Consumption of green energy surpasses 20 pct

Estonia’s power grid operator Elering has reported that consumption from renewable energy sources in the second quarter reached 20.4%, a significant increase from last year’s average of 13.6%.

Of the green energy used, 76% of the electricity produced came from waste biomass and biogas, 21% from wind generation, and 3% from hydro sources. Since last year, production from biomass has increased 60% and from wind 35%, the company said in a 26 July release.

On 19 July, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Renewable Energy Association signed a memorandum agreeing to keep government subsidy levels for existing renewable energy producers at current rates while lowering the subsidies offered to newcomers.

Elering CEO Taavi Veskimägi said he would have liked to see the subsidies reduced for current producers as well, Postimees reported separately. From 2007 to 2010, subsidies for renewable energy producers grew from 5.6 to 61.5 million euros, according to officials.

Source: Estonian Review

Moody’s affirms A1 rating for Estonia

Moody’s Investors Service affirmed Estonia’s A1 government bond rating and stable outlook on 25 July. Moody’s confirmed Estonia’s A1 rating and stable outlook. The rating agency based its decision on conservative budgetary policies, a strong balance sheet, low levels of indebtedness, and sizable fiscal reserves.

“Despite the intensification of the euro area crisis, which will result in a slowdown of growth, Estonia’s susceptibility to external shocks is considered to be low. This is supported by negligible macroeconomic imbalances and a relatively healthy banking system,” the report from Moody’s said.

Moody’s praised the government’s commitment to satisfying the Maastricht Treaty criteria after the 14.3 % economic contraction in 2009. It also pointed to a budget surplus in 2011 despite a predicted deficit, as well as economic growth of 7.6 % last year (the highest growth in the euro area).

Moody’s expects lower growth of 1.7 % in 2012, due to decreasing external demand, increased government expenditures on energy investments and resumed contribution to the second-pillar social security fund. “However, Moody’s believes that the government’s demonstrated policy responsiveness and its commitment to conservative fiscal policies will compel a reversal of the budget deficit and the resumption of fiscal reserve accumulation,” the report said.

The full Moody’s report can be read here.

Source: Estonian Review

Government approved the Nature Conservation Development Plan

Today, the Government approved the Nature Conservation Development Plan until 2020 submitted by the Minister of the Environment Keit Pentus, which specifies the major development lines in the fields related to nature conservation. In the coming years, the most important aspects in the field of the environment will be environmental education, protection of biodiversity and more sustainable use of natural resources.

“The stage in Estonian nature conservation where the only possibility for nature conservation and management was to organise the field with national orders and restrictions and establishment of strict conservation areas, will soon be history. By now, almost one fifth of the territory of Estonia is covered with various conservation areas and instead of their additional establishment, we will concentrate on ensuring that these areas would be well managed. The attitude that nature should be protected not only at the conservation areas, but outside their borders as well, should become essential,” explained the Minister of the Environment Keit Pentus. “Our nature is very rich, including well preserved raised bogs, primeval forests, coastal and wooded meadows with their characteristic species, which have become very rare elsewhere,” she added.

According to the words of the Minister, contemporary nature conservation is concentrating in addition to traditional nature management also on promotion of environmental awareness of people and sustainable use of natural resources. “The environmental education has an essential role here, because we can manage and protect nature better if we are familiar it,” Pentus said.
The completed Nature Conservation Development Plan is a strategic document, the objective of which is to ensure systematic planning of national nature conservation activities, balanced use of natural resources and preservation of species and habitats. The Nature Conservation Development Plan includes classical nature conservation as well as other fields related to protection of nature. The Development Plan will provide input for the planning of financial resources and will form the basis for improvement of the National Environmental Action Plan of Estonia 2007-2013.

Some examples of the activities of the Development Plan are raising of environmental awareness of the people through environmental education on all levels of education development of nature conservation research, organisation of sustainable environmental tourism, ensuring of favourable condition of species and habitats and versatility of natural landscapes, organisation of the protection of natural objects, compensation of nature conservation restrictions and supporting of nature conservation activities. Essential activities in the field of use of natural resources are, for example, taking account of the value of the services of ecosystem in use of the environment, mitigation of the versatility reducing impact of mining and management of renewable energy sources, ensuring of biological safety and mitigation of negative transport impact.

For example, by 2020, the area of managed cultural biotopes such as alvars and coastal and wooded meadows would be increased by almost twice. The cultural communities developed with the human impact are extremely valuable for preservation of the diversity of species and landscape. Recovery of swamps and raised bogs is also planned to be increased to up to 10,000 hectares. The measures facilitating the improvement of environmental education and awareness would be a broader use of IT solutions (such as practical i-applications for smartphones) and increase of the possibilities of outdoor studies.

Source: Ministry of the Environment

Forbes: The Estonian way in the crisis was right

In the opinion of the US media businessman Steve Forbes, the course taken by Estonia and the other Baltic countries permitted them to recover from the crisis better than other European countries.

In the August issue of Forbes magazine, Forbes referred to the opinions of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. “When it comes to Europe’s problems, Ilves has it right,” Forbes wrote. “The three Baltic countries, being almost totally dependent on global trade, suffered during the global economic crisis, but unlike Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, they slammed on their fiscal brakes. No Keynesian stimulus programs for them,” Forbes said. “All three left their flat-tax regimes in place and stuck to their free-trade policies, although some taxes were raised.”

“The Krugmans of the world were aghast that these countries saw a quick economic turnaround. By European standards all grew smartly in 2011, and they will likely eke out gains this year despite Europe’s recession,” Forbes wrote.

“Critics may carp that these are small nations whose lessons are irrelevant, but look at Poland, whose performance has been stellar. It has been carrying out an astonishing privatisation programme¬ covering more than 800 companies, including several with revenues over $1 billion. Warsaw is emerging into something of a regional financial centre,” Forbes said.

