Khudoni HPP Deja Vu
26 September, 2013
Khudoni HPP Deja Vu
The construction project of the Khudoni Hydro Power Plant with expected 700 megawatt installed capacity and 1.7 billion kilowatt/hour of input, which is projected to be built in the Caucasian highland region of Georgia – Svaneti, still stumbles over alleged environmental risks and resettlement problems it faced 25 years ago on the dawn of Georgian national movement. The environmental movement led to the conservation of the project then that has been and still is considered as a mistake by energy
sector pundits since the natural gas–deficient Georgia needs to develop its electricity potential to ensure its economic development and energy security.
Urged by these reasons, ex-ruling power put the Khudoni HPP project back on the agenda when it defined the list of most profitable 100 HPP construction sites. However, Georgian environmentalist watchdogs and population of approximately 14 villages in Khudoni construction site in Khaishi [four villages are destined to disappear under the gigantic dam encompassing 530 hectares (ha) and remaining ten are also included in the construction site] undertook a new crusade against the project. They question whether the big HPP construction fits the hazardous landscapes of Georgian highlands and advocate the idea of building small HPPs instead. Population, comprising around 184 families [or 769 people], is reluctant to leave their houses and allow flooding of the graves of their ancestors and St. George Church that is a big transgression for Christians. They suggest constructing much smaller HPPs to avoid flooding of villages and swear not to step back. Protestation tide nearly dissolved the start of public discussion of Khudoni project that was launched in Svaneti and Tbilisi past week. Their demand went as far as the request to the government to declare construction of big HPPs illegal.
According to Nino Asatiani, spokesperson of Trans Electrica Ltd, an English-Indian investor of Khudoni project, the feasibility study, where the experts of the World Banks and USAID were involved, discussed all possible versions and came to the conclusion that smaller project cannot be profitable and 700 megawatt HPP is the optimal choice. Georgian authorities also believe the maximum capacity of Khudoni HPP is substantial to Georgian state interest. According to Ilia Eloshvili, Deputy Energy Minister, the state will get 450 million kilowatt of electricity out of HPP output that makes around 15-20% of Georgia’s electricity import supplied by Russia mainly and will save USD 50 million to the state coffer paid for the imported electricity. More than that, USD 20 million will remain in Svaneti that is a huge sum for the small region.
Revaz Arveladze, President of Energy Academy of Georgia believes that construction of one big HPP like Khudoni is less dangerous and more effective than construction of several smaller HPPs that make up equivalent capacity. The scenario very much resembles the one staged two decades ago, which led to the conservation of the project that was a mistake, Arveladze strongly believes, because it could have been operating now. He advises to start Khudoni construction as soon as possible, for it includes no climate change risks. Once put into exploitation, Khudoni project will add extra 300 million kilowatt electricity to Enguri HPP, the biggest Georgian HPP located near Khudoni construction site. He said that suspension of Khudoni project had only political lining against the backdrop of the national movement upsurge and its suspension rather harmed than availed to Georgia’s interest that deadly needs more electricity output to develop its sluggish economy.
“The 1.5 billion kilowatt/hour generated by Khudoni is approximately 4.5-5 billion of GDP that equals USD 15 billion today,” Arveladze said.
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