Toward the start of the year, Estonia's power distribution network operator Elering asked the government for €55 million to develop new grid connection capacity. The government allocated just €8 million.
CEO of Elektrilevi Mihkel Härma said that the operator drew the government's attention to necessary grid investments last year when EU Recovery resources were being distributed.
"While funding was not found for distribution network investments back then, the necessary resources were found in the supplementary state budget," Härm told ERR.
Negotiations were brief and agreements needed primarily concerning technical details where no great differences surfaced," Härm said.
Based on the contract between the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Elektrilevi, the latter will be allocated €8 million for improvements and creating additional capacity for small producers to join the grid. The sum aims to promote the green transition and joining micro-producers to the grid. Cost-sharing by Elektrilevi puts the total investment at €16 million.
There are also plans for updating 500 kilometers of power lines and creating micro-production capacity for 4,500 households. The grid will be reinforced in more than 20 locations, including Märjamaa, Maardu and Võru.
Härma said that in addition to regular investments, the distribution grid needs a further €55 million in the near future.
"These €8 million are the first step, while we will need the remaining €47 million to invest in the grid in the coming years. We hope that the sum will be allocated once work starts on the state budget strategy for the coming years."
The first changes will see reconstruction of the existing grid by replacing open-cables with aerial and terrestrial alternatives. This should create additional throughput capacity and improve durability.
Härma said that all Elektrilevi customers stand to gain. "Those who already have solar panels can count on increased reliability and fewer outages as we are developing a weatherproof network. Other customers will be able to join the grid having fewer solar panels," he said.
It is the goal of Elektrilevi to allow all residences and companies to transition to renewable energy smoothly for which the operator invests €100 annually. The grid has over 12,000 small electricity producers today.
Grid tightly packed
The distribution grid is not in a great situation as capacity for connecting new production exists primarily near industries and larger cities, such as Tallinn and Tartu.
The situation is the most critical on the western Estonian islands as it recently proved impossible to connect small producers to the grid in Hiiumaa. Only those generating power for their own consumption can join.
To invest in the grid, Elektrilevi asked the government for €55 million.
"Micro-producers, with an output of fewer than 15 kilowatts, who want to install small production capacity for themselves, are our priority. The other is major commercial sites where we need to calculate the grid capacity together," Härm said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski