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Outgoing CEO: Eesti Energia has kept all promises

Hando Sutter.
Hando Sutter. Source: Eesti Energia

Outgoing Eesti Energia CEO Hando Sutter said on the "Esimene stuudio" talk show on Thursday that contrary to recent criticism from members of the government, state-owned Eesti Energia has done everything expected of it.

Sutter said that he did not expect such fierce criticism from members of the government during his last days with the company. Ministry of Finance Annely Akkermann and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (both Reform) recently found fault with the national energy giant's executive bonuses and compliance with the owner's expectations.

The CEO said that the bonus pay system at Eesti Energia is transparent, with well over a thousand people qualifying, and that the management board's performance pay has nothing to do with the fact it is leaving.

He added that bonuses depend on goals planning and results. "The latter are evaluated by the supervisory board's remuneration committee, with the board in charge of final decisions."

But the executive also said he understands how the size of the management's bonuses could spark resentment in people.

"I believe these sums can be astronomical for people, even though figures that just aren't accurate have also been thrown around. We got a solid B – our bonuses amount to three monthly salaries for 2022 results."

Sutter also said, commenting on the criticism of the Eesti Energia general assembly in the person of the finance minister, that the owner's expectations have been somewhat conflicting.

The CEO said that Eesti Energia has complied with all directions it has received during cabinet sittings, parts of which are classified, and that he finds a personal attack against him to be unfounded. "We really have done everything as per agreements [with the government]."

Akkermann's criticism included underestimating the situation with providing cooling water to Narva power stations. This would have essentially stopped electricity production at oil shale power plants.

Sutter said that an emergency solution was ready by fall of 2022, with a permanent solution to be completed this year.

The finance ministry also criticized Eesti Energia's running of TSO Elektrilevi, "which resulted in an unacceptably slow response to a major blackout in Saaremaa in December 2022. The blackouts there lasted for a week – or more in some places – and caused major problems and damage to residents and businesses in the region," Akkermann has said.

Sutter countered by saying that the Saaremaa power crisis was the result of poor crisis management, including as concerns cooperation between local governments, the Rescue Board and the Defense League, as opposed to Elektrilevi having too few people. "I can assure you that Elektrilevi had all the necessary resources, contractual partners and agreements to solve the situation," Sutter said, adding that nothing got stuck behind lack of resources, and that crisis preparedness simply needs more practice.

The incoming coalition has decided to separate Eesti Energia and transmission system operator Elektrilevi, which Sutter suggested would be the greatest single restructuring in Estonia's history that could end up taking years.

Hando Sutter said that while it is possible, Eesti Energia would cease to exist in its current form as it would make no sense to artificially keep EE's oil shale and renewables businesses in a single firm without the regulated side of the business currently handled by the TSO.

"Speaking as an ordinary citizen, I believe that Eesti Energia is big in Estonia, while it is still a small company in the regional picture, and because we are heading into very difficult times where we need to invest and solve complex puzzles, it pays to carefully consider whether three [companies] would be better than one."

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Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski

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