Former minister: Sikkut should have stood up for Estonia more on LNG vessel

Taavi Aas (Center).
Taavi Aas (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Minister for Economic Affairs and Communications Riina Sikkut (SDE) should have stood up for Estonia's interests more than she did in relation to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) supplies, Sikkut's predecessor in the post, Taavi Aas (Center) says.

Aas, now an MP at the Riigikogu, made his remarks following Monday's news that a Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FRSU) vessel would be moored off the Finnish coast, rather than off the Estonian coast, even though the required berth has now been completed at the Port of Paldiski.

Finland and Estonia are linked by the Balticconnector pipeline, meaning whichever side the FRSU vessel is berthed, LNG can be re-gassified on land and then pumped to the other side of the gulf via that connection.

Estonia's natural gas consumption now needs to be considered before decided whether it is worthwhile procuring a separate FRSU from the one to arrive off the Finnish coast, Aas said.

Aas said that while he was still minister, it was common knowledge that the Finns would acquire a ship for themselves. "For this reason, I think it was a good agreement [between the two countries]."

"We knew that if we had to finish the berth [at Paldiski] faster, then at least it would give impetus to the vessel to come to Estonia first," Aas went on.

The Paldiski berth was finished last month, ahead of schedule.

"Actually, while our gas consumption is so much lower compared with that of the Finns, even if the ship had been able to receive some loads in Estonia, it would have been a great help to us. I think we should have stood up for Estonia's interests more," Aas continued.

"In the spring, it was common knowledge that our consumption is significantly lower than Finland's, and that our consumption is in a pretty big decline. I think that the ministry also has a clearer picture of what our winter consumption should be. Many companies have created the ability to use, for example shale oil instead of gas," Aas went on.

Estonia has also started using shale oil, which had fallen foul of EU environmental policies, in some power stations – those generating district heating for apartment houses often ran on natural gas.

Aas was keen to point out he had no issue with state grid distributor Elering, involved in the creation of the Paldiski LNG berth.

"They tried as hard as they could," he said.

Aas added that a potential procurement of a second FRSU vessel for Estonia could also involve the Latvians, particularly in the event of an escalation of the current war in Ukraine and Latvian and Lithuanian gas plants being pressed into service for the production of electricity.

Isamaa MP and chair of the Riigikogu's finance committee Aivar Kokk meanwhile says that Aas' decision made in March along with that made by Sikkut at present will lead to gas prices "several times higher" than they would have been, due to having to purchase "surpluses" from other, friendly neighboring states, with no guarantee that any would be forthcoming.

Kokk, whose party is in office with Sikkut's, had not fought for the FRSU to come to Estonia, which was particularly galling given all the hard work private sector companies had undertaken to ensure the berth at Paldiski and all the relevant infrastructure was ready in time.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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