Local governments in diverse parts of Estonia face same energy costs issue

Lighting (picture is illustrative).
Lighting (picture is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Local governments in three very different parts of Estonia are facing the identical issue of soaring energy prices as fall arrives, and are dealing with them in similar ways, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Friday.

AK spoke to Tallinn City Government, as well as municipalities on Estonia's two largest islands, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, both sparsely populated, along with a small municipality in the generally industrialized northeastern part of the country.


Local government on the island of Saaremaa will see its electricity bill increase to the tune of €1 million on last year's price.

Municipal Mayor Mikk Tuisk said: "This is simply money that is an outgoing from the municipality. We could have used it to raise the salaries of employees, or to build or repair some roads or houses. This is all such money that we simply have to pay out."

Some savings could be obtained via reducing street lighting, Tuisk added, while Aivar Sõrm, and economist on the island, told AK that talk about the harsh winter ahead was not scaremongering but a reality under the current electricity exchange conditions, and may lead to a wave of bankruptcies and declining living standards on the island of X people, which again may incur a cost in terms of benefits needing to be paid, though the state may be able to shoulder some of this, Sõrm said.


Meanwhile on the adjacent island of Hiiumaa, Mayor of Kärdla, Aivar Viidik, said that some savings will also be made via lighting reduction in the streets.

The municipality makes use of a stock-price linked electricity contract, which means it is at the mercy of the fluctuating prices.

The island will also make savings by cutting costs in sports faciltlies, for instance having lights off when facilities are not in use, and limiting sauna usage, while the installation of a solar panel bank, which could be funded by the municipality, would help with electricity bills, Martin Lauri, head of the Hiiumaa sports center, told AK.

The sports center's electricity bill came to about €9,000 in August, he added.


On the other side of the country in Alutaguse Rural Municipality, Ida-Viru County, while electricity bills have also risen, this must be offset against the energy crisis having of kick-starting the oil shale sector again.

The shale is mined and refined in Ida-Viru County and burnt in nearby power stations, and used to provide the bulk of Estonia's electricity needs at a comparatively cheap rate, but fell foul of EU climate change goals. With the arrival of the current crisis, moves have been made to allow resumption of use.

Tauno Võhmar, Alutaguse municipal mayor, told AK that a rise in budget revenues of €400,000 is forecast for 2022, but, vice versa, this will be mopped up in mitigating the effects of rising electricity prices in the municipality of 46,000 souls.

The municipality will still also need to make cost-saving moves such as limiting the use of lighting and heating to those places in which human activity is actually going on.


Finally in Tallinn, by far the largest city in Estonia and the municipality with the largest budget, a guide for dealing with winter energy prices is under preparation and may involve cutting temperatures in some public buildings, though not the switching off of street lights, the municipality says.

New Deputy Mayor Tanel Kiik (Center) said: "On the one hand, we are developing recommendations and guidelines that can be used today already, plus also those plans which we would have to implement if energy prices turned out to be even higher than projected."

Compensation for high energy prices may be viable, but depends on the progress of the city's third supplementary budget, and in the meantime, city institutions are having to deal with the issue as they see fit, though not necessarily by reducing services, Hillar Sein, head of the Tallinn Culture and Sports Board, told AK.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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