Sara Holmgren, Maris Pever, Klara Fischer | Energy Policy
This study examines how the European Union (EU) energy policy goals are translated in Estonia, a country heavily reliant on fossil fuel oil shale and having one of the most energy-intensive economies in the EU. Drawing on Hajer’s approach to discourse and different qualitative methods, we analyse the production of different low-carbon storylines. Our findings show that state and industrial actors accommodate environmentally damaging oil shale production in low-carbon energy transformation, despite good conditions for expanding renewable energy. Additionally, they limit their ambition to transform mere technological modifications to the minimum requirements of the EU GHG emission reduction target. The socio-economic conditions of workers and people living near oil shale mining areas, primarily Estonian Russians, are a critical factor in upholding oil shale as a necessity. Despite being at the centre of dominant storylines, these people are portrayed as a category that needs to be kept at ease, rather than actively engaged in constructing acceptable sustainable routes to low-carbon futures. We conclude that in order to accelerate the decarbonisation in Estonia and beyond, and unleashing the transformative potential of EU energy policy, it is vital to make marginalised voices heard and engaged in energy policy decision-making.