Source: Estonian Review

Estonia’s medal hopefuls in the London Olympics

At the London Olympics, Estonia will be represented by 32 athletes competing in disciplines ranging from badminton to judo. Which are the most likely to bring home a medal and have crowds spontaneously dancing in the streets? To find out, ERR News spoke to two insiders – leading sports journalist Marko Kaljuveer, who is head of Estonian Public Broadcasting’s sports division, and Martti Raju, sports director for the nation’s Olympic Committee.

For Kaljuveer, who is in charge of ERR’s television and radio coverage of the games, the answer came with no hesitation.  “Our main hope for a medal is Gerd Kanter, no doubt about it, and the second one is Nikolai Novosjolov. These two guys are really strong contenders and our main medal hopes,” he said.

Indeed, Kanter’s name is on everyone’s lips in the run-up to this summer’s big event. The discus thrower brought home gold from Beijing in 2008 and now, at the age of 33, is still at the top of his sport. Novosjolov became the world champion in men’s épée fencing in 2010, a feat that earned him an Order of the White Star.

Raju, for his part, echoed Kaljuveer’s picks, citing recent performance levels.  “The results speak for themselves,” he said. “Gerd has already shown good form here in London, and showed that he can win in London,” he added, noting Kanter’s second place in the IAAF Diamond League in early July. As for Novosjolov, Raju was also optimistic, though he pointed out the inherently chancy nature of the sport.  “In principle, of course in fencing anything can happen, but he has shown that he can compete well and win competitions,” Raju said.

A third sport both men mentioned as a medal possibility was rowing, specifically the quadruple sculls team of Tõnu Endrekson, Andrei Jämsä, Allar Raja and Kaspar Taimsoo. “These four guys […] are quite strong, and the way they took the qualifying regatta and qualified for the games was impressive,” said Raju.

The same team won silver at the European championship in Plovdiv last year, and each has a bevy of medals to his name. And as Kaljuveer pointed out, Endrekson was one of the pair who earned Estonia a silver medal in double sculls in the Beijing games.

Speaking about the less obvious medal contenders, the potential surprises, is obviously far more difficult and something that both experts were reluctant to do.

Kaljuveer did, however, bring up a name in sailing. “We are a seaside country and sailing used to be very strong in Estonia. Right now we have five sailors. One of them is Deniss Karpak who is [competing in] the Finn class. Maybe he is also a medal hope,” he said.

When pressed specifically about other contenders who have been making headlines of late, Kaljuveer was less hopeful given the competition. For swimmer Triin Aljand, he said a place in the semifinals would be an excellent result. “If she would be in the final, it would be a positive surprise, but the semifinal is something good,” Kaljuveer said.

Heptathlete Grit Šadeiko, he said, is still on the young side and would likely do better in Rio in four years. But, as Kaljuveer stressed, Olympic results are hard to predict because there is such a strong element of luck involved.

The nation will have to watch and wait, and the fact that Estonians will be watching and waiting, following the results at every turn, is probably the easiest Olympics prediction to make.

“Everyone in Estonia says that if we win one medal, we will be satisfied. Of course two is better and three is best,” Kaljuveer said. “Because we are a small nation, sport is very important for the Estonian people. You can be a big nation through your achievements.”

A roundup of all the Estonian athletes participating in the Olympics can be found on the website of Estonian Public Broadcasting.

Source: Estonian Review

Over 46 000 saw matches of UEFA U-19 finals in Estonia

The 11th Football European Under-19 Championship finals held in Estonia from 3-15 July were extremely popular with the public, attracting 46 412 spectators or on average 3 094 spectators per match, organisers said. The 15 matches of the finals were played in the capital Tallinn and in the regional capitals Rakvere and Haapsalu.

Compared with the spectator numbers of the earlier UEFA U-19 championship finals, Estonia beat Finland, which had 29 700 spectators, Norway with 28 091, Switzerland with 43 170, the Czech Republic with 45 484, Northern Ireland with 19 464, Romania with 22 000, and Liechtenstein with 20 510 spectators, the Estonian Football Association told BNS.

The director of the competition, Anne Rei, said she had received personal thanks from all teams along with expressions of satisfaction with the quality of the pitches, hotels, organisation of transport, level of volunteers, and the number of spectators.

The tournament ended with Spain defending their title, which resulted in a 1-0 (0-0) victory over Greece at Tallinn’s Lilleküla stadium on Sunday night. It took Spain 80 minutes to break down Greece but their victory in Estonia was their sixth in just 11 editions of the competition. The late goal to make Spain champions again was scored by Jese Rodriguez.

Spain was also victorious 2-1 when the two sides met previously in group A of the Tallinn tournament.

Source: Estonian Review

Estonians export vodka to China

The Tallinn-based alcoholic beverages maker AS Liviko dispatched the first five sea containers full of vodka of the Viru Valge brand to China on July 19, 2012. The CEO of Liviko, Janek Kalvi, told BNS that previously the company has sent samples to the Chinese market and carried out market research and analysis. “What we’re doing today is the first serious shipment and the start of export,” he said.

The first batch consists of bottles of 0.7 liters, 0.5 liters and 0.2 liters and is meant for sale in five different regions: Xiamen, Wuhan, Ningbo, Tianjin and Chongqing.

In a press release, Kalvi said Liviko had been preparing the sale of Viru Valge, one of its best-known brands, on the Chinese market for two years. The very first container of Viru Valge for China was shipped in March.

During 2011 Liviko exported 4.2 million liters of alcoholic beverages, which made up 31% of its total output. The main export markets for Liviko so far are Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Finland, the United States and Japan.

Source: Estonian Review