By Shakeh Avoyan
Armenian authorities said on Thursday that they will not reconsider their controversial decision to raise transmission charges that have called into question further electricity exports to neighboring Georgia.
The head of the Regulatory Commission on Natural Monopolies, Robert Nazarian, defended the decision, saying that the Russian-owned power exporter, the International Energy Corporation (IEC), can still sell energy to the Georgian capital Tbilisi at a profit.
IEC warned this week that the six-fold increase in the charges collected by a state-run company running Armenia’s high-voltage lines has forced it to raise the retail price of the electricity supplied to Tbilisi’s Telasi power grid. Telasi, which is also controlled by Russia’s UES utility giant, has warned that it will stop the imports if IES goes ahead with the price increase.
Speaking to RFE/RL, Nazarian argued that his commission simply equalized the cost of high-voltage transmission for domestic and foreign energy consumers and that the new tariff still makes up a fraction of the exporter’s production costs. “Let nobody think that we can subordinate the interests of our consumers to any export interests,” he said. “If we set a particular tariff for our consumers, it should be at least the same for others.”
The IEC vice-chairman, Mels Hakobian, criticized the decision on Wednesday, saying that Armenia risks losing an important export market. “Georgia is not Armenia’s internal market,” he said. “Georgia is a regional partner that must not depend on decisions taken by our tariff commission.”
Meanwhile, Georgia’s Minister of Fuel and Energy Mamuka Nikolaishvili and the Telasi chief executive, Dangiras Mikolayunas, were due in Yerevan late on Thursday for talks on the future of the power supplies.
The Armenian Energy Ministry spokeswoman, Lusine Harutiunian, claimed that the two sides will only discuss their volume, not the price. Harutiunian also told RFE/RL that the Armenian government will not ask Nazarian’s commission to reconsider the tariff increase.