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The Bill amending the renewable energy support scheme and the regulation concerning the direct line passed the second reading in the Riigikogu today. According to the Bill, Estonia will also be able to start trading in renewable energy statistics.

The Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act, the Energy Sector Organisation Act and the Natural Gas Act (576 SE), initiated by the Government, will amend the renewable energy support scheme and the regulation concerning the direct line.

According to the Bill, the renewable energy support scheme will be amended because the objectives set for the supports will be met in the coming years. The Bill sets out that if the generation volume of the existing generating installations is not sufficient to achieve the state’s target for generation of electricity from renewable energy sources or for electricity generated in an efficient cogeneration regime, the Government will, at the proposal of the Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure, organise an adjudication to obtain additional generation volume.

The Bill will enable small producers to receive renewable energy support under the old scheme if the generating installation generates electricity with a capacity of up to 50 kW and electricity is generated at the end of 2020 at the latest. Producers of electricity produced with generating installations with an electric capacity from 50 kW to 1 MW will have to participate in adjudications organised for them, in order to receive support.

According to the amendment arising from the state aid permission of the European Commission, producers who have made major investments into their generating installations before 2017 will receive support under the old scheme.

In order to facilitate small-scale production of electricity with generating installations with a rated output of 100 kW to 200 kW, the requirements for small-scale producers will be loosened. For example, in the future, they will not be required to have s share capital of at least 31,950 euro, and that will allow also for example apartment associations to produce electricity with limited-capacity installations.

With motions to amend, the Economic Affairs Committee merged two Bills (290 SE and 576 SE) amending the Electricity Market Act into one Bill. In the course of the second reading, motions to amend had been submitted, the most important ones of which concerned the renewable energy subsidies, the flexibility of the use of the proceeds from trade in statistics, and the impact analysis for the biomass used in trade in statistics.

In the case of an adjudication, 53.7 euro/MWh, that is, the current subsidy rate, will be the ceiling of the subsidy. At the same time, the subsidy paid and the electricity market price in aggregate cannot exceed 93 euro/MWh.

Also, the regulation concerning the establishment of the network was eased to increase the competitiveness of the economy, and amendments arising from pan-European directly applicable network rules for the electricity system and market were incorporated into the Bill.

In order to ensure compliance of the Natural Gas Act with the directive and regulations on the rules on the European Union’s common gas market, the principles for sanctioning a vertically integrated undertaking in a situation where the undertaking fails to comply with the obligations set out in the Act will be amended in the Natural Gas Act. The rate of the new sanction will be up to 10 % of the annual turnover of the vertically integrated undertaking.

Rainer Vakra and Jaanus Marrandi from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor during the debate.

The Riigikogu passed two Acts:

The Riigikogu passed with 80 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Occupational Health Care and Safety Act and the Collective Agreements Act (581 SE), initiated by the Government.

The Act will facilitate the creation of a safe working environment and the prevention of damage to the health of employees, improve the legal clarity of the current procedure, and reduce the administrative burden for employers in complying with occupational health and safety requirements.

At present, the employer must refer every employee to a medical examination in the first month of commencement of employment. It has appeared in practice that employers do not take the risk assessment of the working environment and the effect of hazards on employees as a basis when referring employees to medical examinations. Therefore employees undergo medical examinations uniformly, regardless of the degree of the risks actually affecting them.

The Act links the need for a medical examination of an employee more clearly with the risks in the working environment. In the future, an employer may refer an employee to a primary medical examination within a longer term, which means that a medical examination will be carried out during the probationary period and not in the first month of commencement of employment.

In the future, employers will have more possibilities to decide on the manner of instruction of employees, and on who carries out the instruction; for example, the instruction and training of employees, and the regulation of first aid, will be based on the needs of the enterprise.

Under the Act, an employee and an employer will have the possibility to agree on the payment of a contractual penalty for violation of occupational health and safety requirements. An agreement on a contractual penalty will have to set out the specific activities of the employee and the employer that are considered as violation of occupational health and safety requirements and that may involve risk to the health of the employee.

The amendments will eliminate the obligation of an employer to notify the Labour Inspectorate of the commencement of activities or of a change in the employer’s area of activity, and of the formation of a working environment council, and to submit the annual report on the activities of the working environment council every year. In addition, employers will no longer have to report to the Labour Inspectorate all minor occupational accidents, but cases where an occupational accident results in temporary incapacity for work, serious bodily injury or death. In the future, the Labour Inspectorate will not investigate occupational accidents while criminal proceedings are being conducted, in order to avoid parallel proceedings.

Liisa Oviir took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction in the debate. Oviir said that it was a good Act and that the Social Democrats supported it.

The Riigikogu passed today the Act on the Ratification of “An Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of South Africa, of the other part, amending the Agreement on Trade, Development and Cooperation” (606 SE), initiated by the Government, which provides for the ratification of amendments to this agreement on trade, development and cooperation.

The Government has approved the amendments in July 2008, and Estonia signed them on 2 July 2009. 60 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act, three were against, and there were three abstentions.

The aim of the agreement on cooperation is to strengthen cooperation between the parties in several areas: to stimulate the communication between the parties, and to support the economic and social development of the Republic of South Africa, and regional cooperation.

Henn Põlluaas took the floor during the debate, and on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. The motion was not supported, because 7 members of the Riigikogu were in favour and 59 were against.

