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Juhan Parts: Pitch to take Elektrilevi public pointless surrogate activity

Former Estonian prime minister Juhan Parts.
Former Estonian prime minister Juhan Parts. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Instead of partially listing Estonian distribution network operator (DNO) Elektrilevi as floated by the minister of finance, Elektrilevi should be ensuring that people throughout the country have decent electricity, says former prime minister Juhan Parts.

Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform) announced Thursday that he's seeking government approval to publicly list Estonian state-owned energy group Eesti Energia subsidiaries Elektrilevi and Enefit as well as privatize an additional portion of the subsidiary Enefit Green.

Commenting on the news, former economic and prime minister Juhan Parts (Isamaa) told ERR that Võrklaev's pitch is just pulling the Estonian public's leg. He noted that Elektrilevi is a natural monopoly, and that instead of taking it public, it should be ensuring that the entire country has decent electricity.

"It's just not possible that they're no longer capable of keeping these network routes clear to any extent," Parts said. "This [issue] was ongoing ten years ago too, and at the time the company was tasked to ensure all of that, but now it's the same things again."

He stressed that it isn't that Estonia is so vast and unfathomable that these basic things can't be fixed; it's a matter of ineptitude. He added that the state's longstanding wish to split Elektrilevi from its parent company has also played a role.

"Instead of providing an unambiguous standard, they're engaging in separation," he criticized, adding that the DSO's management should be providing the company with very clear instructions to ensure that network routes remain clear.

The Elektrilevi matter must be considered in a broader context of the entire energy sector, the former head of government said, noting that the country doesn't actually know where the necessary capacity will come from for the next 30-40 years, as prior to making investments in renewables, there must be an answer to the question of where the controllable capacities will come from – which have to equal peak load plus 10 percent.

"That question isn't being answered; everyone's talking about some kind of cheap renewable energy," Parts stressed. "How many times do I have to say that renewable energy is the most expensive, because this has to include reserve capacities – that means additional network investments. In light of this, taking Elektrilevi public is an utterly pointless surrogate activity. Võrklaev should be taken public! First Võrklaev and [Prime Minister] Kaja Kallas public, and then let's see."

Asked where the money needed for these investments in Elektrilevi should come from, the former prime minister said that three sources for it exist, including canceling the planned electrification of Estonia's railways through Koidula and Narva, with its price tag of half a billion euros, and the billions tied to the green transition, which should also be spent on investments in the Estonian DSO given that one premise of the transition is the electrification of the entire country's activities.

Jokingly, Parts said that a third possible source would be the sale of shares in Võrklaev, adding that Minister of Economic Affairs and IT Tiit Riisalo (Eesti 200) and Eesti 200 chair Margus Tsahkna should also conduct rapid training to retrain surplus Climate Ministry officials and Government Office communications specialists as electricians.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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