Juhan Parts: Estonia should build two new Auvere power plants
Bringing down sky-high energy prices would require the construction of two more Auvere power plants in a situation where the Baltic countries have not added a single notable power station between them in nine years, former PM Juhan Parts said on the "Uudis+" radio show.
Parts said that Estonia can count on just three newer power generation units in the long run. Two fluid bed boilers built during the time of former Eesti Energia CEO Gunnar Okk and the Auvere Power Plant. "Those are the things we can count on over the next 10-20 years," Parts suggested.
He said that older Eesti Energia power blocks do not have long. "It is sensible to keep the Khrushchev and Brezhnev-era scrap metal operational for now, while it is clear that this will not last."
"I believe we need to build Auveres two and three. I would like to see the recent expert analyses concerning metal fatigue in the old boilers. They are compiled every two years, and it might one day happen – whereas I expect the analyses to be impartial and professional – that they will find that the old blocks can no longer serve as reserve capacity," Parts suggested.
"There's little else to say. They are old and they are inefficient. They would likely require near-constant repairs. To keep spending money there instead of finally deciding something..."
Parts added that the new Auveres would not just be oil shale power plants but solid fuel plants where syngas could also be utilized. He said it would also be possible to capture carbon.
The outgoing European Court of Auditors member said that the construction of new plants would not clash with EU rules. "There is no legal obstacle because the European Commission loves to say that the energy mix is up to the member states. That is also why they couldn't affect Germany's decision etc. It would be more difficult to secure funding, but if there is political momentum and we see it as a solution, it is something that needs to be done," he said.
He was critical of renewable energy efforts made in Europe so far. "Germany serves as a good example here. There is a lot of literature and studies as concerns those billions, hundreds of billions in subsidies. Looking at the energy balance, carbon emissions we've managed to reduce in that time, the unit price is insane. The cost-effectiveness is just so low. Recommending that to the rest of the world, and I'm not even talking about Estonia, is completely unrealistic," Partis offered.
Parts also said that use of renewables is also tied to gas. "I have been involved in energy for the last 20 years or more. I have attended various global summits, industrial and environmental conferences. And those promoting wind and solar always do so hand in hand with gas storage. I'm sorry, but there is nothing new here," Parts said.
"It is nice to have energy production capacity that does not pollute our atmosphere, but if we cannot answer the simple questions of where to get power when there's no wind or sunlight, where to get it without having to pay through the nose – they remain unanswered today," he added.
Parts said that there are no sufficiently efficient ways of storing renewable energy to help balance generation and consumption. He is also critical of the planned pumped-storage hydroelectric plant in Paldiski and said that it would make little difference in the long run considering its €600 million price tag.
Concerning the Nord Pool energy exchange, Parts said that while joining it was the right decision, the exchange isn't really functional anymore. Partly because neither Estonia, Latvia nor Lithuania have built a major power plant in nine years, while Nord Pool logic requires more production capacity than there is demand.
"Such cataclysms are created in situation where we have less production capacity than demand, such as the one right now, whereas we are being told it is an anomaly. I believe that the possibility of latecomers to the bidding to create such prices should be addressed post haste. It requires administrative intervention. The Nord Pool rules need to be changed when necessary."
The decision to build Estonia's newest Auvere Power Plant was made by the second administration of Andrus Ansip in which Parts served as economy minister. Construction was launched in 2012 and completed in 2015. The 300-megawatt plant was commissioned in 2018.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski