Georgia, Turkey reach agreement on controversial electricity deals
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, January 23
Turkish and Georgian energy sector representatives, along with Prime Minister Nika Gilauri, succeed in making two groundbreaking agreements during their meeting at the Hotel Radisson Blue Iveria on January 20.
The most notable outcome was signing of a document between the Ministries of Energy and Natural Resources of Georgia and Turkey, outlining the responsibilities for joint construction of the 400km Borchkha-Akhaltsikhe electricity line. Various international financial institutions, along with the government of Georgia, will implement the new project, in which 300 million Euros will be invested. The new transmission line is expected to come online this year.
The second agreement related to the hotly-debated issue of building hydro eclectic dams in border areas. According to the Prime Minister, "During the last two years, nearly 40 memorandums were signed regarding constructing of new hydro electric powers. A great number of Turkish investors build [hydro electric plants] in Georgia. Part of the received energy will be used in Georgia, [while] a definite part is to be exported." The Prime Minister claims that more than one billion GEL in investment comes from Turkey, which supports thousands of jobs.
The conference also revealed that there is no controversy among government officials regarding the usage of Mtkvari river hydro resources. The proposed Turkish Beshik Haia dam project has faced opposition in Georgia due to changes in the route of the Mtkvari towards the Caspian Sea. The Georgian Green Party released a statement opposing the dam, asserting that changes to the Mtkvari river-bed would be the equivalent of a natural disaster. Responses from other opposition parties were also negative. Manana Nachkebia, from New Rights, told The Messenger that the building of hydro electric dams is not necessarily a negative issue, as cheap electric power is good for Georgians; however it is unacceptable that the construction of a hydro electric dam would come at the expense of the environment. The Georgian request that any implementation of the project protects and maintains the Mtkvai river-bed is being met, according to Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Taner Yildiz. Yildiz assured the audience that, "Negotiations regarding [the] building of hydro electric power on River Mtkvari is going on between Georgian and Turkish sides. We have already met those ministries' representatives who would be directly involved in the project implementation. Our common goal is taking care of ecology and we will not damage it." The proposed dam will be constructed on Georgian territory near the border, but utilized by both states. President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili called this a “victory of both states diplomacy," and stating that once the plant is constructed, it will "increase [the] economic and export potentials of both states." However, Nachkebia argues that there has been no public forum on the issue, and that for such a major project discussion is necessary.
According to energy analyst Davit Ebralidze, naming conditions with which Georgian hydro resources are delivered, "Means winnowing our hydro resources. Hydro energy is such kind of energy as natural gas or oil. Those states which own such energies, like Azerbaijan or Russia, will not deliver natural resources to the investor with conditions." The chair of Georgian International Energy Corporation, Natia Turnava, considers the ongoing flow of investments into Georgia and the subsequent creation of jobs as the more important issue. "Georgia might not be very attractive for foreign investors, especially when we talk about such long term projects as hydro electric powers... we should suggest [to] them a more liberal regime.”