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Former Eesti Energia CEO welcomes gas plant investment plan

Sandor Liive.
Sandor Liive. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Energy expert and former Eesti Energia head Sandor Liive welcomes the government's plan to invest in a gas-hydrogen plant in Narva as a way to add dispatchable power generation.

"We need to commend Eesti Energia. Every new investment in generation capacity is necessary. The problem is that we have not invested in new managed capacity for a very long time. We haven't even erected that many wind turbines, while some are under construction today," Liive told Vikerraadio.

Liive emphasized that the plant would mainly be using natural gas and could also be used to heat the city of Narva. He added, however, that the plant's power output of 100 megawatts is hardly remarkable if we keep in mind Estonia's peak consumption is almost 1,600 megawatts.

"It is basically a gas-fired power plant. While all gas turbine makers say today that they can add 5-10 percent of hydrogen to the mix, the question is where to get that hydrogen. But overall it is sensible to invest in capacity that is not dependent on the availability of wind and sunshine so to speak," Liive finds.

Talking about constant malfunctions at Estonia's newest Auvere oil shale power plant, Liive said the plant will be sorted out eventually.

On the matter of security of supply, the former Eesti Energia CEO said that Estonia's weakness is not having any carbon neutral dispatchable capacity.

"That is where the ice is thinnest in the long term, because the dispatchable capacity we have, our oil shale plants and the planned gas plant, all emit CO2, and CO2 is very expensive in the EU. So, while we will have supply security on the one hand, it is also very expensive," Liive explained.

In terms of why he believes in nuclear energy, Liive said it provides reliable power at reliable prices over a very long time.

"The main expense when it comes to nuclear energy is the initial capital cost. Once you build the plant, you should not have any other major cost surprises. This is not the case for a gas-powered plant where the fluctuating prices of gas, hydrogen and CO2 are among the chief items of expenditure."

Sandor Liive is one of the founders of private venture Fermi Energia that is looking to develop nuclear energy in Estonia.

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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Marcus Turovski

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