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Georgian minister seeks Korean investment in hydro-electric power

Georgian Energy Minister Alexander Khetaguri (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Georgian Energy Minister Alexander Khetaguri (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Georgia is seeking Korean investment to reach its untapped hydropower potential but could go nuclear within 30 years, according to the country’s energy minister.

Alexander Khetaguri, Georgian minister of energy and natural resources, visited Korean energy companies last week to drum up interest in two major hydropower projects in his country.

He said the mountainous country has 20,000 megawatts of unrealized hydropower capacity ― and was a net exporter of electricity. The former Soviet state imports all its natural gas and oil supplies and has overcome past chronic energy shortages and gas supply interruptions with hydropower stations.

“We have quite a developed energy sector ― 82 percent of our generation is based on hydro and 18 percent is thermal, based on gas,” Khetaguri said.

The country exports energy to Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey.

He identified Turkey as a growth energy export market, and predicting increased domestic demand, with Georgia’s GDP growing at just under 6.5 percent last year. He said that the three developing areas of the country’s economy were tourism, energy and logistics.

Khetaguri said that Korea Electric Power Corporation and SK had already completed a feasibility study for the Namakhvan cascade project on the Roni River, which has a potential of 450 MW. A shortlist of interested bidders in the $800 million project will be released on May 1.

And another $500 million project with 240 MW-potential has gained interest from Hyundai Engineering and Korea Hydro & Nuclear company, with final bids to be submitted by the end of March.

He said interest had already come from Italy, China, Norway, Turkey and Russia.

“Now we are in the bidding process but we think that in the nearest future we will see Korean companies as investors,” he said.

“Because we have low taxes, they can easily do business there make profits and establish a kind of hub and eastern European states from Georgia.”

The minister dismissed concerns about building plants in Georgia’s seismically active territory.

“All of the territory of Georgia is located in the seismically affected zone but we have plenty of existing hydro power plants ― more than 47 including the well-known Inguri Dam which is the highest dam in Europe. There is no problem with this,” he said. “Of course, we have higher standards for construction.”

However, the energy minister said that he saw a nuclear future to meet his country’s power needs.

”Of course everybody should try to develop green energy first, hydro and wind, but from my point of view the future is with nuclear,” he said. “These talks that the nuclear power plants should be shut down I think are not correct. We should further promote nuclear technologies and the safe technologies from which nuclear should be developed. I think the future is the development of nuclear power. Of course, in Georgia’s case it can be after 20 or 30 years as soon as we utilize all our hydro potential.”

By Kirsty Taylor (kirstyt@heraldcorp.com)
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