Ants Noot: The field of energy needs equal opportunities and free competition
The expansion of the heating district of Tallinn doubled over summer. The regulation adopted by the council means that district heating must be introduced in most of Tallinn’s households, since electric heating, gas boilers, and stove heating are explicitly prohibited. The exceptions are non-fuel-based renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines, which are not a serious alternative in urban conditions, and solar panels, which are not capable of heating rooms in the winter.
In other words, the city and the state have put one heating solution in a more favourable position than others, and have taken away people’s right to decide how they heat their homes. If you are building a new home or you are planning to reconstruct your house or company building, then the city of Tallinn will not issue you a building permit or notice until you have committed to join district heating. For example, the city has refused to issue a permit for the reconstruction of the Norde Centrum shopping centre in the Tallinn heating district, and for an apartment building in Kassisaba, as they use gas boilers for heating.
In light of this injustice, Eesti Gaas has turned to the Chancellor of Justice, as the situation described is harassing and unfair towards the consumer: people have paid a lot of money for their current source of heating, which they now have to scrap, and pay more to join district heating. At the same time, district heating is more costly for the consumer, increasing their expenses. For example, the consumption site of Gaasi Street 5, with its gas boiler house, spent 8828 euros on heating in 2016, but an annual cost of 12 590 euros would result under Tallinn district heating – over 40% more than in the case of a local heating solution.
The question is fundamental in its nature: can a city make a decision for people that is financially harmful to them, or can citizens decide for themselves whether they prefer, for example, a gas boiler, district heating or electric heating?
It will destroy free competition and worsen the situation of consumers. Natural gas is currently the cleanest, most convenient and most fuel efficient for both residential customers and major consumers. For political reasons, gas in Estonia has been marginalized for a long time, although the security risk relating the so-called “closing of the tap” has now disappeared as, if necessary, we would be able to deliver the whole amount of gas from the Klaipeda terminal; the only relative factor would be the price. In addition, the Balticconnector linking Estonia and Finland will be completed in three years, and work is being done in order to connect Finland and the Baltics with Central Europe through Poland. New connections provide certainty that the Estonian consumer will receive gas at all times and at the market price.
It is schizophrenic of the State to, on the one hand, make decisions restricting the natural gas market and, on the other hand, to contribute hundreds of millions of euros to the construction of the Balticconnector and the LNG terminal. Discriminatory barriers relating to natural gas need to be reviewed.