Eesti Energia yesterday, today and tomorrow
A small state like Estonia must keep pace with others in the development of energy. Decisions for the future concerning energy will have a long-term impact on the security policy of our state and the subsistence capacity of the whole population. For this reason, broad-minded energy specialists need to be involved in making the relevant political decisions.
The life span of power stations is usually considered to be two human generations, that is, 50-60 years. Our stations are just about to attain that age. Consequently, the governments that have been in power in Estonia should have decided much earlier with which type of electricity and how to go on. At the same time, it cannot be said that the state has not done anything. Both the energy development plan and the oil shale use development plan have been passed in the Riigikogu but we are lagging behind in practical life.
At present, however, the greatest value of Eesti Energia is the right to extract 400 million tons of oil shale. Unfortunately, on the balance sheet of the company, its value is zero kroons because the extraction right seems to have no market value at all. Yet different experts have emphasised the value of this mineral resource with the help of several methodologies.
With the future in mind, it is clear that, in connection with the high price of taxation of CO2, oil shale electricity will become too expensive in the European Union. Consequently, alternatives need to be found to it. A nuclear power station has been talked about and this plan sounds good in a long-term perspective. Wind energy which has been promoted quite a lot is also too expensive for us because windmills need compensation stations to work. In other countries, in Denmark and Norway for example, hydro electric stations have been constructed to compensate wind stations but in our natural conditions it is impossible to produce hydro energy in a significant amount. Therefore, after all, stations that are based on natural gas might eventually be considered as compensation stations in Estonia. However, that would make wind energy pointlessly expensive for us.
With an optimistic outlook towards the future, the energy portfolio of the Estonian state might consist of up to 1000 MWh oil shale electricity, to which up to 300 MWh electricity produced by co-production stations would be added, and just apropos there might also be a couple of hundred megawatt-hours of wind generator energy. With such energy portfolio, we would also be able to export electricity. This concerns the decades to come, as is also provided in our energy development plan. At present, oil shale energy constitutes 90 per cent of the energy portfolio of the Estonian state.
However, an underground hydro electric station might be constructed in Estonia before construction of a nuclear power station. The draft exists in business circles and it has passed a detailed analysis.
It should be constructed within ten years, before a nuclear power station will be completed. This hydro electric station could then be used as a compensation station of the nuclear power station and windmills. Building sector would also benefit from it: the excavated granite is valuable raw material both in road construction and general building. Interest has already been shown in the electricity that would be produced at the hydro-electric station, for example, by the nearby ports next to Maardu. The hydro electric station would belong to the private sector but, if necessary, the state can also participate through its own company. However, for the whole population of Estonia, comparison with the price of the energy produced in other ways is of importance – up to now, hydro energy has globally proved to be one of the cheapest types of energy for the consumer.