Russia began supplying electricity to occupied Abkhazia on December 11, as the region is experiencing two-hour power cuts three times per day since November 15, introduced to avoid a total shutdown of the Enguri Hydropower Plant (HPP), the region’s main electricity supplier.
Russian electricity import in Abkhazia starts shortly before the repairs of the diversion tunnel at Enguri HPP, scheduled to begin in February 2021, that will further limit supply to the region.
Power shortages have lately been prevalent in the Kremlin-backed region, where the problem, besides current level drops in the Enguri dam, has been connected to a hike in power consumption, caused by massive illegal connections to power grids, including by cryptocurrency miners.
Aiming to reduce increased pressure on the power system, the region’s ‘government’ reintroduced on December 8 a ban on electricity consumption by crypto-miners until June 1, 2021. The move marks a u-turn from the September decision to allow crypto-mining, albeit with tightened restrictions, as an earlier blanket ban adopted in 2018 by the previous administration proved to be ineffective.
Abkhaz leader Aslan Bzhania said earlier this month 3 that “complete restoration” of the region’s power system may cost about 10 billion Russian rubles (USD 137 million).
Abkhazia for years have been fully relying on electricity generated by the Enguri HPP, the 271.5-meter-tall concrete arch dam of which is located on the Georgian-controlled territory, and its five generators are on the Abkhaz side in Gali district. This arrangement resulted in smooth cooperation between Moscow-backed Abkhaz authorities and central Georgian Government.
According to a long-standing, informal agreement between Tbilisi and Sokhumi, 40% of the electricity generated by the plant has to go to Abkhazia, a region of less than a quarter-million people, and the remaining 60% to the rest of Georgia with 3.7 million inhabitants. As of 2019, due to Abkhazia’s increased power consumption around 48% of electricity goes there, while 52% – to Georgia proper.