TalTech professor urges network fee pricing revamp, keeping oil shale

Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) energy professor Alar Konist addressing the Riigikogu.
Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) energy professor Alar Konist addressing the Riigikogu. Source: Erik Peinar/Riigikogu

Addressing the Riigikogu on Thursday, Alar Konist, energy professor at the Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), recommended Estonia's pricing model for electricity network fees be revamped and to start differentiating between those contributing to frequency containment and those not. He also believes Estonia could continue utilizing oil shale energy as well.

"One of my suggestions would be to start making distinctions in network fees," Konist said while presenting during Thursday's deliberation of a matter of significant national importance in the Riigikogu. "Otherwise we really will think that renewable energy production is good and cheap — and we do have to deal with that — but we forget that in order for this energy to reach us when we need it, that requires more than just production capacity. We also need frequency containment; we need regulating mechanisms, storage opportunities and other things."

All of that should actually be taken into account, he noted, but unfortunately isn't included in the current pricing model.

"Thus we have to start looking at network fees and perhaps start differentiating them by production category too," the TalTech professor suggested. "As well as provide opportunities for companies who want to tackle these issues themselves, i.e. actually build some sort of production unit as well as invest in frequency containment and everything else necessary — storage."

Should a company not want to do so, however, they should have the opportunity to purchase this service, which could be offered by other companies, i.e. those with adjustable production capacities, he continued, adding that this would then generate competition.

'No environmental limits whatsoever'

Konist, who is in charge of the Tallinn university's professorship of oil shale technology, also said that, in his opinion, no energy production method, including oil shale-based energy, should be ruled out, as energy demands will continue to grow going forward.

"And the last question I had was whether there is a place for oil shale alongside renewable energy," he said. "Perhaps the main message I want to convey to you today is that yes, all the technologies actually exist that would allow us to continue utilizing oil shale in the future as well. There are absolutely no environmental limits whatsoever, and whether we want to use it or not is merely a political decision."

According to the professor, carbon capture technology has been around for a long time already, and can also be used to capture carbon released in the production of electricity from oil shale. In addition to storing captured carbon, it could likewise be used in various chemical processes as well by binding it with other chemical compounds or in paper or crop production, for example.

He noted that oil shale and derivatives from its combustion should definitely be considered as possible raw materials in cement and fertilizer production as well.

"The bottom line that I actually ultimately want to reach here is the fact that we possess all the technological options for whatever we want to use for energy production in the future," Konist said. "And we can't talk only about energy production here — we have to talk about various materials we need as well. In energy, we often only talk about the electron we want, but we forget that with various production methods, this may also lead to different byproducts as well, which, with conscious and skillful use, we can utilize."

Thursday's deliberation of a matter of significant national importance, "Green Transition or Green Madness?" was initiated in the Riigikogu by the parliamentary group of the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), which also invited Konist to give a presentation as part of deliberations.

The other two presenters included former minister of the environment Rain Epler (EKRE) and EKRE party chair Martin Helme.

The two EKRE politicians used their own presentations primarily to attack the EU-initiated green transition and political parties in Estonia that support it.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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