Eesti Energia: Estonia cannot produce enough electricity during peak hours

Enefit Power's Auvere Power Plant in Ida-Viru County.
Enefit Power's Auvere Power Plant in Ida-Viru County. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia is unable to produce enough electricity to meet its own domestic demand during peak consumption hours, state-owned energy company Eesti Energia said on Wednesday. Previously electricity and gas system operator Elering and politicians have said the country can cover its own needs.

Last week, Timo Tatar, deputy chancellor for energy ar the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, told Vikerraadio he does not understand where the idea that Estonia cannot cover its need for electricity at peak hours comes from.

He said according to Elering's security of supply report, the country can meet consumer demand. This document is based on the views of energy producers.

The report says peak consumption is approximately 1,600 megawatts and Elering's data shows Estonia's production capacity is 1,700 megawatts. The vast majority — 1,355 megawatts — comes from domestic oil shale plants.

However, the Iru co-generation power plant, which has a capacity of 94 megawatt, is unlikely to produce electricity this year due to high gas prices.

This would lower Estonia's supply of electricity to approximately 1,600 megawatts.

Eesti Energia: Covering peak consumption is not realistic.

Andres Vainola, chairman of the board of Eesti Energia's subsidiary Enefit Power, believes Estonia is unable to create enough electricity to meet its own domestic demands.

"Theoretically, and if we do not take into account the open electricity market, in our opinion peak winter consumption cannot be covered by Estonia's production capacities," he told ERR.

Enefit Power CEO Andres Vainola. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"Even if the total capacity of the stations shown in the [report's] table is greater than Estonia's peak consumption, the situation where all [power] stations simultaneously produce maximum power is not realistic. Inevitably, all power plants need maintenance and repair periods from time to time, and possible interruptions due to accidents must also be taken into account," the chairman said.

Vainola said this is not a big problem as long as Estonia remains connected to the Nordic electricity market as the security of supply is still guaranteed.

However, this leaves the country more vulnerable to the conditions of the electricity market, such as fluctuating prices, which are out of its control.

Elering's spokesperson Ain Köster said it is not ruled out that Estonian-controlled production could dip.

New production capacities

Technically, Eesti Energia could build new additional production capacities relatively cheaply and quickly. Renovating three currently shuttered units would create an additional 500 megawatts of electricity.

But the company is not certain there is a real need for this.

"This scenario is purely theoretical and there are no exact forecasts and data on feasibility. In reality, it would be an extremely risky investment," Eesti Energia said.

The blocks would take approximately a year to convert.

"By that time, the market situation may have changed, and it is possible that the renovated [power] stations will never enter the market due to their high price," said Eesti Energia spokesman Mattias Kaiv.

He said the company's subsidiary Enefit Green plans to invest €1.5 billion in wind and solar parks between 2022 and 2026, and this is the most "affordable" and "environmentally friendly" solution for future electricity production. 

"This solution is certainly sustainable compared to hybrid electric power plants using oil shale, which due to high production prices due to environmental and resource fees, meant it was often not possible for them to enter the market a few years ago," Kaiv said.


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Editor: Huko Aaspõllu, Helen Wright

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