Georgia will consider gas supplies from Gazprom on top of what the country is already receiving from the Russia’s state-controlled energy giant if the proposal is commercially viable, Georgia’s Energy Minister, Kakha Kaladze, said.
Georgia receives most of its gas supplies from Azerbaijan; it also receives, as a transit fee, 10% of gas shipped by Russia to Armenia through a pipeline running via Georgia.
Kaladze, who is also Deputy PM, met Gazprom chief executive, Alexei Miller in Brussels on September 25.
“Gazprom is already in Georgia. We receive natural gas from Russia for years already… and I think these relations will continue,” Kaladze told journalists after attending a groundbreaking ceremony for construction of an electricity substation in Marneuli on October 9.
“Our main gas supplier is Azerbaijan, which is our strategic partner,” he continued. “But any developed country thinks of diversifying its energy supplies. We are not talking about additional supplies only from Russia; we are also actively working in respect of Iran.”
He said that at the meeting with Gazprom CEO in Brussels, he discussed possibility of increasing gas shipments through North-South pipeline through which Russia supplies gas to Armenia.
“It is important for us to have this pipeline maximally loaded, because it will give us more gas [as a transit fee]. In addition, if private companies [in Georgia] want, they also can buy gas from Russia,” Kaladze said.
The issue was raised at a parliamentary hearing on October 9, when opposition lawmakers from the Free Democrats party were meeting deputies of various ministers, among them Deputy Energy Minister Ilia Eloshvili. FD MPs, like lawmakers from another parliamentary opposition party, UNM, have expressed concerns over possible gas purchase from Gazprom.
Deputy Energy Minister Eloshvili told opposition lawmakers that relying fully on a single country in terms of energy supplies, no matter how friendly this country might be, is not a right policy.
“We should try to have as many sources of supply as possible,” he said.
“I want to remind you that during the winter period we rely on electricity supply from Russia and it has been the case for decades already,” the Deputy Energy Minister said.
“But I want to stress that we should not in any way damage our relations with Azerbaijan, because we have long-term contracts with Azerbaijan and this helped us in the most difficult times,” he continued.
“Up until now Russia has not expressed interest in engaging in serious commercial negotiations [over gas supplies]. We will definitely speak to them, we will see what they have to offer – it will be open and transparent process,” Eloshvili said.
“There will be no problem whatsoever in [Gazprom] gas supply if it is commercially acceptable and provided that we don’t become dependent on such supplies.”
After being pressed again on the issue by FD MP Zurab Abashidze, who criticized possibility of gas supply from Gazprom, which he described as the Kremlin’s foreign policy tool, Eloshvili responded by referring again to the fact that Georgia has been purchasing electricity from Russia’s state-controlled Inter RAO for decades already during the winter period.
“Inter RAO is ‘Gazprom’ in electricity,” the Deputy Energy Minister said. “Last year we bought 800 million kWh electricity from Inter RAO – 7 percent of our total consumption. Electricity provided by them was the cheapest, so I would ask a rhetoric question: shall we refuse to buy electricity under acceptable terms just because it comes from Russia and shall we go and buy it from Turkey, which will cost us much more?”
“I absolutely agree with you that it is inadmissible to fully switch on [Gazprom] gas or to buy significant amount of gas on terms, which will not be profitable. But if we receive this gas in an amount that would not pose threat to us, it will be an additional source of supply,” Eloshvili said.
“If their terms are better or the same as we now have with other suppliers, it will be acceptable,” he said.
“The process will be open and transparent, based on our pragmatic interests,” the Deputy Energy Minister said.