Towns, businesses updating electrical equipment to save on power bills

Narva maantee in Talinn.
Narva maantee in Talinn. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Ahead of this fall and winter, continuing high electricity prices have both the City of Tallinn and businesses in town worried. While no quick fixes exist, increasing amounts of electrical equipment are being replaced with more modern solutions, the impacts of which will be apparent within a few years' time.

Every summer, the first people are in the pool at Kalev Spa Water Park in Tallinn by 8 a.m., and swimmers have actually requested that the center open even earlier as well. According to Meeli Eelma, director of the water park, when it comes to their clients, they spare no expense.

"We certainly won't start saving at our client's expense," Eelmaa said. "We can't close our saunas or water slides earlier. We're not going to start telling our clients that you can only spend an hour in the sauna or an hour on the slides. If our hours of operation are posted, then clients can use [our facilities] to their full value."

While the water park director is concerned by high energy bills this upcoming fall and winter, the business nonetheless finds that they can't cut their energy consumption any further.

"When Kalev Spa reopened following major renovations in 2019, the biggest things had already been done — the lights all turn off automatically at night, i.e. everything is automated," Eelmaa explained. "And of course what we can do is be mindful ourselves that we use less electricity in the office. In [Kalev Spa's] hotel rooms, as soon as someone takes the card out of its slot, the power [in their room] is cut."

On year, both Kalev Spa Water Park and Selver supermarkets' electricity costs have increased more than 60 percent.

Selver's biggest cost driver is its refrigeration systems and hot food counters, which account for approximately four-fifths of the supermarket chain's electricity consumption.

"When renovating our stores and opening new stores, we've been introducing refrigeration systems that reduce power consumption 30-40 percent, but it's a bit unrealistic to [replace them all] at once in all of our existing stores," said Kristjan Anderson, Selver's director of business accounting.

The complete modernization of equipment at all of Selver's stores may take place over a period of five to six years.

The City of Tallinn is working on implementing smart solutions as well. For example, for much of the year, twilight sensors regulate street lighting in the Estonian capital. Each year, the city also continues to replace old lights with LED lighting.

"This year alone we're investing €5.5 million in replacing lighting on streets, at playgrounds, in kindergartens, and wherever we're renovating bigger properties," Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet (Center) said.

Nonetheless, Tallinn doesn't intend to leave a single city street in the dark.

"Our principle is that street lighting is safety," Svet said. "If we want people to be out and about, to feel safe, then our streets have to be well-lit. And thus far we've managed to avoid having to reduce street lighting anywhere."

The deputy mayor noted that Tallinn intends to fully transition to LED lighting within four to six years.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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