Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said at a session of the Energy Council on January 19 that energy independence is one of the most important moments of Georgia’s independence that should be achieved through the provision of the sustainability of the system and through diversifying energy sources.
“We managed to supply all of Georgia with electricity... it occurred under conditions of great pressure on our country. Russia has practically declared its plans to implement its political goals in Ukraine and Georgia through introducing energy levers,” President Saakashvili said.
At the start of 2006, the Russian energy company Gazprom increased the gas price for Georgia from USD 63 per 1000 cubic meter to USD 110.
“Unfortunately, this is a reality - the gas price has increased two-fold. Despite the great attempts by our neighbor [referring to Russia] to trigger social discontent in the country, our society should know that we have the financial resources to overcome this winter and avoid an increase of tariffs for the population,” the President said.
The Georgian President said that although Russian gas is rather problematic and is subject to political fluctuations, which acquire “a more systematic character,” Georgia should establish more civilized relations with Russia, since “using the language of blackmail is impossible.”
Simultaneously, the President stressed the necessity of holding consultations with other neighbors in order to seek alternative energy sources. Saakashvili said that Georgia is technically ready to receive alternative gas from Azerbaijan.
The Georgian President noted that gas can be transited from Central Asia to Europe via Georgia. “Now, it makes sense, since everybody saw whom they have to deal [referring to Gazprom],” Saakashvili said.
The President noted that together with his Ukrainian counterpart Victor Yushchenko he is preparing a project “which will enable Europe to have an alternative corridor” though which it will receive gas from Central Asia via the Caucasus, Black Sea and Turkey.
President Saakashvili also slammed ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze for signing the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzrum gas pipeline contract, through which Georgia receives a minimal amount of gas. The President did not rule out a possible revision of this contract.
“We should work with Azerbaijan and Turkey in order to revise the contract. Georgia should receive more gas from the gas pipeline, which passes through its territory,” he said.
The BP-led Baku-Tbilisi-Erzrum (BTE) pipeline, which is currently under construction and which will bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey via Georgia, will be put into operation in 2006. According to the BTE deal, Georgia will receive 5% of the natural gas transported from Azerbaijan to Turkey as a transit fee and, in addition, Georgia will also be able to purchase 500 million cubic meters of gas at a reduced price – USD 55 per 1000 cubic meters for 20 years.