Which Renewable Energy Source is Favored by Experts

The fight against hydropower plants has become a kind of "fashion trend" for "green" unions in recent years (not only in Georgia), who still oppose the construction of renewable energy sources with outdated, thousand times-rejected methods and myths.

The projects of reservoir hydropower plants remain the main target of various environmental associations. Despite a number of scientific confirmations, HPPs still do not get "green" status. But the Greens cannot deny that HPP is a source of renewable energy and converts the mechanical energy of water into electricity. No fuel is involved in the process and the environment is not polluted by any waste. Against the background of the categorical "no" of the Greens, there are a number of advantages to HPPs with water reservoirs. Hydropower experts never tire of arguing that the construction of hydropower plants is necessary not only to get ecologically clean energy, but also for the energy safety of the country - Georgia.

Zhinvali Dam

We spoke with Carsten Jensen to learn more about the Norwegian experience in hydropower, which is one of the world leaders in the development of this field. He is the Head of the Hydropower Licensing Department of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate.

How many HPPs are there in Norway and how much electricity do they generate per year?

The annual production of hydropower in Norway is about 135 TWh. This, of course, varies a bit due to differences in inflow and precipitation. We have a total of 1600 HPPs in Norway and the total installed capacity is approximately 33000 MW. Norway also has up to 1000 reservoirs used for hydropower, which makes about 50% of all the flexible hydropower capacity in Europe. So, the total capacity of reservoirs in Norway is about 70% of all the electricity consumption in the country per year. As for the development of hydro resources, the total hydro potential in Norway is about 215 TWh, and as of today we have adopted approximately 60% of that.

How did Norwegian hydropower develop in the historical context? Was there any resistance from certain groups in society to the implementation of mega projects?

In Norway, we have a very long history of hydropower, it goes back more than 100 years. In the early 1900s, we started exploiting hydropower. But the biggest boom when it came to hydropower was in the years after World War 2, because we had to rebuild the country after the war and of course environmental issues were not forefront then. But during the ’60s and ’70s we we saw that environmental issues had bigger impacts on projects and we had several highly controversial projects with protests and demonstrations. So, yes Norway has also experienced these kinds of things. But very large HPPs in Norway were built quite a few years ago and are still running.

How did Norway overcome the obstacles?

You will of course have controversies, no doubt about that, because all hydropower means some environmental issue. But what I think is important and the way we do it in Norway, all HPP projects, from the start have to secure some payback for the local communities for borrowing or lending their resources for the greater good.

Tell us about the Hydropotential and Optimal Utilization Strategy of Georgia

To ensure energy independence, it is important not to delay the construction of regulatory hydropower plants. It is recommended to build a hydro-accumulation station, which will increase the system's resilience, flexibility, and enable the integration of additional variable power (solar and wind).

It is possible to accumulate hydro resources in water storage hydropower plants: we adopt them during the "winter season in energy," the period when the water level in the rivers of Georgia is significantly reduced and small, and seasonal hydropower plants are practically unable to work.

What do we have today?

According to 2019 data from JSC “Georgian State Electrosystem”, the total installed capacity is equal to 4247 MW, which includes the installed capacity of hydropower plants (3300 MW) and the installed capacity of thermal power plants (925 MW). It is expected that the additional capacity of the new hydropower plants will be added to the installed capacity in 2020-2030, which will increase the total installed capacity from the existing 4247 MW up to 5014 MW by 2022, up to 5984 MW by 2024 and up to 7945 MW by 2030.

By the end of 2019, the following types of HPPs were operating in Georgia: 7 regulatory (with reservoir), 4 daily regulation, 27 seasonal, i.e. depending on water inflow, 53 small HPP. In total, we have 91 hydrogeneration facilities, which is about 5% of the same Norwegian hydropower plants. This is against the background of the fact that, as mentioned above, Georgia has adopted only 20% of its water resources.

Enguri Dam 


The opinion of Georgian experts

Giorgi Chikovani, Director of the Energy Development Fund of Georgia: "Our energy is based on hydropower and water inflow in rivers. Unfortunately, we do not have the great potential of water storage hydropower plants and we are very limited in terms of water accumulation. There are several projects only in Georgia, which are of great importance in terms of our energy independence, such as Khudoni, Nenskra and partly Namakhvani. All other HPP projects depend on water inflow. Regulatory hydropower plants are very important for the development of the system as well as for integrating alternative energy, as solar and wind power plants are unstable and we need electricity too."

"If we did not have Enguri HPP today, we would be tied to neighboring countries and we would not have any energy independence in terms of electricity. HPPs with the storage capacity of Enguri can no longer be implemented in Georgia, as Eguri HPPs is very large: there is no potential for that. However, the construction of hydropower plants such as Nenskra, Khudoni, Namakhvani is necessary and they cannot result in any disasters or bad results."

Nugzar Beridze, Director of the Electricity Department of the Georgian National Energy Regulatory Commission, assesses the growing trend of electricity imports in the country. According to the expert, in the first quarter of 2020, the share of import was 12-15%. The main importing countries are Russia and Azerbaijan. Of course, the share of Russia comes mainly on Abkhazia, while Azerbaijan leads in the rest of Georgia in terms of import.

Shuakhevi HPP was put into operation. How important is the construction of Nenskra HPP in terms of import substitution? The pandemic will end and consumption will increase again.

Without the use of energy, we will not be able to develop enterprises and the economy. We need to develop sources of generation because consumption is increasing and local sources can no longer meet it, so we need to import electricity. As you know, powerful and water reservoir hydropower plants, if hydroelectric power stations are developed, are very important for the more efficient introduction of other variable generation sources. Import has significantly grown because our generation can no longer cover consumption. Consequently, only powerful power plants can develop the industry and economy of the country.

What is the experience of foreign countries in this direction? For example, in Norway there are 1660 HPPS, of which more than 1000 are reservoir HPPs. Should Georgia share this experience?

In this regard, sharing the experience of Norway will certainly be useful for Georgia. They have fully taken advantage of their hydro resources, while we use only 20%. We always acknowledge their experience and they, as consultants, are actively involved in this process. Therefore, sharing the experience of Norway as one of the most powerful energy countries in Europe will definitely help us.

21 May 2020 11:56