ERKC

Energy Research Knowledge Centre

Estonia

Research themes and prioritisation

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Energy research in Estonia is driven by societal and economic factors that include the country’s high level of urbanisation, the dominance of oil shale in domestic energy production and the transition to an economy driven by know-how.

The most important energy research theme in Estonia is oil shale. This is the largest source of primary energy in Estonia, representing 60 % of the total supply, and the country accounts for 70 % of global oil shale production (source: Statistical Office of Estonia). The oil shale industry puts major pressure on the environment, creating about 70 % of Estonia’s atmospheric pollution, 80 % of its effluent and 80 % of its solid waste.

Estonia’s second main theme in energy research focuses on accelerating innovation in renewable energies. Specific funding is allocated to R&D in solar energy, fuel cells, biofuel production, power storage to balance wind power fluctuations, biomass energy technologies and smart grids.

The third main research theme covers nuclear technologies.

Organisation of research

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The state supports R&D through targeted financing, grants, national R&D programmes and support programmes for innovation. Targeted financing is managed by the Ministry of Education and Science.

Research grants are financed by the Estonian Science Foundation from the budget of the Ministry of Education and Science. Other support schemes are financed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications through the Estonian Technology Agency. The aim is to enhance the competitiveness of enterprises by developing and applying new technologies. The system supports product development by businesses, institutional research with market potential, and project feasibility studies.

Figure 1: Organisational structure of energy research in Estonia

Programmes and budgets

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The Estonian Energy Technology Programme (ETP) is the country’s main programme for funding energy R&D. It is a thematic programme within the 2007–2013 Innovation Strategy ‘Knowledge-based Estonia’. The ETP programme is managed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Environment.

Budget overview

The annual budget of the Estonian Energy Technology Programme was in the range of €6.5–9.5 million for the period which concluded in 2013. The programme has three funding streams:

  • Research and development support     
    Up to €1.6 million/year is available to support basic energy research, up to €1.9 million/year for targeted projects, and up to €1.2 million/year for Centres of Excellence.
  • Technology transfer support    
    This includes three budget lines: proof of concept (€1.9 million/year), renewable energy development (€3.1 million/year), and environmental technology development (€1.2 million/year).
  • Joint activities and value added services         
    This funding stream has a budget of up to €120 000/year.

Programmes and initiatives

Estonian Energy Technology Programme (ETP)

Eesti Energiatehnoloogia Programm

The role of the Estonian Energy Technology Programme is to identify energy-related R&D trends and priorities and to set funding priorities accordingly. The ETP provides the framework for setting research and technology objectives and carrying out research. It also facilitates stakeholder collaboration by collecting input from the energy industry and the public sector, and through international cooperation.

Table 1: The main energy research programme in Estonia.

National govermment departments

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Ministry of Economics Affairs and Communications (MKM)

Majandus- ja Kommunikatsiooni Ministeerium (MKM)

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications develops and implements the state’s economic policy and economic development plans in a number of fields, including energy. This ministry is also in charge of policy development and implementation of R&D and innovation programmes. More specifically, its Energy Department is in charge of energy policies, including energy-related R&D programmes.

Ministry of Education and Research (HM)

Haridus- ja Teadusministeerium (HM)

The Ministry of Education and Research is in charge of developing research and education policies (among other things) to ensure the competitiveness of R&D in Estonia.

National research programme management agencies

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Estonian Research Council (ETAG)

Eesti Teadusagentuur (ETAG)

The Estonian Research Council is a public foundation with a mission to support the implementation of national research policy. It is an independent legal entity that works closely with government ministries, R&D institutions and other stakeholders. The main goal of the Council is to support basic and applied research through grants, to carry out  performance and impact analysis and to act as an interface to international research programmes.