Estonian eco-innovation performance has increased steadily throughout 2013-2015. The highest development can be seen in the Eco-Innovation Scoreboard indexes for socio-economic outcomes and eco-innovation activities, which continuously perform above the EU average. Despite these positive trends, Estonia still scores below EU average overall, mostly due to resource-intensive industrial structure, lack of seed funding opportunities for early-stage start-ups and low level of media coverage on eco-innovation subjects.

While in general Estonia does not target eco-innovation in policy documents specifically, the smart specialisation strategy, together with the Estonian research, development and innovation (RD&I) Strategy 2014-2020 and Entrepreneurship Growth Strategy 2014-2020, aim to tackle the major barriers of the Estonian innovation system, which also hold back eco-innovation. The biggest potential for eco-innovation initiatives within the smart specialisation framework arises in the areas of ICT, as an enabler of eco-innovative ICT solutions, and the use of smart technologies for more efficient resource management in the building and energy sectors. The field has seen numerous eco-innovation solutions in the past few years, largely due to initiatives that have raised awareness and the financial support available for companies.

Despite the newness of the term circular economy, the most recent policy initiatives in the field, notably the Estonian National Waste Management Plan 2014-2020, have already adopted the underlying principles of circular economy – for example, aiming to reduce the amount of waste produced and recycling it to the maximum level.

2015 Eco-innovation Scoreboard ranking and eco-innovation index composites for Estonia




Reuse of the heat produced by Datacentres

Estonia_GPE_ElionSince 2010 the heat produced by datacentres of the ICT company Elion is gathered and reused for heating the Elion administrative buildings. The investments for the developemnt of 3x60 kW and 4x40 kW heating pumps system has been made. The reused heating covers the most of the year and there is no need to buy the  expensive district heating. In summer, when there is no heating needed for the administrative buildings, the residental houses in neigbourhood are supplied with a hot water. In this way the heat can be reused throughout the year. 

Maintaining the datacentre is very energy intensive - relevant conditions need to be guaranteed for the 24/7 functioning servers. This makes the heat volumes produced by the datacentres stabile - the unused heat can be always used in pretty similar volumes. The most easiest way to reuse this heat is to heat the offices locating at the same building - the heating system locates at the same building, the length of the pipes is short as well as the construction and transport costs and energy losses are minimum. Normally, the heat produced by datacentres is reused for heating the administrative buildings and only in extreme circumstances the district heat is bought as alternative. The reused heat covers the most of the year, only in two-three cold winter months additional district heating is needed. The more effective reuse of the datacentres heat would be to heat the buildings needed heat throughout the year like hothouses or spa and sauna centres.

Barriers and Drivers

Normally the technologically powerful equipment is placed as far as possible from business and living areas because of the noise they produce. This is the reason the possibilities to reuse the heat are not often used, increasing the building and transportation costs and energy losses. Also, the technology investments for the heating pump systems are high, which prolong the payback period. In addition, the warm summer periods, when there is less demand on heat, contribute to the long payback period.
The main driver is the need to find solutions to the increasing energy prices and possibilities for energy saving. In spite of the high price of the technology investments into the pump systems, the idea is sustainable as the cost of energy demand will be saved. Also, having the servers and heating pump systems as well as the administrative building in one building decreases the building and energy demand price and losses at the same time increasing the efficiency.

Economic Performance
The main economic efect is the decreasing of the administrative costs on heat.

Environmental Impact
The district heating produced on the basis of oil or oil shale is used less, supporting the decrease of CO2 emissions.

Further Information

Picture source (logo): Elion

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