A lot of strong and ambitious things have already been agreed upon. Everyone has had to make compromises and so we are all on the same page," he said, noting that the discussions on family allowances and on Estonian-language education, two of the major pinch points, will continue during the negotiations on Tuesday. 

On family allowances, both Isamaa and the Reform Party have come up with compromise proposals, and Läänemets saud did not see any reason why an agreement should not be reached on this issue.

Regarding the issue of the transition to Estonian-language education, this is the most ambitious educational reform in Estonia in recent decades, he said, though was optimistic about compromise on this too.

"We could also agree on the figures for months and years, but it would be very strange if the major things got stuck behind such smaller details," he said.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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