Today, the Riigikogu deliberated the matter of significant national importance “The challenges of energy security and security of supply in Estonia”, initiated by the Faction Isamaa.
Reports were by Riho Terras, member of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Alar Konist, Professor at the Department of Energy Technology, Head of the Research Group of Sustainable Energy and Fuels at Tallinn University of Technology, and Andres Metsoja, Member of the Riigikogu.
In his report, Riho Terras explained that the social debate on Estonia’s strategic options was unbalanced and the label of green transition should by no means be used to stigmatise the existing energy technologies, but it was necessary to maintain, develop and modernise Estonia’s research, industrial and technological potential. “I must admit that the discussion of ‘Climate-neutral Estonia by 2035’ in this hall this April clearly showed that the topic is merely based on slogans, but it seems to me that actually there are no clear development plans or projections in Estonia today. And yet it is important to all of us that the Estonian people have heated rooms and burning lamps at any time, and all this come at a reasonable price,” he said.
Terras spoke of various sources of energy and presented their positive and negative aspects. He noted that it was necessary to achieve a balance between the sources that satisfied both our energy needs and climate targets.
Terras thinks that the energy sources that enable to reduce CO2 emissions the most, like wind and sun, cannot be regulated and, with them, the generation of energy would depend on circumstances that Estonia cannot control. “This means that incinerators are necessary and will remain necessary in the future as well in order to ensure energy stability and energy security. At least until hydrogen technologies, batteries and condensers will be advanced enough to enable accumulation of solar and wind energy,” Terras underlined.
Terras concluded his report by saying that Estonia had to ensure legal clarity for our businesses that engaged in energy production. “We will have to say what their future will be like over the coming years. The energy sector development plan that is currently regulating this sector was written in 2012.” Terras added that it was time to consider whether the Riigikogu had a role in this sector. “I will give an example from security policy. The Riigikogu has approved the national security concept. Is it not time to think that, besides the national security concept, we should also have a national energy concept that would provide an opportunity to view the whole sector broadly, comprehensively, from above and excluding no area? Sun and wind, the small and the large – they all have a place in the Estonian energy landscape,” Terras said.
Alar Konist noted in his report that the production of electricity had been stable or had become stabilised in the European Union, but energy consumption had been growing year on year and this growth could not be covered by renewable energy and this growth was compensated by import.
He added that energy deficit had increased in the Baltic countries and likewise in the Nordic countries. Last year, Estonia imported 43 per cent of electricity and as little as 25 per cent of electricity came from renewable energy sources or renewable energy production.
“When we hear how many megawatts worth of new solar farms are continually being constructed or installed, we need to understand, however, what their capacity factor is or how much energy they are capable of generating in a year. Of course, independently of us during a time period. And it is 0.12 TWh. Let me remind you that electricity consumption was 8.4 TWh. This might set minds into motion,” Konist said.
Konist noted that energy security and security of supply could not be underestimated. “And we must also take into account that we are at the terminal end of transmission line. On top of that, the coronavirus crisis forced countries to close their borders. There is an agreement not to close them. Now if you think for a moment – should the rest of the European countries also come to face an energy deficit, would the agreements hold, or would each country meet the energy need of its population first? It is obvious that each country would meet its energy need first and afterwards they would apologise and promise to try better next time,” he stated.
In his report, Andres Metsoja focused on three issues: security of supply, legal clarity and the involvement of local community. He said that it was necessary to have a backup plan even in a gradual transition to renewable energy sources. “One of these options is to maintain the capability to produce electricity from oil shale in order that we had a plan B when the need arises. Here we must take into account the fact that, in terms of energy security, the de-synchronisation of our power grid from Russia by 2025 is important. The transition to synchronised operation with the continental European frequency range will ground the risk of Estonia’s dependence on Russia’s energy system and frequency range being used against us. Starting from 2026, we will be in the continental European frequency range but our links to the Western countries will be scarce, at least initially. Thus the Baltic countries will need to have actual readiness to maintain their frequency independently as well,” Metsoja said.
