Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze said on January 30 that the Enguri hydropower plant, Abkhazia’s main energy supplier, will be temporarily stopped for monitoring the derivation tunnel as part of the initial preparatory works for a larger rehabilitation works scheduled for 2018.
Kakha Kaladze also stated that he talked on the issue with representatives of Chernomorenergo, the Abkhaz state-owned energy company, during their meeting on January 26 in Minsk, Belarus.
“On February 15 we are planning to stop the Enguri hydropower plant to monitor the tunnel, since its repair works are scheduled for 2018. We talked on concrete details related to all these issues [with Chernomorenergo]. The meeting was successful. We will stop the Enguri hydropower plant for some time in 2018, so that the tunnel is entirely repaired,” Kaladze said.
“During this period, Abkhazia will not face energy supply problems,” the Energy Ministry told civil.ge without disclosing further details.
Aslan Basaria, head of Chernomorenergo, stated at his press briefing on January 31 that the monitoring process will last “for about three-four weeks.” In the meantime, the Russian energy officials agreed to supply Abkhazia with 200000 kWh electricity, according to Basaria. He, however, added that the volume would not be sufficient for meeting the region’s needs and that Tbilisi would cover for the difference.
“Abkhazia’s consumption today, in this weather, reaches around 390000 kWh. Therefore, we will face power shortage … on which, we have an agreement that the Georgian energy system will insure against the energy shortage that we will have,” he added.
Basaria explained that several meetings were held on the matter, with Georgian Energy Minister in Minsk and with Russian authorities in Moscow.
“Without Russia’s help it is difficult for us to solve these problems. We have been cooperating with Georgia in the field of energy for over 20 years. Since the plant is in our shared use, we are obliged to agree all decisions, including on stopping the plant, supplying Abkhazia with electricity and all other matters that come up in the process” Chernomorenergo head stated.
Basaria also noted that the price for the Russian electricity will be between 390 (USD 6.5 million) and 500 (USD 8.2 million) million Russian rubles.
“The electricity will be supplied to Abkhazia at a wholesale price and without profits. Rates range from about two rubles and 30 kopeks (USD 0.04) to two rubles and 50 kopeks (USD 0.05) [per kWh],” Basaria added.
Aslan Basaria also stated that the water level in the Enguri dam is nearing to its critical point of 420 meters above sea level below which the power generation will stop. According to the Abkhaz official, the water level in the reservoir is at 431 meters and the plant might go off before February 15, the scheduled start of the tunnel monitoring.
“Water shortage is linked to a hike in power consumption in Abkhazia … as well as outdated electric wires,” Basaria explained.
Officials in Tbilisi were predicting complete blackout in Abkhazia from late February in case of failure to reduce the region’s power consumption or to secure additional supplies of electricity from sources other than the Enguri hydropower plant.
Breakaway Abkhazia fully relies on electricity generated by the Enguri hydropower plant, whose 271.5-meter-tall concrete arch dam is located on the Georgian side of the administrative border and its five generators are on the Abkhaz side in Gali district. According to a long-standing, informal agreement between Tbilisi and Sokhumi 40% of the electricity generated by the plant goes to Abkhazia and the rest 60% is received by rest of Georgia.
In 2015 Georgia distributed 1,797 million kWh electricity to Abkhazia, 17.31% of Georgia’s overall consumption, according to Georgia’s Energy and Water Supply Regulatory Commission’s report. In 2014 and 2013 Abkhazia was supplied by 1,638 million kWh electricity (16.11%) and 1,605 million kWh electricity (16.57%) respectively.