The production of electricity from oil shale in Estonia must end by 2040, Reform Party MP and former Minister of the Environment Keit Pentus-Rosimannus said in the Riigikogu on Tuesday.
"Everyone who grasps the severity of global climate tensions understands that the time for energy production that imposes an environmental burden is coming to an end," Pentus-Rosimannus said at the Riigikogu's discussion of oil shale production as an issue of national importance on Tuesday.
Polluting means of electricity generation are becoming increasingly more expensive due to global policy on carbon emissions, she noted, decreasing their competitiveness compared to clean energy.
"If we wish to be among the states that have a clean economy in the future, the time of generating electricity by contaminating means must come to an end in Estonia," Pentus-Rosimannus said.
"In terms of cost and unreasonableness, facing the future with energy that pollutes the environment is the same as facing a hovertrain with a steam engine," the Reform MP said, adding that in the short term, it may seem nostalgic to keep going, engulfed in puffs of smoke, but soon enough it will become clear that other states are moving quickly and gaining ground in significantly better conditions.
Pentus-Rosimannus said that the transition from oil shale-based electricity needs to be known long enough in advance that the necessary preparations can be made in Ida-Viru County.
"If we want Estonia to be free of the polluting oil shale-based electricity by 2040, the decision needs to be made in the next few years," she said, noting that leaving a couple of decades for consideration grants the country the opportunity to reorganise employment related to oil shale-based electricity production.
"The first stage of exiting oil shale based electricity production is the creation of a Fund for the Future, which targets Ida-Viru County, collects charges for using natural resources and invests in important forward-looking developments," she added.
Stalnuhhin: Abandoning oil shale energy would jeopardise entire Northeast
Centre Party MP Mihhail Stalnuhhin, however, said that before starting to collect signatures for the closing down of the sector, one should consider what will happen to the 13,000 or so residents of Northeastern Estonia who will lose their jobs as a result, according to spokespeople for the Centre Party.
Stalnuhhin said that he finds it impossible to understand how someone can come up with a proposal like this, signed digitally by 1,079 people, if the proposal would jeopardise 6,000 jobs in a specific sector plus another 7,000 related jobs.
He added that the best means for increasing employment in an industrial region like Ida-Viru County is the development of industrial parks.
"Second, what needs to be done is the developing of infrastructure," the Centre MP said. "As someone who travels from Narva to Tallinn and back from Tallinn to Narva every week, I can say that the infrastructure is currently not consistent with requirements."
Stalnuhhin described energy as a sector that each country needs to have on its own, independent of others.
"If it were up to me, Eesti Energia would start building new generating units at the Narva power plants tomorrow," he said. "But since the Riigikogu has formulated its stance on oil shale energy already, I would recommend even greater attention be paid to the chemical industry. We talked about energy alone. We need to talk about two things — oil shale energy and oil shale chemical industry. The two are connected with each other, they are very closely related, and the latter of them may have a bigger chance of surviving than the former. Labour, skilled labour for the oil shale chemical industry, can be taken from the energy sector as well."
Stalnuhhin recalled that there was a time when one in six residents of Narva worked at Kreenholm Manufacturing Company, a local textile factory. The loss of these jobs did not concern anyone, he said; nobody paid attention to it.
"It was our problem — the local government's problem, the problem of the people who lost their job," the Centre MP said. "Nobody acknowledged it as the state's problem. Two years ago, the situation began to change, and the state started paying greater attention to Ida-Viru County."
The Riigikogu on Tuesday discussed the prospect of Estonia abandoning oil shale-based energy as a matter of significant national importance.
Editor: Aili Vahtla