The Rouge Municipality is a rather small community, which is extended over an area of 264 km2 and its population is 2.300 inhabitants. 57% of its area is covered by woods, while 30% by cultivated land. The present need of heating of Rõuge rural municipality is covered almost entirely by renewable energy sources, mostly firewood, while electrical power is mostly bought from the state-owned company “Eesti Energia”. The municipality uses exclusively the green label electricity. Power is produced in the rural municipality by 5 small hydroelectric power stations.
An important renewable energy source of Rõuge rural municipality is biomass – wood fuel and peat. 58% of the territory of the municipality is covered by forest, which makes wood an important raw material for both forest industry and energy sector. Also, the hydropower resource of the Rõuge rural municipality presents quite high potential, reaching up to 200 kW. Such a hydropower total capacity would be possible to produce 900 MWh of electric energy, enough to cover up to 15% of the municipality’s electric energy consumption. Moreover, the natural resource of solar energy in the territory of Rõuge rural municipality is 950 kWh/m2/annum, while the potential production of thermal energy with solar panels is 350 kWh/m2/annum and the production of electrical power with PV-systems 100 kWh/m2/annum. On the contrary, wind energy resources are small in the territory of Rõuge rural municipality, mentioning indicatively that the average wind velocity at a height of 10 m is only 2 – 2,5 m/s and energy density at the height of 30 m only 50 – 100 W/m2.
In general, the Rõuge municipality is very active in promoting renewable energy applications and joining energy saving campaigns. Although, a lot of initiatives have already taken place, such as the energy class or the “Energy Trail”, further actions have to be taken so as the sustainable growth of the community to be achieved. Towards that direction, there is a need of assessing the technological and market potential of RES, of bringing new technologies within the community and, at last, of demonstrating, promoting and disseminating best practices examples, aiming at the raising of environmental awareness.
The most important barriers of RES&RUE are listed below:
The high capital cost of RES deployment: There are more cost-efficient investment options for business and enterpreneurs.
Economically feasible exploitation of biomass: Small scale space-heating applications of firewood in traditional stoves and open fireplaces are by far the largest market. Casual and unregulated character of this important segment does not allow a simple interference. The market of modern biomass boilers constitutes an emerging one. Rising fossil fuel prices have shown to have a positive impact on biomass boilers' sales. Networks for wood log, chip and pellet distribution and marketing are grwing, sold at petrol stations, supermarkets, etc.
No subsidies or grants: There aren't any incentives for RES/RUE installations. The "green locally produced heat" doesn't produce any benefits from national tax exemptions, though it is healthy for local economy and jobs. Few insulation loans are distributed for old Soviet-era block houses.
Shortage for specialised services: There are very few specialists or professional service providers in the countryside. Drive-in to this remote district from cities is an additional cost. So, up-to-date technical and engineering know-how is missing.
The awareness and traditional uses: The rural people are very conservative. The awareness of the local population on the impact of RES and RUE projects is quite limited. Auditing and monitoring of energy use and energy loss in buildings could help to provide "moment of truth" on energy matters.
Transmission security: Major electricity consumers, such as farms and country houses, are quite dispersed around the rural countryside: the transmission expenses are relatively high. The power lines have been renewed in the last five years to improve their technical condition. Low-tension lines are mostly too long and there are problems with the tension's quality. Ensuring the security of supply for the end user at optimal cost is in the Estonian national agenda.
The rapid development of Estonian economy for the decade until 2007 has brought along some growth of primary energy consumption, but no tendency of steady increase can be observed. Both the primary and final energy consumption has increased to some extent. The improvement of energy use efficiency in Estonia has been to a large extent the result of general economic and fiscal measures, as well as that of own initiative of enterprises and households. Recommendations on supporting the use of renewable energy sources (RES) for electricity generation in Estonia include the implementation of a direct scheme since 1998. The scheme included the obligation for network operators to purchase electricity generated from renewable energy sources (RES-E) using the quite high feed-in tariff. Another recommendation is since there have been few national level measures targeted directly to energy efficiency improvement, in 2003 the Government started to support the refurbishment of apartment buildings built before 1990. The assistance covers 10% of the cost of these works. Also, energy audits in residential sector are subsidized by 50% of the cost.
