Nascent coalition would double renewables micro-producer capacity ceiling

Solar panels on the roof of a garage in Tartu's Supilinn District.
Solar panels on the roof of a garage in Tartu's Supilinn District. Source: Virgo Siil

The coalition-in-waiting says it wants to double the maximum volume of electricity generated to qualify as a micro-producer, in order to encourage more people to go down this route.

However, the state-owned company tasked with hooking up such micro-producers to the grid said that this increase – which the coalition would install at a fixed cost to producers regardless of size – will end up costing so much more to connect producers that additional funding will be needed.

Prime Minister and Reform Party chair Kaja Kallas told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "We are creating the opportunity for apartment associations to join, at a fixed price, as an electricity [micro-]producer, up to 30KW capacity."

Currently, the maximum capacity to qualify as a micro-producer stands at 15MW.

Micro-producers are those, often private individuals, who generate their own electricity via, for instance solar panels or small wind turbines, and who sell-on any excess they may generate beyond their own consumption needs, to the national grid.

However, criticisms have recently emerged that planned higher connection fees make this no longer economical.

"In other words, if there were a fixed fee, there would be no more cases of people actually wanting to resolve their electricity consumption issues by putting solar panels on the roof, but being put off from that because the connection costs a huge amount of money," Kallas went on.

Grid maintenance firm Elektrilevi, subsidiary of state generator Eesti Energia and which actually installs the connection between the micro-producer's property and the grid, says that the capacity increase will push up costs, however.

Either additional funding needs to be found from the state budget, or the network connection fee should be further hiked, Elektrilevi says.

The coalition, the coalition negotiators say, would also speed up the process of connecting micro-producers to the grid.

At present, it costs €542 for a micro-producer to connect to the grid, with a capacity up to 15KW as noted.

Solar panels on the roof of a private house or a small apartment block are sufficient to generate that amount of electricity.

Ülar Haug, head of one apartment association – the management company running a residential block and which has solar panels installed on its roof – told AK that: "In any event, 15KW is an outdated figure now. The needs of our apartment buildings are site-specific. Taking these perspectives into account, it should nowadays be decided according to the available resources, i.e. according to the surface area of the roof that a building has, while then a solar panel bank of the corresponding size should be planned for."

The proposal still needs legal clarification, leading Reform MP Kristen Michal told AK.

Meanwhile Marii Uduvee, head of Elektrilevi's electricity network connections department, told AK that offering a fixed discount to micro-producers means that the actual cost of the works entailed will be covered by the costs of Elektrilevi's development obligations. Due to the doubling of the fixed price, this means having to find extra funding, as noted.

This could take the form of investment, including foreign investment, state funding – or raising the network connection fee again.

Moreover, she said, in rare cases connecting can amount to tens of thousands of euros in costs to Elektrilevi, she said, or in the case of larger buildings such as schools, having solar panels installed on their roofs.

Mikk Tuisk, Mayor of Saaremaa Rural Municipality, told AK that installing a 70KW battery of solar panels on the roof of a school on the island would cost €5.8 million, plus VAT.

"It is not conceivable from any point of view that we would pay an amount like that," he said.

Reform is in its third week of talks with Eesti 200 and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), and it is widely expected that this lineup will enter office. An agreement has yet to be signed, however, and other practical, political and constitutional boxes still need to be ticked.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'

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