Speech by Minister Juhan Parts at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit06.02.2014
Honourable ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
I will focus in my remarks mainly on energy issues, more specifically on the development of technology and its impact on the issue of access to energy.
Major developments mainly in North America over the last decade – a very short period of time - have triggered a significant shift in the world’s traditional approach to energy affairs. Of course, the phenomenon is not geographically limited.
The rise of unconventional oil and gas and of renewables is transforming our understanding of the distribution of the world’s energy resources, providing more diversity in the global oil and gas supply. It could even meet the gap between growth in global oil demand and decline in conventional crude oil production, according to IEA.
Does this strong emergence of unconventional oil and gas trigger a permanent global shift in energy relations? If so, are we on the edge of the unconventional becoming a main-stream?
As we are all interested in producing greater added value, our main export commodity therefore seems to be technology. Instead of transporting large quantities of raw material or final liquid fuels around the globe, we could transport the advanced technologies to the regions of greatest energy demand.
My vision is that with enough technological innovation and trade in energy technologies, any region in the world will be empowered to explore their indigenous resources and take the next huge leap towards greater global energy security, self-sufficiency and affordability of energy.
Estonia has more than a century old tradition of using oil shale. Initially for liquid fuel production, but then switched to predominantly producing electricity and heat. Oil shale has provided us with a great level of self-sufficiency and supply security over a century.
Like India, that does not have sufficient reserves of conventional energy resources and is therefore a net importer of energy, Estonia has focused its attention, its innovation capabilities to more unconventional resources of energy in order to boost our self-sufficiency and decrease dependency on imports.
By the way, none of the technologies developed by our industry or used in Estonia involve underground fracking. The Estonian oil industry uses excavated shale, which makes it far easier to control and mitigate the environmental impact.
Estonia’s latest state-of-the-art oil shale technologies allow industry to maximise the oil shale yield and have a waste free production with five times less CO2 emissions (!) per produced unit of energy; and thus make a noticeable difference within the Estonian energy sector and economy as a whole. The share of oil industry in total added value has the potential to increase from 1% (in 2011) to 4.4%. And this was made possible by investing one third of the country’s total Research and Development investment in the oil industry R&D.
The aim is to improve technologies for greater efficiency throughout the oil shale cycle, from mining to consumption. The research concentrates on two aspects: maximising the production of liquid fuel and reducing the carbon intensity of oil shale-based power and heat generation.
Estonia holds only around 1% of world’s vast reserves of this fossil fuel. But our technologies are spreading globally. The IEA’s World Energy Outlook states perhaps the obvious that Asia is indeed the emerging centre of gravity for future energy demand and supply. Point taken anyways – Estonian unconventional fuel technology is currently present in North America and in Middle East; so why should not Asia, specifically India be next?
Countries with the know-how have used oil shale for different applications for decades, but Estonia’s latest technological breakthrough could catalyse a new approach to exploring the vast global reserves of this fossil fuel frequently perceived as a significant pollutant.
Estonia is keen to explore opportunities for the wider application of its latest technologies. Our main energy company Enefit started its international oil shale activities in 2006, and has oil shale operations in Jordan and the United States.
Renewable energy is a solution that complements all that. Renewables, particularly biomass for heat, provided around 15% of Estonia’s total primary energy supply in 2012 and in total a quarter of our final consumption of energy is made up of energy from renewables.
To increase and improve the renewables sector, Estonia is not only continuously investing in R&D for biomass-based energy, wind and solar power, but it is also pursuing cutting-edge solutions such as fuel cells and electrolysers as well as computer-based energy management technologies for buildings, power storage and grid development. We will have more funds available to advance energy efficiency programmes and secure, clean and low carbon technologies.
The European Commission has recently proposed a policy framework for climate and energy for 2030 with a few ambitious, but realistic targets. It is clear that we in the EU want to maintain the leading role in the international climate negotiations, as we internally discuss on the best ways to implement the new proposal. It is clear that the energy demand will increase globally by 2030, in particular in China and India where strong rise of hydrocarbon imports is expected. That is why development of new resources by means of the technological advances is all the more important.
We will have to transform our energy mix that is built up on conventional power, but renewable energy technologies offer already now a competitively priced, feasible, flexible and, most important of all, sustainable solution for energy production to the countries with a vastly growing need for energy. We are experiencing that the green technologies offer a boost to the economy and it is even more convincing if you include socio-economic benefits like job creation and impacts on health.
I would like to conclude that no matter whether it is conventional or unconventional fuels used with the biggest market share, it is technological evolution that makes our future differ from the present.