Is it Worth Keeping Abkhazia Switched On? The Enguri Dilemma


In just a few weeks, the leading energy colossus of the country, Enguri Dam, will grind to a halt. To be more precise, it will be switched off for the huge rehabilitation works underway. Preliminary information suggests that it will take 3.5 months as the 1.5 km tunnel connecting the turbines (which are on occupied territory) with the dam will undergo “capital repair”. The project’s estimated budget is 27 million GEL and EUR 35 million, money allocated to Official Tbilisi by donor countries.

The de-facto leaders of the occupied territory were informed about the planned rehabilitation in 2018. For 3.5 months, they will be unable to receive free electricity and will have to look for alternative sources. A month ago, in mid-January, the separatists came forward with an initiative to hold a closed meeting with officials from Tbilisi whereby they asked for guarantees, demanding that electricity be supplied. The discussions revolved around importing the energy from Russia and Tbilisi footing the bill. It is unknown if we will need to import that electricity from Russia, but the separatists did get a guarantee that Anklav wouldn’t be left in the dark. We are also unaware of the costs that Georgia will need to cover in order to supply the occupied territory with energy for 3.5 months, but considering the appetite of the separatists, we can image it would equal a few million.

Today, residents of the occupied territories are paying 1 Tetri (40 Russian Kopecks) per 1 kWh, while legal entities pay 3.5 Tetri (85 Kopecks). In the rest of Georgia, the cost of 1 kWh is between 14.5 and 23 Tetri. And since nobody in occupied Abkhazia has paid for electricity for the last 25 years, it shouldn’t be difficult to calculate the colossal expenses that the Georgian annual budget suffers in keeping the occupied territories supplied.

Another problem for Georgia is that the use of electricity on those territories is increasing. Today, about 180 thousand people reside in occupied Abkhazia, and the usage of energy per capita equals to that of Belgium and Japan. Recent statistics suggest that the annual usage has reached 2 billion kWh. Strange, isn’t it? How can Japan, being among the top three leading economies in the world, and occupied Abkhazia, with literally no economy at all, use the same amount of energy? It seems that the laws of mathematics don’t work in Anklav and we are dealing with a phenomenon.

The electricity generated from Enguri Dam is lost without trace in Abkhazia, and if we take advantage of our knowledge of the laws of constancy and conservation of energy, we will understand that the only place the energy could be stored is Russia. That same Russia from which we are planning to purchase the energy in spring, which means that we will be paying 10 times more for energy that was produced by Enguri Dam to keep the occupied territory lit.

The fact that providing the occupied territories with free energy can’t last much longer is already being openly discussed in Tbilisi, but Abkhazia doesn’t have enough resources to pay for it and Abkhazian media says that the breakaway regimen isn’t planning to allocate the relevant expenses in their annual “budget.”

“As it turns out, Georgia is negotiating with Russia whether or not the latter will supply us with the needed amount of electricity. And who knows at what expense. In light of this, our government does nothing other than talk about its partnership with Russia. What do we need the government for?” – wrote one Abkhazian on social media. Others wrote that Russian military bases are being supplied with energy from Abkhazia, and the voltage is so low that the electric appliances hardly work.

For Official Tbilisi, Enguri Dam is a real dilemma. If we recall the events of last year, when the pipeline of one of the turbines broke and the entire occupied territory was saved from a catastrophe only miraculously, it is undeniable that in order to avoid it in future, this rehabilitation is much needed. However, wasting the budget of Georgia is no less of a catastrophe for us. If we continue supplying electricity for free, the Enguri Dam will stop bringing any economic benefits for Georgia, and there will come a day when we will need to examine if it is worth us investing millions of Lari to keep Enguri working. In this current situation, the life-cycle of the dam is getting shorter and shorter. In the end, the costs of its rehabilitation will exceed all limits and neither Georgia nor the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will consider it worth the investment.

By Zaza Jgarkava

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14 February 2019 19:44