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Enefit project proved too big

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PHOTO: Mati Hiis/Õhtuleht

New head of the supervisory board of Eesti Energia Väino Kaldoja says that listing the state company to get the people involved cannot be ruled out. He also admits that development of Enefit technology has aimed too high.

Congratulations are in order. You are the chairman of Eesti Energia's supervisory board.

Thank you.

Who made the proposal and when?

The proposal came from the minister and the new head of the appointment committee Erkki Raasuke simultaneously. I've had contacts with Erkki for a long time – both in the economic development council and Eesti Energia – I believe he knew the score so to speak.

How long did it take you to make a decision of whether to accept?

There was little to think about in terms of the work; I have nothing against work. Rather I was thinking about potential problems. Emotional problems, like your interest in energy for example. I'm not one to navigate emotional problems. However, I wasn't given long to ponder these things. As an entrepreneur, I understood I had to get to work.

What do you believe are the most burning matters Eesti Energia's supervisory board and its chairman have to tackle in the near future?

First of all, the owner has made it very clear what we have to do. From processing oil shale, which is among Estonia's precious few natural resources, to turning a profit. We are currently in the middle of coordinating and specifying the previous supervisory board's strategic development plan.

Eesti Energia has been managed very professionally so far, which is why it is a good company to take over. Management will be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.

How happy are you with the work of CEO Hando Sutter?

I don't know whether this will please or displease you, but I must say I'm very happy. Recent experience suggests Eesti Energia has a very strong management board today.

What is your opinion of risk investments Eesti Energia has pursued both in Estonia and abroad in the past decade? I mean investments in Jordan and Utah and attempts to launch the Enefit technology. What of the setbacks the company has experienced?

Enterprise is a field where you are criticized for doing nothing when you play it safe and going too far when you do something. However, if we want to provide an assessment, we need to go back to when these decisions were made.

While I believe the decision was 30 percent emotion at the time, the aim to do something bigger is definitely a noble one. Today we know these shoes proved too big to fill.

That said, looking at the end result, we can say we've come out the other side alive and well. Estonia does not have much besides oil shale energy to take to the world. Estonia needs to keep thinking about export opportunities and how to run its economy.

I'm very sorry we couldn't fill those shoes.

You are talking about the Enefit technology?

Yes. It is a very good technology. We would need to find a place for it, so that Estonia would be more than just an importer.

A few months ago there was talk of how the Jordan project did prove successful in the end, and how Estonia is taking its know-how to the world. Could this hold an opportunity for Enefit?

Estonia is a relatively small country, and proving that we have one functional power plant just isn't enough. People want references to something more. Those are difficult to come by; however, we must not give up and say we're dropping the matter altogether.

What is your opinion of the idea of listing the entire state-owned company as brought up by politicians and analysts now and again?

I believe that you always need to look at what is available, at what price, and whether it's the right time. Were I the owner, I would agree to list a number of things. First of all because I like it when people can share in the ownership of entities.

People could buy shares and feel like owners of major enterprises. However, these things cannot be done headlong. One needs a farmer's patience and precision. I am convinced a lot of state-owned companies will be listed in Estonia, as well as that it is the right thing to do. I support it.

Concerning Eesti Energia, there are a number of considerations to look at, including the matter of energy security. We cannot just yell „hooray“ and rush into it. It must be proceeded by analysis and only then a decision. Easy does it. Perhaps we will first list a minority holding and take it from there.

The Tootsi wind park debate has been paid a lot of attention lately. To what extent have you kept yourself informed?

Not very. Perhaps things were not handled in the most sensible way there; however, it's like the fiddler on the roof. We need to look at our priorities from both sides. I hope to God it will come to host a wind farm and not develop into a case of if we cannot have it, you can't either. That would constitute a problem for Estonia.

All these kinds of processes need to be maximally open, transparent, and with equal opportunity for all. It is very difficult for me to say how it should have been organized in this light.

Has the dispute concerning the Tootsi wind farm property hurt Eesti Energia's reputation in your opinion?

Where can we directly blame Eesti Energia for this matter? I cannot really see the company's culpability. I can be sincere in saying that Eesti Energia does not want to steal anything, get anything for free.

Eesti Energia is a very strong company, and if its owner decides to do something in one way or another, the energy company cannot really affect those processes to any notable degree. In the end, had the property been transferred to Eesti Energia and had the company listed it some time later, it would have benefited everyone.

How competitive do you believe renewable energy is when seen independently from oil shale? Where should our energy production be headed?

I believe that neither of us can imagine life without energy. The question is how to get it the most rational way. Of course the main problem is the extent to which those processes impact nature and pollute the atmosphere.

While we have taken positive and timely steps in the field of wind energy, it is clear wind farms cannot operate without state subsidies yet. Their relative importance is still modest. We need to move forward in other areas and look for new output every day: how to bring energy to users and how to generate it.

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