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July 19, 2005

ACNIS Examines Armenia’s Energy Security

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a policy roundtable within the framework of regional economic development and potential mutual cooperation. The topic, problems and prospects of Armenia’s energy safety is fairly urgent, and the meeting brought together those in charge of the sector, experts, independent researchers, and media representatives.

ACNIS research coordinator Stiopa Safarian greeted the capacity audience with opening remarks. “Within the complex of national security, the energy component has an undisputable importance as energy policy touches not only upon important regional and geopolitical problems but also on the vital interests of the country’s residents. And no matter how much we rest assured that Armenia is an electricity-exporting country, its safety still is not adequately guaranteed because of the many yet unresolved problems in this sector,” Stiopa Safarian stated.

Presenting Armenia’s conception of energy security and the main avenues for its policy on the sector’s development, Armenia’s Deputy Energy Minister Areg Galstian underscored the plans to be implemented by the year 2025, as well as those which down the road aim to safeguard the country’s capacity and energy safety. “At the heart of the strategic plan for the sector’s progressive enhancement there are qualitative indices: guarantee of energy independence; technologies which economize energy; usage of domestic resources and alternative energy sources; and others which have been cultivated by taking global experience into account,” Galstian said, detailing the activities to be undertaken in the next five years. The deputy minister also mentioned that the Iran-Armenia gas line would be put to use within the same time span, and projects would be brought to life which envisage the following: raising the safety level of Armenia’s nuclear power plant; restoration of gas supply to the entire country; the heat-supply system; operation of the hydro-electric plant at Meghri and the first reactor of Yerevan’s thermo-electric plant; modernization of underground gas storage; and the construction of small hydro-electric plants.

A policy intervention by Levon Yeghiazarian, director general of the Scientific Research Institute of Energy, encompassed strategic issues concerning Armenia’s energy security. Yeghiazarian deemed especially important the necessity to advance concepts that include a database for normative-technical documents, a development plan for the system, price formation and tariff policy within the electricity market, the fuel supply complex, investment programs, and the energy system’s dependability and seismic safety. However, according to Yeghiazarian, aside from global problems, all consumers are primarily interested in the quality of service. “Since the field for legal relationships between consumer and supplier is largely undeveloped, no one faces responsibility when our household appliances break down as a result of high voltage,” Yeghiazarian underlined.

In his address on “The Energy Legislation and European Union Approaches,” Areg Barseghian, an expert in energy and transport infrastructures from the Armenian-European Policy and Legal Advice Center (AEPLAC), pointed out that according to some parameters, when it comes down to energy safety, Armenia’s legal field does not meet the requirements of European Union laws. European legislative acts which regulate markets in the spheres of oil and oil products, electricity, gas, and nuclear energy are non-existent in Armenia. “European legislation contains norms that are not defined by Armenia’s law on energy, because these norms do not refer to the realities in Armenia,” the expert continued. The incompatibility of the legislation regulating the energy sector also bears an adverse effect on attempts to satisfy consumer demand.

Is there any other alternative to the current conception of Armenia’s energy security? Searching for an answer to this question, economic policy analyst Gegham Kiurumian reached the conclusion that the major guarantee for Armenia’s safety is hydro-energy development, to which much attention is not being paid. “It is time to reject an existence on an account of imported fuel and to put our hopes on our own resources alone,” the analyst stressed, expressing concern at the same time regarding insufficient usage of small hydro-electric plants, solar energy, and other important domestic sources. According to the figures presented by Kiurumian, Armenia lags behind most when it comes to the annual amount of electricity supply per capita.

The formal interventions were followed by contributions by Levon Vardanian from the Ministry of Energy; Edward Aghajanov, an economist with the Armat Center; Haik Gevorgian, “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily’s columnist on economic matters; Robert Kharazian, a member of the Public Utilities Regulatory Board; independent expert Hrant Baghdasarian; and many others.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2005, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center and its activities, call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; e-mail root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am

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