Issues

Energy

Nuclear, thermal, and large hydropower are the main energy sources in Armenia. Each of these types of energy come with their own controversies. But clean, renewable energy is rapidly becoming an established industry around much of the globe.  Armenia need not be an exception to this trend as it is blessed with abundant sunshine and water resources.  Producing clean energy would provide jobs, energy security and protect Armenia’s fragile ecological treasures.   Review the links below for information regarding Armenia’s potential and need for clean energy industries.

 
 

Below is an introductory excerpt from a 2006 paper by AEN founder Ursula Kazarian,

“ENERGY SECURITY AS A MEANS TO POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE FOR THE REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA,” which discusses energy security in the Caucasus and the increasingly important role of renewable energy technology in the region.

 Hydropower plant in Yeghednadzor

Hydropower plant in Yeghednadzor

The small, landlocked country of Armenia, like the majority of the countries of the world, faces serious energy concerns in the 21st century.  Its heavy energy dependence on an aging and unstable energy source from a Soviet-era nuclear power plant, and its future energy paradigm based on promises of natural gas supplies from neighboring countries, will not support Armenia’s development through the end of the century.  Global energy supply and demand projections indicate that developing and developed countries alike must seek alternative sources of energy to the traditional options of oil, coal and natural gas, and to some extent, nuclear power.  It is thus imperative that Armenia adjust its energy outlook to incorporate renewable energy technologies as its priority in energy development projects.  This paper discusses the geopolitical issues affecting Armenia’s current energy plans and offers an alternative set of options with an increased role for renewable energy technologies as a reliable path towards energy security and political stability.

Armenia is bordered by Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, Iran to the south and Turkey to the west.  Nestled high amidst the Caucasus Mountains, Armenia has few natural resources and relies mostly on Russia for its growing dependence on natural gas.  Small amounts of refined oil are also imported from Georgia.  Combined with nuclear power generated by its Soviet-era plant, Metzamor Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), Armenia produces enough power to be sold in excess to Georgia.  Despite an energy crisis during the early years of the ongoing war with Azerbaijan over the ethnic Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabagh (NK), most Armenians believe that Armenia is buffered against regional fluctuations in energy transport and consumption.[1]  However, the current Armenian energy paradigm is only provisionally practical at best, with Armenia’s supply of fossil fuels relying heavily on its relations with its neighbors.  The sense of energy security in Armenia is thus misled, and with NPP’s impending closure, the country’s dependency on fossil-fuel imports from regional actors will become even more pronounced.  Armenia cannot afford the perpetuation and escalation of this kind of asymmetrical relationship.  Like other post-Soviet nations, the fledgling Republic of Armenia is struggling with external influences from East and West as well as with internal political unrest.  Two of its four borders, those shared with Turkey and Azerbaijan, have been subjected to a joint economic and military blockade begun in 1989.  Armenia must find a path for maximized autonomy amidst these hostile geopolitical conditions.

The emerging regional energy-related political crisis, of which Armenia is geographically, socially and economically placed at the crux, became chillingly evident in January 2006 in the Republic of Georgia, as unexplained explosions disrupted the flow of Russian natural gas to the Western-leaning country during the coldest winter in a decade.  Georgia blatantly blamed Russia for the explosions, and the Kremlin responded that Georgia was being “hysterical.” (BBC News 2006)  Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, following days of a national shortage of heating fuel, announced that energy security is one of the foundations for the country’s independence, declaring, “This is the last winter when it will be possible to launch an energy offensive against us… because a new gas pipeline will be launched in the fall, because we are building our own HPPs [hydropower plants] and creating our own power [transmission] lines.” (Civil Georgia 2006)  Thus, it is clear that deteriorating relations in the region are increasingly related to energy security.  Even those issues not directly involving Armenia could still affect energy transport and reliability due to Armenia’s geographical location, especially if neighbors situated between Armenia and Russia continue to distance themselves from the Kremlin.

 Solar panels 

Solar panels 

Furthermore, Armenia’s current energy paradigm will be rendered virtually useless by the end of the century, as Metzamor is finally forced into permanent retirement and the global supply of fossil fuels begins to decline.  The compounding factor of increasing global demand for energy will expedite the decrease in access to what limited supply remains.  The developed nations of the world are unanimously reporting that all long-term energy consumption projections must incorporate technologies based in environmental sustainability for both social and economic growth.  Environmentally friendly technologies are no longer relegated to merely economically prudent home-based gadgets such as building-specific passive solar microsystems.  Environmental issues are increasingly being recognized as directly relevant and necessary for social and economic progress at the national level.  Armenia has a particularly problematic energy dependence schema as it relies primarily on imports and aging, environmentally threatening infrastructure that pose either political or maintenance concerns.  Thus, for Armenia and the rest of the world it is critical that the focus on the introduction of renewable energy is not only addressed as a long-term goal to be achieved gradually over the next century, but rather as an urgent priority of national security that must be vigorously pursued.

 

 

[1] Observations by the author through work on local-level initiatives.  This feeling of security in Armenia was evidenced during the disruption to Georgia’s natural gas supply from Russia in January 2006, further explained in the text.  This disruption would have affected Armenians as well as Georgians; however, maintained underground reserves of natural gas in Armenia helped to stave off any shortage.  Georgia did not have such a contingency plan.  Correspondence with local Armenians and Georgians during the crisis reflected a significant difference in local responses to the disruption, with Georgian local opinion revealing anger and desperation in below-freezing temperatures and Armenian local opinion showing an unaffected confidence in Armenia’s energy security.