No. 47




Estonian Energy Sector Still Has the Face of Oil Shale

07 June 2023


RiTo No. 47, 2023

Oil shale from Virumaa has dominated the Estonian energy sector for more than 60 years, or the entire period for which Statistics Estonia has data. Oil shale production peaked in 1980 and reached its lowest level in 1999, after which mining increased again, but it has not reached Soviet-era level any more.

After oil shale, the production of peat and firewood shared the second and the third place.

Wind and hydropower, which at that time mainly meant hydroelectric power ge-neration on dammed rivers, were produced on a very modest scale until 1970. In the last two decades of the Soviet period, however, there was no hydro or wind power production in Estonia.

The Soviet Estonian economic model was very energy-intensive and wasteful. Energy production and consumption in Estonia after regaining independence fell significantly due to the economic crisis of the early 1990s. The capitalist economic model that started to develop after that did not need so much energy. Oil shale con-tinued to be the most important primary energy source in Estonia after restoration of independence, but the amount of oil shale mined fell.

According to Statistics Estonia, power plants produced 7359 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity and 4717 GWh of heat in 2021. The amount of electricity pro-duced from oil shale increased by more than 60% over the year, accounting for al-most half (49%) of the total electricity produced. In 2020, electricity produced from oil shale accounted for 40% of total electricity produced.