The prioritization of natural gas consumers should be finalized by the end of October this year. This will see customers split into six categories, and ordered in terms of how readily their gas supply should be interrupted in the event of an emergency.
Domestic consumers receive highest priority and would be cut off last, it is reported.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications estimates there are around 44,000 domestic gas consumers in Estonia, plus 13,000 business consumers.
Kadri Laube, spokesperson for the ministry, told ERR Wednesday that: "Instructions for determining consumer groups are to be established by the ministry's regulation, and is currently still being developed,"
The relevant legislation is currently at the first round of approval and is on course to enter into force in the second half of August, ERR reports.
Laube said that a network operator must assess how quickly it can disconnect a consumer from the gas system in the case of an emergency.
"In the case of a gas system emergency, the consumers that can be disconnected more gradually, if necessary, will be switched off first, as a preventive measure. If there is still a need to disconnect the next group, that can then be done faster," she said.
The broad outline of prioritization is already clear, ERR reports, with domestic consumers most certain about the continued maintenance of supply, followed by priority business consumers – such as district heating providers whose only fuel source is natural gas, and then emergency reserve plants which use natural gas.
Beyond that, essential service providers – a vaguely defined term so far – are next on the list; the main criterion for inclusion on this list is that the service is essential to the functioning of society, while Laube listed the agricultural sector and filling stations as among this category.
The last two categories are "other consumers", ranked depending on quickly their supply could be interrupted (up to six hours, and beyond six hours).
Estonia consumes around 5TWh of natural gas per annum, divided, according to grid distributor chief Taavi Veskimägi, between domestic (1 TWh), district heating (1.5 TWh), industrial (1.5 TWh) and other (1 TWh) consumers.
Once amendments to the relevant legislation, the Natural Gas Act, is in force, a consumer must be notified by their supplier as to which of the above categories they belong to. This information must also be placed online and lodged with the relevant consumer groups.
The amendments were adopted by the Riigikogu on July 19 and promulgated by President Alar Karis on Monday, meaning they should enter into force in the near future, it is reported. As noted the categorization must be clear by the end of October.
Editor: Andrew Whyte