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Garibashvili Wants State to Build Large HPPs

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has said the government/state should build large hydropower plants.

“The state has got resources for this. I have already given a relevant task to the economy minister. [And] the whole economy team is working in this regard,” the Prime Minister said on April 30.

His remarks with reporters came during his regional tour in the chief Western Georgian town of Kutaisi, the location of massive months-long protests over the now-halted nearby construction of Namakhvani HPP.

“I reckon, that large hydropower plants, including Namakhvani, Nenskra, and Khudoni should only be implemented with the involvement of the state so that they belong to our people and the state, and not to private investors.”

Per the Prime Minister, “we are buying more and more electricity every year, importing from Azerbaijan, Russia and this is a problem.”

“I am doing my best to fully support and help investors but imagine the scale of the problem for the energy system of our country if we had no Enguri [HPP under the state ownership].”

Referring to ongoing talks with the departed Namakhvani powerplant investor ENKA, the Prime Minister vowed that the outcome of the negotiations will “soon be publicized.”

“There were certain questions over [Namakhvani HPP],” The Prime Minister added.

Georgia’s energy policy came into sharp focus following the controversial Namakhvani HPP project, which encompasses two separate HPPs on the Rioni River, the longest river flowing solely within the Georgian boundaries: the Lower Namakhvani HPP (333 MW) and the Upper Namakhvani HPP (100 MW).

Locals opposing the planned construction over multiple concerns, including environmental, gave a fierce resistance to the project. Their months-long tent protest gradually grew into a major nationwide movement, which held massive rallies, including in Tbilisi, the capital, in May 2021.

Besides environmental risks, activists and CSOs opposing the project had cited “cabal” and “anti-state” provisions of the contract.

The government, on its part, earlier stressed the need to enhance the energy security and to employ up to 1,600 Georgians with the “foreign direct investment in the amount of USD 800 million.”

The authorities and the investor have been in talks since the parent company of ENKA Renewables LLC, Istanbul-based ENKA Insaat announced on September 20, 2021, that it had notified the Government for terminating the contract due to breaches of terms and force majeure.

Some energy experts are treating Georgia’s energy policy with disbelief. 2020 USAID report said “current and strategic decisions of the energy sector are not made on the basis of relevant and sufficient information analysis and research. There is no proper system and procedures in place for providing expert research and professional support for decision-making.”

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