State-owned Transmission Systems Operator Elering and state-owned electricity generator Eesti Energia have signed an agreement establishing the rights and requirements both companies have in ensuring the continued operation of the domestic electricity grid, and the supply of electricity to consumers, in the case of a crisis.
Elering CEO Taavi Veskimägi told ERR that Eesti Energia has, since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, been surveying the viable conditions and capacities Elering can obtain from the electriciy necessary to continue supply, from power plants in the eastern border city of Narva .
Veskimägi said this meant: "How quickly they can get their units started up and online from cold. There are no secrets surrounding the issue of cooling water [in relation to this being threatened from the Russian side of the border] and how much power can be obtained and under what conditions, which we reached agreement on last week."
"Our hope is that this will bring clarity to what the rights and obligations relating to both parties are, should an emergency situation arise, whereby we need more Narva power plants [online] or represent a significantly more critical component of the Estonian electricity system, with which we would be keeping the lights on," the Elering CEO continued.
Dams on the Russian side of the Narva River could be manipulated in order to lower the water level, causing a potential shortage of the water needed for cooling purposes at power stations, regardless of what fuel is used to generate electricity.
Russia could also conduct grid disconnections which could cause outages to the Estonian system.
Estonia was in any case due to disconnect from the Russian grid and synchronize with the "continental" European grid no later than the end of 2025, even ahead of the current crisis, while Elering plans to construct three synchronous condensers in the next couple of years.
Essentially, were Russia to disconnect from the Estonian grid in the next three years, the Estonian state would need to utilize the Narva power plants to maintain supply.
Conversely, Estonia does not intend to disconnect from the Russian grid ahead of that time either, and the overall plans have not changed, while the first of the synchronous condensers mentioned above will be ready in Q1 2023, the other two in 2024, Veskimägi said.
Synchronizing with "mainland" Europe ahead of that time, ie. Before the condensers, control systems and other infrastructure objects are ready, would be passed on to the consumer as higher costs, and also would be a less effective and riskier manner of supplying electricity, the Elering CEO added.
"We ourselves will not take the first step to somehow disconnect [from the Russian grid]," he added.
The three under-development condensers would provide the necessary integrity of supply four to six times more cheaply than running the Narva power stations at full tilt, which would only be a temporary, emergency measure, if it ever came to pass, while the Narva power plants are outdated in any case, Veskimägi added.
Elering's main role in Estonia is to ensure the security of supply of both electricity and also natural gas.
Editor: Andrew Whyte