The introduction of EU emission trading scheme has created incentives for involved enterprises to seek the most efficient ways for reducing GHG emissions. In Rõuge, many EU structural project funds have had certain impact on energy end use efficiency, such as refurbishment of the schoolhouse and kindergarten, retrofitting of boilerplants and heat transmission lines. The preparation of energy development plans for municipalities have been made mandatory in case the municipality applies for financing assistance from national sources or EU funds for energy related measures. The implementation of the Directive on Energy Performance of Buildings is quite an important step to refurbish old housing and to set standards in new housing stock. There are no new measures taken for increasing energy efficiency in transport sector during recent years.
In Estonia, there is very poor institutional build-up for the promotion of RES/RUE. There is still no energy agency or any other institution with similar tasks. The Energy Department in the Ministry of Economy is responsible for regulations necessary for the functioning of national fuel and energy sector.
The Rõuge municipality ultimately promotes wider use green energy. In order to implement the European Union and national energy policies the municipality plays the key role in increasing energy efficiency on the local level. The municipality promotes efficient energy consumption in public buildings, initiates and carries out energy saving projects, improves heating systems, uses renewable energy and motivates the local households to save energy. The system of voluntary certificates for purchasing green electricity should be promoted widely.
The highest potential of market growth is related to the biomass. The amount of wood used for energy production, including both firewood and by-products of forest industry could be substantially increased. The potential for energy production from forest residues is still not efficiently utilized .Wood chips, pellets, granules, and briquettes could be produced for local use as well for exports. This is related to the development of central heating system in local towns. At the moment there are great losses of energy in the distribution chain. The saving potential in the residential sector is significant. Extended use of wood-based fuels for energy production will largely depend on support schemes established by the Government.
The potential hydro energy resource of the Rõuge rural municipality is estimated up to 180 kW. From 22 historic micro-hydropower installations, only 5 are in operation now. The NATURA 2000 and other environmental regulations restrict deployment and wider use of hydropower. The economic feasibility could be achieved by upgrading and renovation old turbines and hydro-installations instead of obtained new costly ones.
Continuing power line networks’ renovations according to the plan is critically important. Altogether, construction of 60 new substations and 96 kilometres of power lines for low and middle voltage is prescribed by the year 2010.
Heat pumps are a controversial application of renewable energy sources since they still require input of primary fossil energy or electricity in order to elevate ambient heat to a useful temperature level. Some sources might call them a hybrid application (partly renewable and non-renewable). On the other hand, the growth of heat pumps segment is quite substantial.
Wind energy and solar energy resources are comparatively small in southern Estonia.though the solar collectors could be more widely used for heating and pre-heating hot water tanks in public premises.
The municipality could provide more environmentally friendly public transport for its inhabitants. Over the last few years the municipality has made possible to use more bicycles as environmentally friendly and sustainable mean of transport by constructing many light transportation roads around Rõuge village.
In order to promote the use of renewable energy, the Rõuge renewable energy park was founded. The municipality aims to develop the renewable energy park as the innovation, engineering, prototype centre and mix-up engineering solutions for increasing the usage of renewable energy sources and novel energy solutions. The energy park is unique, because old and new technologies have been combined. Green tourism if chosen by operators could increase energy efficiency and provide reductions via life-cycle cost and management. The development the Energy Trail and the Rõuge Renewable Energy Park increases visitation and disseminates RES/RUE knowledge among students, tourists as well local communities to be involved more actively in policy implementation and energy actions.
Participating in international and cross border projects integrating energy issue with regional cooperation, sustainable development and tourism aspects will serve multiple objectives and amplify benefits. It is also obvious that awareness campaigns will play a major role in the efforts to increase energy efficiency. Outlines for such campaigns should be elaborated. Energy services and assistance package for RUE could be provided in the district.