How shutdown of Enguri HPP affects Georgia's relations with Azerbaijan and Russia
The largest in the Caucasus Enguri hydropower plant with a capacity of 1,36GW has been stopped for an indefinite period. No official can yet say even approximately when the hydroelectric power plant will be launched again. The Georgian Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze only noted that the shutdown was linked to the scheduled inspection of infrastructure and aggregates before the large-scale renovation, which is scheduled for next year and "will last several weeks."
The duration of the period of the Enguri HPP falling out of from the total power system of Georgia and the entire South Caucasus is of special interest, because it is a plant, which work is of critical importance for Georgia and vital - for Abkhazia. According to the Georgian Energy Ministry's latest data, Moscow, Tbilisi and Sukhumi, after long and difficult negotiations, were able to agree on the supply of electricity from Russia to Georgia and Abkhazia. Moreover, taking into account the specifics of transmission line routes linking North and South Caucasus since the Soviet times, Tbilisi took on the additional (including financial) obligations to supply electricity to Abkhazia. Russia can directly provide electricity only to two northern regions of the former autonomous republic of the Georgian SSR.
But there is another important aspect of the process - in the spring and summer the Enguri HPP plays a key role in the energy balance of the whole of Georgia. Thanks to the work of the hydropower plan, firstly, Georgia returns its debt "in kind" to neighbors, from which in winter it gets the same amount of energy, and secondly, can afford to temporarily stop using electricity from the Gardabani thermal power plants operating in the Azerbaijani gas. The reason is simple: KW/h generated at own power plant is cheaper than electricity produced using natural gas, supplied by a neighboring state.
But how to be if the HPP is stopped, but the demand for energy is not reducing, but on the contrary, growing? Would this fact have an impact on Georgia's relations with the Russia's Gazprom and Azerbaijani SOCAR?
These issues are especially pressing as recently Kakha Kaladze concluded an agreement with the Russian energy giant on a system of financial compensation for the transit of natural gas to Armenia. Some experts regarded the deal as a first step on the way of Gazprom to return to the Georgian market. It would seem that the shortage of electricity in the conditions of the shutdown of the Enguri HPP and the congestion of gas pipelines linking Georgia with Azerbaijan will only increase the trend. However, the energy expert Giorgi Khukhashvili believes that there are no grounds for such a far-reaching conclusions. "SOCAR has been and remains a reliable partner of Georgia," Khukhashvili told Vestnik Kavkaza. "As for the shortage of natural gas and the lack of pipeline capacity, this problem occurs in winter, not in spring or summer. In spring and summer the Azerbaijani colleagues are ready to put Georgia any additional volume of natural gas for power generation in the Gardabani thermal power plant."
The expert noted that although the electricity generated in the thermal power plant is more expensive than those generated in the Enguri HPP, it is an inevitable price to pay for the necessity of the hydroelectric power's repair, which "will not cause problems of such magnitude and importance, that Georgia could refuse a priority cooperation with a reliable and proven Azerbaijani partner.