Khudoni - vital?
06 February, 2014
Khudoni - vital?
Construction of the 700 megawatt capacity Hydro Power Plant Khudoni in the Georgian highland region Svaneti is scheduled to start this coming March but discussions of how relevant the project is still go ahead. The possible impact on the environment impedes the project.
Government calls the project of vital importance to Georgia, and says that it should back up the energy independence of the country. Khudoni’s projected output figures 1.7 billion kilowatt/hour of electricity - that will enable the state
to replace the 15-20% of the electricity import (supplied by Russia mainly) by locally produced energy.
Thanks to a favorable location of Khudoni to neighboring Enguri HPP (the backbone of Georgian hydro generation), the latter may generate an extra 470 million kwt/h electricity - automatically that is equivalent to construction of a new HPP free of charge. USD 1 billion will be invested in the project, 4 thousand people will be employed for six years of its construction period, and USD 20 million will remain each year in Svaneti - a huge opportunity for the small poor region.
But environmentalists still argue that Georgia, as a land-deficient country with high seismic risks, is no place for big hydro powers. They believe Khudoni is not worth it if it will flood several villages of 528 hectares territory, devastate forests, and resettle around 200 families.
Also, the problem is that the projected under-water-area includes a church and cemetery. Investor company Trans Electrica insists that there is technology to move the church and graves to safer place.
However the local population believes Khudoni will devastate Svaneti, and remains rigid in its intention to fight the project until the last breath. A week ago they blocked the investor company from implementing measurement work.
Kakhi Kaladze, Energy Minister of Georgia, acknowledged in his interview to Imedi TV last week that not the environment but the social side is most vulnerable in the Khudoni project. He promised that government will be a guarantor that the interests of each Svaneti inhabitant will be secured.
Opponents suggest development of alternative renewable energy sources, as well as small HPPs and energy-efficient technology.
The overwhelming part of energy and economic analysts believe the proposal is no alternative to big HPPs for Georgia: development of small HPPs and alternative renewable sources or energy-efficient equipment is a luxury in Georgia with its underdeveloped economy.
Energy pundits think Khudoni construction is a must. They agree with government that Khudoni is of strategic importance to the energy security of Georgia that by 100% depends on imported gas and oil, and by 75% on electricity import. On the other hand, the share of gas in electricity generation makes a significant 25% - that means Georgia is vulnerable to security risks and needs guaranteed sources.
Liana Jervalidze, an energy sector analyst, explained to Georgian Journal: “Development of alternative energy sources and energy-efficient equipment is not affordable even for the Eastern European countries. EU countries like Germany managed to develop these tools thanks to an economic boom, and developed industry that enabled Germany to subsidize these energy sources at the expense of industry. But now against the backdrop of an economic crisis this kind of expensive energy is burdensome even to highly developed German industry; it protests subsidizing alternative energy sources any more, since the EU economy became less competitive with the US economy due to high energy prices.”
According to her, the alternative sources cannot insure permanent generation, and need back-up through hydro or thermal plants-based electricity. Therefore Khudoni should be built, but with a maximum focus on environment issues. And the state should explain to the Svaneti population that this is a state interest.
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