Georgia’s small and medium HPPs - finding the happy middle between sustainable and profitable
Author: By Salome Kobalava
While the Georgian government seeks to boost its electricity export potential and intensively supports the construction of large hydropower plants, environmentalists recommend focusing on small HPPs. They argue that small plants would have a minimal negative impact on the environment, would help decentralize the energy sector and reduce losses in transmission lines.
Hydropower plants, apart from being cost-effective and the main prospective domestic energy producers in Georgia, are recognized as environmentally friendly renewable energy sources.
However, experts say that large hydropower plants have a dramatically negative impact on the environment; these plants can hardly be considered sustainable or as a source of clean energy, since they require the construction of dams for operation.
“Small and medium size run-of-river hydropower stations involve no reservoir. They involve diverting a portion of river flow through a spillway. The diverted water is returned to the river downstream from the turbine, thus run-of-river installations have an insignificant impact on the river’s hydrological regime as compared to impoundment hydro installations,” said Mariam Bakhtadze, USAID Hydropower Investment Promotion Project (HIPP) Environmental Specialist, to Georgia Today. “[This] would not [require] altering the ecosystem of a river and local microclimate overall.”
Hydropower is among the most profitable industries in Georgia. With over 26,000 rivers, the country has the estimated potential of generating 32 TWh per year, if 80% of Georgia’s untapped hydro-resources are harnessed, according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).