He added that, in view of public interest, it was also necessary to speak about legal clarity and the current shortcomings, and that legal clarity and sense of security would guarantee that wind farms would actually be built.
“In order that we were able to successfully meet the climate targets, the support of the Estonian people will be needed. To achieve this, it is necessary for people to understand and perceive the benefit created by the changes. Our legal space and national message should be based on a simple principle: if something is built in your back yard, a specific benefit to you and your community and region will be involved, besides a potential disturbance. If an offshore or onshore wind farm of national interest is built in a county, part of the income arising from the farm will have to contribute towards the budget of the local government,” Metsoja explained.
During the debate, Dmitri Dmitrijev (Centre Party), Annely Akkermann (Reform Party), Sven Sester (Isamaa), Riho Breivel (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Kalvi Kõva (Social Democratic Party) and Andres Metsoja (Isamaa) took the floor.
Three Bills passed the first reading
According to the Veterinary Bill (384 SE), initiated by the Government, Estonian legislation will be updated with the implementation of the EU Animal Health Law. The current national legislation concerning animal health will be consolidated into a single Veterinary Act. The aim is to consolidate, harmonise and update the sectoral law, to implement the EU Animal Health Law and other directly applicable EU Regulations in the veterinary sector, and to formulate the provisions, implementing procedures and provisions delegating authority that remain within the competence of EU Member States and that are necessary to set out the requirements more precisely. The new Act will help ensure better legal clarity for operators and consistency of Estonian legislation with EU legislation.
Major amendments include the licence obligation becoming a notification obligation in certain areas of activities in the case of operators, new notification obligations in respect of the keeping of terrestrial animals and new licence obligations in respect of trading in the EU common market.
In the case of certain farm animals, the keepers will need to draw up a biosecurity plan. Well-considered measures to prevent animal disease help prevent the spread of animal diseases. The requirement is already in place for pig farming and aquaculture establishments. In the future, it will be possible to extend this requirement according to risks. The minister responsible for the field will specify, by a Regulation, the species of animals the keeping of which will be subject to a biosecurity plan. The keeping of a farm animal kept in a household for own purposes will not be subject to a biosecurity plan.
In connection with the application of the EU Animal Health Law, the bases for animal disease prevention and control will change to a certain extent. Particularly dangerous animal diseases will be controlled under contingency plans drawn up by the Agriculture and Food Board. The local and national animal disease control committees provided for in the current law will no longer be formed. In the event of an animal disease threat or outbreak, the EU Animal Health Law, the Veterinary Act, the contingency plan and the Emergency Act will be acted upon.
The amendment to the Bill on Amendments to § 97 of the Building Code (362 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction and Member of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid, will repeal subsection 97 (6) of the Building Code under which, in a city, town and small town, the owner of the land adjacent to the road must arrange the clearing of the pavement that runs between their registered immovable and the carriageway, including snow clearing and gritting to an extent that allows for safe pedestrian traffic on the pavement. The obligation to maintain a pavement adjacent to a registered immovable should rest not with the owner of the registered immovable but with the owner of the pavement, that is, the local government who is in a position to contract this task out to a service provider.
The Bill proposes to release owners of registered immovables from the obligation to maintain pavements and to transfer this obligation to local governments. Under § 6 of the Local Government Organisation Act, the functions of a local authority include, among other things, the organisation of the construction and maintenance of roads in the rural municipality or city.
Under the Bill on Amendments to the Building Code and the Local Government Organisation Act (release of home owners from the obligation to clear pavements owned by local authorities) (369 SE), initiated by the Faction Isamaa, home owners will be released from the obligation to clear pavements owned by local authorities and thereby it will also be ensured that pavements owned by local governments are cleared on time and at a higher quality.
Photos of the sitting (Author: Erik Peinar, Chancellery of the Riigikogu)
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
The video recording of the sitting will be available on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)