Big Hydro Power Plants under question mark
14 November, 2013
Big Hydro Power Plants under question mark
The public sector campaign against the plans to build Khudoni Hydro Power Plant in the Caucasian highland region of Svaneti has grown into a wider protest against the idea of big HPP development. The plant’s expected capacity is 700 megawatts upon installation, with 1.7 billion kilowatt/hours of input projected.
A protest rally took place in front of Parliament on 9 November, and the protest movement pledges to hold similar rallies on every 9th day of each month until government cancels
its plan to construct fourteen big HPPs.
The anti-big-HPP activists remind Georgian Dream, the ruling political coalition, of its pre-election promise to reject the policy of its predecessor regarding big HPP deployment in the country. They claim that Georgia, as a land-deficient country with high seismic risks, is no place for big hydro power plants which may flood villages and forests, and require that local residents be resettled.
According to Ilia Eloshvili, Deputy Energy Minister, the state will get 450 million kilowatts of electricity from Khudoni HPP output, about 15-20% of the electricity now supplied by Russia. That will save the state USD 50 million.
Besides that, USD 20 million will remain in Svaneti, which is a huge amount for the small region. However, opponents argue that according to the contract with the investor company Trans Electrica, 91% of Khudoni output will be exported, and Georgia should not take risks related with big power plants for such insignificant profits. Kakhi Kaladze, Energy Minister of Georgia, said the contract was revised, and 20% of the generated electricity will remain in Georgia.
Revaz Arveladze, President of Energy Academy of Georgia, believes that small HPPs as well as wind and solar-based energy cannot replace the big hydro plants; therefore big HPPs are of strategic importance to Georgia, a gas-and-oil deficient country, and to insure its energy security the country has to rely on its ample hydro resources. Only 10% of Georgia’s hydro resources are used today. “The concerns of environmentalists related with Khudoni or other big HPPs are groundless. We should develop both small and big HPPs alike according to the landscape’s opportunities. If we construct 100 small HPPs each with 7 megawatt capacity to fill the Khudoni with 700 megawatt installed capacity, I assure you it will lead to flooding larger areas and greater environmental problems than any with Khudoni,” Arveladze said in an interview with Georgian Journal.
According to him, wind and solar energy should be also developed and take their share of the total Georgian energy balance, but they are still very expensive and less profitable compared to hydro plants. For example, a solar plant with as much electricity generation capacity as Khudoni would be twice less effective than Khudoni.
However, Arveladze disagrees with the state policy to take only 20% of the new HPPs output, as built into revised contracts with investors. He believes hydro power is of strategic importance and HPP investment projects must be more focused on the state interest.
“In developed countries HPPs pay investors for 10-15 years of exploitation; this is enough for investors to get back their investments and enjoy profit, and then the HPP is taken into state ownership. Why can’t Georgia duplicate this policy? Very likely Europe will face an electricity deficit in 10-15 years [Germany is replacing nuclear power with alternative sources within 20 years, and other countries are expected to follow this pattern that may result in a deficit in supply] and the excessive energy we buy today from neighbors will go there. What are we supposed to do then without our own hydro generation?” Arveladze asks.

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