Georgian Renewable Energy Development Association (GREDA), Chairperson of the Steering Committee, Giorgi Abramishvili
GREDA actively works in Georgia to raise awareness of using renewable energy resources. How would you explain renewable and clean energy, and how can we achieve SDG 7 in Georgia?
SDG 7 is where Georgia can make a significant contribution. Renewable and green energy is the energy that causes minimal harm to the environment; clean energy is generated from sources that cause minimal environmental damage. Primarily, renewable energy means it is inexhaustible, and, fortunately, our country has quite a lot of renewable energy potential. Primarily, these are the hydro resources, wind, or sun. Also, the advantage of renewable energy is that it is quite affordable because it is a resource that nature gives us for free. As a result of its correct and sustainable use, it will be possible to provide it to the population continuously.
What is the area of the utmost potential in Georgia? Installation of solar panels and using solar energy is now an issue gaining more importance. Also, we know that there are windmills near Gori that generate energy.
Hydro resources have the biggest potential. Our study on energy potential has recently been updated by the Norwegian Directorate of Energy and Climate, according to which we have about 30 terawatts of potential through small and medium-sized hydropower plants. About 10 terawatts are generated by large hydropower plants, and an additional 10 terawatts are produced by solar and wind power. On the other hand, our country is distinct with its potential and the fact that approximately 75% of our energy generation derives from renewable energy. However, we have utilized only 20% of this potential. Therefore, it is important that our country contributes in every possible way to the utilization of this potential to meet our own consumption needs on the one hand and, on the other hand, it may become one of the most important export products in the following decades.
Our connection with Europe is an important factor for export. There has always been a strong demand for renewable energy sources in Europe, especially nowadays, due to the geopolitical situation. The Association Agreement with the EU includes provisions on this issue. However, one of the problems for us is the need for a physical connection with Europe. According to the Association Agreement, to become a part of their regulatory space, our laws must be aligned with their regulations and market rules; the lack of physical connection with Europe remains a problem. The submarine cable project is of particular importance in this regard. The technical and economic study has recently started, based on which Georgia will be connected with Romania, which allows our connection with the European Union energy network.
The mentioned steps will contribute to energy security. You talked about the potential of Georgia – what are the obstacles for us to fully use this potential?
One of the most critical problems is that during the last three years, there needed to be a proven State support tool for investors, as our sector is financially quite demanding with long-term returns on investment.
Long-term planning is important. Some time ago, the government introduced a new promotion tool known as CFD (Contract for Difference). The first auction has already taken place, with 900 megawatt capacity project applications submitted for the announced 300 megawatts. This indicates strong interest and readiness from the private sector to embrace this new instrument.
Also, one of the main challenges is the need for more public awareness. Therefore, much consistent work must be done to make the public more aware of the importance of harnessing renewable energy resources and its benefits.
In addition, the use of renewable energy contributes to climate sustainability. Georgia is a signatory country of the Paris Agreement and has undertaken the responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will be promoted by increased renewable energy consumption. What role does the business sector play in this process?
The business sector is trying to utilize renewable energy resources as much as possible, be it solar panels or other energy resources. It should be emphasized that, in total, all new renewable energy facilities contribute significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
In one of our recent projects, the Bakhvi Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP), we observed a significant ecological benefit. Through a cost-benefit analysis, we found that the Bakhvi HPPs (1,2) prevent the emission of 73,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually. This is equivalent to the emissions produced by the consumption of 32,000 tons of gasoline.
To put this in perspective, the cost was approximately $4 million, while the benefits to both the country and the planet from this small hydroelectric plant amount to $80 million.
What is the importance of cooperation between different sectors for achieving SDG 7, and what does the Georgian Renewable Energy Development Association do to promote the implementation of the goal?
This collaboration is very important. All stakeholders should be actively engaged in achieving SDG 7 and using our resources sustainably. While utilizing resources, it is important to do what is necessary and maintain a balance. This is where constructive non-governmental organizations are important, which will not allow businesses to focus only on the economic benefit of renewable energy utilization.
On the other hand, support from the government and the State is important.
The approval of a new promotion tool is a serious step forward. We hope the work in this direction will continue and serious investments will be attracted in the next few years. Also, I want to highlight the support from the media – the media needs to provide accurate information to the public. As for the contribution of our association, we work in many directions. One of the directions of our work is awareness-raising. We use various communication platforms to provide the broader public with information about the benefits of renewable energy. Also, we work in the direction of education. We have already delivered courses in schools on the issue of renewable energies, the environment, and sustainable development. We developed the first course in Chiatura Vocational Education School, which trains solar plant electricians.
As you know, there is a severe shortage of human resources, so we have to import everything except for the materials. Also, one of the important projects is a new legislative initiative that deals with the distribution of benefits. This means that the taxes companies pay during the implementation of projects will remain at the local level and can be used for local structural projects.
What would be your recommendation to different members of society in achieving affordable and clean energy goals in Georgia?
First of all, all of us should understand that renewable energy for Georgia is the most serious potential and the biggest resource our country has. Therefore, using this resource correctly, wisely, and fully is important.
On the other hand, I’d like to reiterate that, due to our geopolitical situation, it is important to consider the concerns of reliance on Russia. By analyzing the current geopolitical situation, we can conclude that the dependence on Russia has demonstrated the severe consequences we can face, as Russia can use it as political leverage. Therefore, on the one hand, it is important to become independent. On the other hand, it is crucial to serve as a transit country, which has been the topic of intensive discussions with a wide range of stakeholders. We have been discussing for many years that this potential can be used to ensure that Europe has alternative energy transport facilities. Therefore, different sectors must be actively involved to take advantage of this resource. In addition, the involvement of the State itself is crucial so that our country fully and properly utilizes these resources.