President Saakashvili seeks to diversify energy sources


The Georgian authorities acknowledged, for the first time, that the capacity of the system and the existing resources were not sufficient to supply every household. We then set ourselves a mission [former President Eduard] Shevardnadze's government had declared impossible, ensuring electricity supplies throughout Georgia.

Our critics had predicted that we would fail. They have big mouths but little brains. I am proud to say to them that we have managed to ensure electricity supplies to the whole of Georgia. This was possible thanks to the truly heroic work of Georgian energy sector workers and the entire government. This is a historic achievement in this sector. No-one thought it was possible.

This is happening in the situation when we are under great pressure. Russia has practically announced that it is going to use energy levers in order to achieve its political goals in both Ukraine and Georgia. Unfortunately, this is the reality. Gas prices have doubled. We are doing everything to ensure that tariffs for our population are not increased during the winter, the most difficult period. However, our public should know that the money spent on this could be spent on roads, development, social payments and so on.

Georgia does not have its own oil and has very little gas reserves. Everything we spend is the money belonging to the Georgian state, the Georgians. However, we are achieving the main goal: despite our neighbour's great efforts to cause a sharp increase in the tariffs this winter - aimed at causing social disturbances and provoking people to overthrow the government - our society should know that we will remain consolidated and calm. We have financial resources to withstand this winter and to start a gradual transformation. Our main task during the coming months is to ensure stability of the [power generation] system and to diversify energy sources.

Our main task during the next few years is to find other sources of energy. First of all, we should find other sources of gas. It is absolutely clear that Russian gas is problematic in general and it depends on political fluctuations. These political fluctuations are becoming more and more systematic. Therefore, we should engage in active negotiations with our other neighbours. We have been engaged in consultations with them over the past year, but now we should move to a concrete stage.

Our advantage is that Georgia can connect Europe with Central Asia via alternative gas pipelines. Now it has become sensible as the whole world has seen whom they are dealing with. We also need to develop our own gas resources. I think that, if we work hard and if we also have a bit of luck, Georgia should be able to satisfy about 25 per cent of its demand by its own gas. In any case, we should invest in these efforts. In addition, we have some alternatives and we should start working on them in a very intensive manner.

We can already switch to another gas source, although it is slightly more expensive than Russian gas. How fortunate that we have managed to repair the pipeline coming from Azerbaijan. Without that pipeline, Russia would be happy to offer a price of 300 dollars. But they know that Georgia has an alternative today.

One year ago we said that we would install gas turbines. This, by the way, is a good example of cooperation with the Russians, an example of cooperation driven by the market and money. However, hydroelectric power plants should be our main source of energy.

Let's announce international tenders for the construction of hydroelectric power plants, taking into account our tariffs and our export market. We should not give it to anyone else and we should export electricity for ourselves. We can easily provide very cheap electricity to the whole of Georgia. Several people in Kazakhstan have told me that they are ready to start construction. By 15 July 2006 we will be able to find the investor who will build the plant, that is to say around the next presidential round our hydroelectric power plants will be producing enough electricity to meet Georgia's needs.

Our task today is to satisfy the demand of our market by building small and medium-size hydroelectric power plants. This, by the way, will serve the diversification of sources. Second, we should build Khudoni to export electricity. Those who build it will be exporting to the markets that are important for Georgia.

Breakdowns remain to be Georgia's main problem as far as the system's stability is concerned. We should warn people of possible shortages in advance and we should ensure that electricity cuts are brief and that every district is affected in equal measure.

By the end of the year every family will have individual meters. We have to find a big investor to invest in this system. For the first time after 15 years all the regions of Georgia have 24 hours electricity supply.

Certain changes will take place. It will take two or three years to make the system stable. We will also ensure that in two or three years we are not depended on Russia.

Georgia is able to receive electricity from Turkey and Azerbaijan also. If Russia stops supplying us with electricity we will be able to receive it from Azerbaijan.

We should realize that Georgia's energy independence is one of the main elements of Georgia's independence. We are now conducting consultations with Central Asian countries and Ukraine. We are planning to hold a meeting of energy ministers from Europe and this region, together with energy companies, in Tbilisi in March. This will underline the importance of Georgia as a transit country.

Unfortunately, Shevardnadze and that bandit [Aleko] Gotsiridze, former head of the [Georgian International] Gas Corporation, who is now a fugitive, signed a contract which only allows us to receive a very small amount of gas from the Sah Deniz [gas pipeline]. Azeri gas will be transported through Georgia, but Georgia will get almost nothing from it.Only Georgia's enemies could sign such a contract. This was done by people who were enriching themselves when people were freezing. We should work with both Azerbaijan and Turkey to revise this contract. If gas is transported through Georgia, Georgia should be able to buy it at a commercial price, we don't want anything for free. However, we should not be dependent on blackmailers. We should be receiving something from this Sah Deniz pipeline.

As for Europe, we should organize a conference. Other Central Asian resources should be transported through Georgia. Together with the Ukrainian president, we are preparing a joint strategy in this respect. We held intensive consultations in Astana with other leaders as well. Our government delegations are now visiting all these countries. Europe should get an alternative energy corridor linking it to Central Asia, through the Caucasus, via the Black Sea as well as via Turkey. This is very important.

This translation is published with permission from BBC Monitoring, Reading UK

Communications Office
of the President of Georgia