Three other Bills passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:

The aim of the Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act and the Tobacco Act (595 SE), initiated by the Government, is to raise the competitiveness of Estonian undertakings in the processing industry or information activities sector with a high proportion of electricity costs by enabling them to consume electricity at a more favourable excise duty rate. The more favourable excise duty rate will be 0.5 euro per MWh which will be nearly nine times lower than the ordinary excise duty rate of 4.47 euro per MWh.

To receive the reduction, the energy management system of the undertaking will have to be effective and economic, and its electro-intensity will have to be at least 20 per cent. Electro-intensity shows the proportion of electricity energy in the added value created. The permit for the consumption of electricity at a reduced rate will be applied for through the Tax and Customs Board, and the permit will be valid for an indefinite period, provided that the undertaking complies with the reporting obligation and other requirements provided in the Bill.

The Bill will also change the issue of a permit for exemption from excise duty on alcohol and a permit for exemption from excise duty on energy. Other amendments will also be made in the Bill, in order to ensure better legal clarity or to solve problems that have arisen in practice. For example, the Bill will specify the procedure for the destruction of excise goods on which excise duty has not been paid, and amend the possibilities for denaturing alcohol. Instead of providing for a specific excise duty rate for solid substitute for tobacco, a principle will be set out that the same excise duty rate will be applied to solid substitute for tobacco as is applied to smoking tobacco.

In the course of the second reading, two amendments were made in the Bill. The first of them extends the list of persons entitled to apply for a permit for exemption from excise duty on energy. The other motion to amend specifies that, to obtain a retroactive excise duty refund, the undertaking who receives a permit for exemption from excise duty on energy will have to comply with all conditions for the consumption of electricity with a reduced excise duty, including the 20% electro-intensity requirement, also in the period for which it is asking the refund.

The Bill on Amendments to the Employment Contracts Act, the Act on Amendments to the Family Benefits Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts, and the Social Welfare Act (596 SE), initiated by the Government, will give the person who works and who is a person close to an adult person with a profound disability, or an assigned caregiver, the right to receive five working days of paid care leave per year.

The aim of the paid care leave will be to facilitate the staying in working life and taking up employment for employees with a caring burden by giving them additional free time for caring or organising the care for a close person with a profound disability, for example for visiting a doctor.

Under the Bill, an employee will have the right to the leave if he or she is a parent, grandparent, sister, brother, child or grandchild of an adult person with a profound disability. Also, if he or she is a spouse, or a registered partner within the meaning of the Registered Partnership Act, a guardian, or a caregiver assigned by the local government.

The explanatory memorandum notes that the leave will be remunerated on the basis of the minimum wage. In the application for and the calculation, payment and remuneration of the care leave, similar principles as in the application for and the calculation, payment and remuneration of the paid child leave will be applied. An employee will apply for care leave from his or her employer. The amount of the leave pay compensated from the state budget will be calculated and paid to the employee by the employer who will have to submit an application to the Social Insurance Board for the amount to be compensated to be transferred from the state budget.

On the proposal of the Social Affairs Committee, amendments were introduced into the Bill according to which the Government will have to draw up an analysis by 1 January 2020 and, on the basis of that, submit proposals to the Riigikogu so that the right to care leave and to the child leave of a parent of a disabled child would be extended to a person who works as a natural person on the basis of a contract for the supply of services under the law of obligations or who engages in a profession in public law as an independent person.

By 1 January 2020, the Government will also have to draw up an analysis and, on the basis of that, proposals on the assessment system to be used to identify a care need of an adult person, with the aim of implementing the results of the analysis to determine, as of 1 January 2021, persons who will be granted care leave.

The Bill on Acquisition of Immovables in Public Interest (598 SE), initiated by the Government, which will facilitate reaching agreements regarding transfer of land with land owners. The Bill is intended to speed up the completion of civil engineering works, like for example Rail Baltic, the state border or a highway.

Upon the acquisition of immovables, according to the Bill, a payment consisting of the value of the immovable and a compensation for the patrimonial damage and the loss of profit will be offered to the owners. Additional benefits will also be added to that: if an agreement is reached, a motivational payment of 20 per cent will be added, which cannot be lower than 0.8 times or higher than 50 times the average gross wage in the previous year. If a building used for residential purposes or a dwelling needs to be acquired in public interests, an additional benefit will be provided for for the loss of housing in order to compensate for the accompanying emotional damage. This benefit will be 10 per cent of the payment. A benefit for the administration will also be provided for for every party to the proceedings.

During the debate, Igor Gräzin from the Reform Party Faction and Erki Savisaar from the Centre Party Faction took the floor.

One Bill passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:

The Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act (635 SE), initiated by the Government.

Under the amendment, doctors employed in the Defence Forces will be allowed to carry out medical examinations of applicants for a driving licence and to issue the relevant medical certificate. At present, only family physicians and occupational health doctors working in the medical centres of the Defence Forces have such a right. All doctors in the Defence Forces are allowed to provide general medical care and emergency medical care regardless of their speciality.

The explanatory memorandum notes that, in preparation of the staff of the reserve units of the Defence Forces, 700-800 conscripts are trained to be drivers of vehicles of various categories every year, and they must undergo the relevant medical examination.

There are seven medical centres in total at the Defence Forces units engaged in training in various parts of Estonia, but only three of them employ doctors who are allowed to carry out medical examination of drivers of power-driven vehicles. A total of 13 doctors work in these medical centres. The Bill has been drafted on the basis of a proposal from the Defence Forces.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian): http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201805301400

Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu

 (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)

Riigikogu Press Service
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
631 6356; 515 3903
[email protected]
Questions: [email protected]