Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to open this conference on energy security in the Baltic region. Energy security is a topic that has come under deeper scrutiny not only on the regional level, but in the European Union and NATO as well. Thus I am pleased to share with you the ideas on how to successfully tackle this common challenge.
I will focus on three aspects: the necessity of creating a well-functioning regional electricity and gas market, establishing a sufficient network of interconnections, and thirdly, international cooperation in this field.
The first steps in creating an open and fully functioning Nordic-Baltic electricity market have already been made. On the 1st of April the new Estlink bidding area, established by Nord Pool Spot, opened in Estonia. The new area connects Estonia to the Nordic electricity market, offering a liquid market and a trustworthy reference price.
For a well-functioning electricity market to emerge, concrete steps have to follow. We expect our Baltic neighbours to join the Nord Pool Spot price area next year. The creation of a common framework for electricity import from third countries is also essential.
We also have to move forward with energy interconnection projects. I am pleased to say that the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP), launched by the European Commission two years ago, has been a valuable tool in this respect. Its main goal is the full integration of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the European energy market through the strengthening of interconnections with their neighbouring EU countries. By today some of the crucial energy links that we have been lacking are already reaching the early phase of implementation.
Due to the Estlink cable installed at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland, the Baltic region is not an “energy island” anymore. However, in order to create a fully integrated Baltic energy market, three links must be established: the second Estlink cable, the NordBalt cable to connect Sweden and Lithuania, and especially the link between Lithuania and Poland. In addition to the electricity links we also need to develop gas interconnections with the rest of the European Union, particularly with Finland and Poland.
Another tangible step towards ensuring the energy security of the Baltic region would be the establishing of the Visaginas nuclear power plant in Lithuania. The implementation of this project is essential in order to strengthen the security of the electricity supply in the region. We need the discussions on Visaginas to produce real progress as decisions in this field can not be delayed. For Estonia, there are two concrete options: either to participate in the regional project or to establish our own nuclear power plant.
Energy security is, more than ever before, important for Estonia. We remain engaged in enhancing the energy security of the Baltic region and we among others, have set it as a priority issue of cooperation during our upcoming chairmanship of the Baltic Council of Ministers in 2011.
In today’s globalised world more and more common challenges are emerging, and they can be successfully confronted only through broad cooperation. Energy security is no exception.
It is important to seek wide-spread cooperation not only in the European Union – a crucial variable in this equation is our transatlantic partner, the United States. The EU and the United States share a common view in promoting transparency, rule of law and functioning markets.
A good example of transatlantic energy cooperation is the launching of the EU-US Energy Council in 2009 which has already proven to be an arena where important discussions with added value are held. One of the Council’s priorities is to contribute to the creation of new supply routes, such as the Southern Corridor.
The Southern Corridor Concept, if implemented, would start supplying the European Union with more gas from the Caspian region, Central Asia, and the Middle East, independent of current major suppliers. It is something we are trying to achieve regionally as well.
Energy security is a strategic issue also for our Eastern Partners. Estonia contributes to the improvement of the energy security and the environment of EU’s Eastern Partners, as we have joined the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership (EEEEP).
In this regard, I would like to acknowledge Ukraine for signing the accession protocol to the Energy Community Treaty. In the interest of harmonising energy markets and the transparency of energy transit, it is necessary to see to it that all interested parties would be fully included in the Treaty.
There is also the question of energy efficiency. In Estonia, where we mainly use oil shale, we are in a unique position as we are able to produce 100% of our electricity consumption locally. It is, however, important to understand that energy efficiency as well as environmental aspects require the diversification of energy sources. Furthermore, in addition to thinking about what we use to heat our houses, we must also pay attention to how energy-saving and environmentally-friendly are the houses we build.
We have to admit that ensuring energy security does not come cheap. But security is something we cannot put a price tag on. In the end, reducing energy consumption would benefit not only the environment, but also the economy, since the cheapest and greenest energy is the energy which is never used at all.
There are still a lot of key questions. For example, does green energy have to be more expensive than the fossil version, and does more expensive energy ensure larger energy security after all?
There are also other practical matters that must be resolved: the creation of an integrated Baltic gas market and the diversification of gas supply, including LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and storage issues; the implementation of nuclear energy projects in our region; and many more.
As we know, electricity is generated by opposite poles, and the field of tension between opposite poles usually generates new ideas and heated discussions. Thus I will conclude my remarks in hoping that the energy security of our region benefits from this synergy.
I wish you a pleasant stay in our wonderful capital, and I would also like to use this opportunity and welcome you back next year, when Tallinn has even more to offer as the European Capital of Culture.
Thank you for your attention