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Estonia

Estonia

Baltic States - Region's only bright spot could fade after 2012

BALTIC STATES: Wind energy development in Latvia and Lithuania remains sluggish, while Estonia is making slow but steady progress.

Estonia

The year ahead may well be Estonia's best yet for wind installations, with three wind farms totalling 98.9MW currently under construction.

This will build on a strong 2011, when more than 35MW of capacity was added to end the year at 184MW - an increase of 23% on 2010, according to Tuuliki Kasonen, general manager at the Estonian Wind Power Association. Wind energy now generates just under 5% of the country's total energy consumption.

However, legislative uncertainty around Estonia's support mechanism may hamper development beyond the projects being built this year.

Under the existing system, the state-owned grid operator pays producers a premium of EUR0.0537/kWh on top of the market price for electricity for the first 12 years of operation.

But the premium is capped - once annual wind production exceeds 600GWh the subsidy will be reduced according to the number of projects sharing the subsidy money available. At current rates of installation, it is anticipated this cap will be reached this year or next.

Estonian politicians believe that even this system is too generous and have attacked the profits made by renewable-energy generators. As a result the government is considering a change in the law that could halve the subsidy levels. The proposed system would tie the premium paid to renewables generators to the Nord Pool spot market prices on an inverse relationship basis - the higher the market price paid, the lower the subsidy, and vice versa.

These changes are currently being considered under Estonia's Electricity Act, which is due to come into effect from January 2013.

For offshore wind, while Estonia has good potential and legislation in place, obstacles remain, including opposition from environmentalists. "Education and promotion will be necessary to boost the appeal (of offshore wind) and allow it to take off," says Kasonen.

Latvia

Wind energy appears likely to remain low on the Latvian government's agenda. The country's 30MW of installed wind energy accounts for just 1% of national electricity consumption, and no capacity was added in 2011.

A new 2030 strategy document addressing electricity generation and renewables targets has been proposed but is still being discussed.

Paulis Barons, head of the Latvian Wind Energy Association, attributes the country's stalemate to uncertainty and remains pessimistic for 2012. "What we really need are new, concrete economic policies, but we only get vague promises to establish a system for renewable-energy support," he says.

"There have been proposals from investors in offshore wind, but these have had the brakes put on them by the government," Barons adds.

A new 330kV transmission line along the coastal zone is planned for 2016, which Barons believes might open up some new opportunities.

Lithuania

The Lithuanian government's preference for nuclear energy over renewable-energy sources is posing a serious problem for the country's wind industry, according to Arturas Skardzius, president of the Lithuanian Renewable Resources Energy Association.

Skardzius hopes that parliamentary elections scheduled in the autumn might trigger some changes in the current stalemate.

Meanwhile, Estonian renewable-energy developer 4energia has invested more than EUR120 million in its neighbour's wind-energy industry. So far the company has installed 26MW with another 53MW under construction.

Lithuania currently has around 180MW of wind power with 25MW added last year.

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