Ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said Georgia should diversify its gas supplies, including through purchasing additional gas from Russia’s state monopoly Gazprom, as well as through import and transit of Iranian gas.
Georgia’s Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze met twice chief executive of Gazprom, Alexei Miller, over the past month – on September 25 in Brussels and then on October 26 in Milan, to discuss extension of contract on transit of Russian gas to Armenia via Georgia and possible supply of gas to Georgia on top of what the country gets from Russia as a transit fee for transporting Gazprom gas to Armenia.
“I do not see anything bad in the fact that the [Georgian] market may possibly be diversified and businesses may be given possibility to buy gas wherever they want,” Ivanishvili told journalists after attending an event in frames of a project for students on self-governance issues, which he is funding.
“The entire Europe is being supplied with the Russian gas today and there is no crime if Georgia buys the Russian gas,” he added
Asked about energy security and reliability of Russian gas supplies taken into account Georgia’s negative experience from a decade ago, Ivanishvili responded: “We should have a possibility to choose. We try, and I am active in this too, to also bring Iranian gas into the Georgian territory for transit and for our own consumption as well.”
He said that Georgia is grateful to Azerbaijan and its state energy company, SOCAR, which is the largest supplier of gas to Georgia, but “there will be nothing but good” if there is more than just one company on the market. He also said that businesses should be able to choose from multiple sources of supply.
On October 20, Energy Minister Kaladze said that Georgia will have to buy gas from Gazprom on top of what the country is already receiving from Russia as a transit fee, claiming that “there is no possibility” to import additional volumes from Azerbaijan, which is Georgia’s main gas supplier.
He said that additional gas will be required to fill the gap amid the increasing gas consumption in Georgia, which he said is expected to reach 2.5 billion cubic meters in 2015, a 27 percent increase since 2012.
Kaladze also said that Georgia was receiving additional volumes of Russian gas on top of the transit fee in previous years as well.
According to the Georgian Energy Ministry, the country has received about 87.1 percent of its total consumption of 2.17 billion cubic meters of gas in 2014 from Azerbaijan.
About 686 million cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas came as part of the deal in the frames of the BP-operated South Caucasus Pipeline, which transports gas from Shah Deniz offshore field in the Caspian Sea to Turkey via Georgia. 1.21 billion cubic meters were imported as part of a separate contract with Azerbaijan.
Georgia received 267.7 million cubic meters of gas from Russia in 2014, of which 206.1 million was taken as a transit fee for transporting Russian gas to Armenia, according to the Georgian Energy Ministry. In addition, Georgia imported 61.6 million cubic meters of Russian gas in 2014.
Asked about Tbilisi’s talks with Gazprom and whether they would pose a threat to Georgia’s energy security, U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly told journalists on October 22: “This is a sovereign decision for the people of Georgia and the government of Georgia to make in terms of their energy supplies.”
“I think as a general principle it is very important for any country’s energy security not to rely on a single provider, or only a handful of providers. The important thing is a diversification of suppliers. So, that would be my only comment on this,” the U.S. ambassador said.