Snowfall and strong winds of recent days mean that 2,200 customers of distribution system operator Elektrilevi still had no power on Wednesday morning, two-thirds of them in Saaremaa.
Data from the DSO suggests 1,573 Saaremaa households still did not have power at 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday. Eight outages affecting 371 consumers were registered in Hiiumaa, while there were 226 households in the dark in Harju County. Outages were also registered in Lääne-Viru, Tartu and Viljandi counties.
The wave of disruptions was caused by heavy snowfall in western Estonia that started on Friday evening, accompanied by freezing rain, and continued when a snowstorm swept across Estonia Monday.
There were still around 4,000 customers without power at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Elektrilevi has said it will try to restore power to most people during Wednesday.
Unprotected medium-voltage lines biggest problem in Saaremaa
Additional repair crews that have arrived in Saaremaa from Tallinn say that the situation in the woods is extreme.
"It is not a pretty picture: wet trees lying on the lines, with the snow cover over a meter thick in places. We are using tracked vehicles as tires will get you nowhere in this," said Ardo Ott, department chief for Eelektrilevi contractor KH Energia-Konsult.
Rasmus Armas, head of asset management for Elektrilevi, said that fallen branches do not cause low-voltage overhead lines to lose power because of insulation. The problem is that Saaremaa forests have 1,965 kilometers of triple-wire medium-voltage lines only a third of which have been weatherproofed. Regarding 1,341 km of lines, even a small branch that falls on them could cause a power outage.
"We have 15,000 km of medium-voltage lines in forests [in Estonia]. And replacing a singe km of lines, using the same kind of overhead solutions as with low-voltage lines, costs €40,000-50,000. Putting the lines in the ground costs twice as much still. The pace [of modernization] we can sustain is 500-600 kilometers a year. It would require a broader social debate and agreement if we wanted to replace those lines faster," Armas said.
He added that while power has been restored to many households, new snow showers are disrupting repair work and new outages cannot be ruled out in the coming days.
Maret and Virge who live in an apartment building in Kärla, Saaremaa spent four days without electricity.
"We get water at certain times. So, we can't complain, really. We can keep the toiler running. /.../ There's heat, which is great. The radiators got hot again Saturday evening. It's cozy, now, if only we could watch TV, charge our cell phones and use the computer. Most people have electric stoves, which is another problem," they said.
The Kärla shop has also been closed for four days. Coop has four shops affected in Saaremaa and has had to write off spoiled goods.
Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski