The European Union has installed first-ever solar-powered bus stops in Yerevan as part of its efforts to foster Armenia’s greater use of renewable energy.
The head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, Piotr Switalski, reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the country’s energy security as he inaugurated and tested one of the two such facilities placed in the city center. “The message is very clear: the EU is promoting cheaper and cleaner energy and contributing to Armenia’s energy independence,” Switalski told reporters.
The bus stops will enable residents and visitors of Yerevan to charge their mobile phones and other digital gadgets with free solar energy. Each facility can fully charge up to 24 phones a day.
The bus stops were inaugurated at the end of EU Energy Days in the Armenian capital which the Delegation organized to showcase EU-funded reforms in Armenia’s energy sector. According to Switalski, the EU has already allocated more than 30 million euros ($33 million) for that purpose.
Most of that assistance is being spent on the ongoing construction of a new electricity transmission line that will connect Armenia to neighboring Georgia. The EU is also financing renewable energy projects in the Armenian towns of Spitak and Vayk.
Solar and wind power currently make up only a tiny share of electricity produced in Armenia. The Armenian government has declared the spread of these renewable energy sources a priority.
Just last week, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian attended the official opening of Armenia’s first-ever factory manufacturing solar panels used for power generation. A private company claims to have invested so far $2 million in the factory currently employing around 50 people. The government exempted equipment and raw materials imported by the company from customs duties earlier this year.
Most of Armenia’s electricity is generated by natural gas and nuclear fuel imported from Russia. Also, the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom owns the country’s gas distribution network and one of its largest thermal power plants.
Asked whether the EU assistance is aimed at easing Armenia’s dependence on Russia for energy, Switalski said: “We don’t think in political or geopolitical terms as such. We think about ordinary Armenians so that they have cheaper and cleaner energy.”
“We believe that energy efficiency, new technologies simply improve the quality of life of ordinary Armenians,” added the diplomat.
Richard Mills, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, said last month that Armenia can attract billions of dollars in investments from U.S. energy companies if it liberalizes its energy sector. In his words, U.S. investments could also be channeled into renewable energy.
One U.S. firm, ContourGlobal, completed a $250 million acquisition of Armenia’s largest hydroelectric complex over a year ago.