Estonia climate resilience policy indicator
- Estonia's average temperature has been rising 0.2‑0.3°C per decade since 1951. The rate of warming exceeds the global average in the past two decades. Furthermore, the country’s temperatures are expected to continue increasing, surpassing the 1971-2000 average by as much as 2.6°C during 2041-2071 and by 4.3°C in 2071-2100. Changes in electricity demand patterns (i.e. greater consumption for cooling and less for heating) could jeopardise the economic feasibility of centralised heating systems.
- Average annual precipitation has increased since the 1950s, with extreme summer precipitation events becoming much more frequent. As this trend is likely to continue until the end of the century, climate change is expected to affect renewable energy production by reducing solar energy potential and offering more wind energy resources. Although Estonia’s energy system is generally resistant to the adverse effects of climate change, some overhead electricity lines in rural areas could be vulnerable to storms.
- Based on in-depth scientific studies, Estonia’s Development Plan for Climate Change Adaptation to 2030 provides a comprehensive roadmap to build climate resilience. In addition to identifying the most vulnerable sectors, it details specific actions and their estimated costs. Energy is one of its eight priority sectors, and it emphasises climate change risk prevention for power networks and consideration of renewable energy systems’ climate sensitivity. Furthermore, the plan provides robust mechanisms to review and co‑ordinate its implementation. While Estonia’s Development Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and Development Plan for the Energy Sector are linked, discussion on climate resilience in the energy plan is not as specific as in the adaptation plan.
Estonia’s average yearly temperature has been increasing 0.2‑0.3°C per decade since 1951, outpacing the global average (+0.12°C per decade) with warming more pronounced in the winter, especially in January. The average annual maximum temperature rose roughly 1.5°C between 1961 and 2010, and on three occasions (twice in south-eastern Estonia and once in the south west) the maximum daily temperature reached more than 30°C for at least five consecutive days.
Estonia’s temperatures are expected to continue rising more quickly than the global average, surpassing the country’s 1971-20001 average by as much as 2.6°C in 2041-2070 and by 4.3°C in 2071-2100.1 Average temperatures are projected to rise more in the winter and spring than in the summer and fall.
Higher average temperatures will raise the number of cooling degree days (CDDs) and lead to higher electricity demand for cooling buildings. At the same time, while fewer heating degree days (HDDs) will likely reduce heating demand, the reduction may not be proportionate to winter temperature increases, since warmer winters will likely be associated with higher wind velocity and humidity. Maintaining indoor comfort will therefore require a certain amount of energy, regardless of the decrease in HDDs.
Nevertheless, although the fall in heating demand will not be as significant as the amount of warming, it will still impact the heating system. For instance, climate change may compromise centralised heating systems because lower heat consumption and shortening of the heating period may make the operation of district heating networks economically unfeasible.
Estonia’s average annual precipitation is 5‑15% higher than in 1951 (taking into consideration a correction for wetting), with the October-March period registering a notable increase. All over the country extreme precipitation events have become more common since the mid-20th century, especially in the summer.
Climate projections show a continued increase in precipitation, with some spatial and seasonal differences. While precipitation on land increases in the winter and spring, over the sea it is greater in the summer and autumn. Overall precipitation could be as much as 14% higher in 2041-20701 than it was in 1971-2000, and 19% more plentiful1 in 2071-2100. Extreme precipitation events (more than 30 mm per day) are also likely to increase in frequency, although this could be significant only in the summer.
Models predict that 5% less solar radiation will reach the ground in 2071-2100 than did in1971-2000, with the change especially marked in winter (an 11% reduction).1This projection could indicate a small decrease in the country’s solar energy potential. The higher amount of precipitation could also increase heat losses, as higher groundwater levels and greater soil humidity can cause old, uninsulated pipes to lose heat.
Tropical cyclones and storms
Like in many other countries, Estonia’s electricity grid is regularly affected by storms 2 that can cause multi-day power outages. High-speed winds can cut electricity supplies by toppling trees and branches onto power lines and poles. Rural areas are more often affected because most distribution lines are overhead rather than underground, making them more vulnerable. In July and in September 2020, storms caused trees to fall onto electricity transmission lines, interrupting electricity supplies to 34 000 households in July and over 11 500 in September, with some waiting a whole day to recover power.
Policy readiness for climate resilience
Estonia’s thorough strategy for climate change adaptation comprises concrete measures and implementation plans. Its comprehensive Development Plan for Climate Change Adaptation to 2030, adopted in 2017, identifies the most vulnerable sectors, specifies actions to improve Estonia's readiness and ability to cope with climate change, and estimates the cost of these activities.
Formulation of the Development Plan was based on four in-depth scientific studies3 that helped the Estonian government identify sectoral climate change impacts and vulnerabilities, and determine adaptation measures for both the short term (up to 2030) and the long term (up to 2050 and 2100).
Estonia’s well-structured Development Plan for Climate Change Adaptationfeatures eight priority sectors, including “energy and energy supply”. It indicates that although energy supply security has not decreased with climate change, preventing possible climate risks to power networks and to the expanded use of renewable energy resources (specifically timber, wind and solar) should be considered. The Development Plan was developed based on the projections and assessments of Estonia’s climate to 2100 drawn up by the Environmental Agency.
Estonia’s review and monitoring system for the Development Plan is robust, with the Ministry of the Environment periodically presenting progress reports to the government. The government as a whole is involved in implementing the plan, for better co‑ordination and co‑operation. The Development Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and the Development Plan for the Energy Sector are interconnected.
The relationship between climate change adaptation and energy is also described in Estonia's 2030 National Energy and Climate Plan (2019), but discussion on the energy sector’s climate resilience in this energy plan is mostly topical. Unlike the Development Plan for Climate Change Adaptation, it mentions climate change adaptation generally but does not present thorough or specific actions to achieve resilience and adaptation objectives.