Inclusive Growth Dialogue: Panel Discussion - Access to Energy and Water Supply in Georgia
Status: Complated
Project Milestones: Start date: 22.10.2014 End Date: 24.10.2014

The purpose of this event was to discuss the role of energy and water supply sectors for job creation and poverty reduction, as well as suggest improvements to existing policies affecting access to, and efficient use of, scarce resources. Georgia, just like other countries of the South Caucasus region, is characterized by significant energy poverty. Electricity consumption per capita in the country is only 23% of the OECD average. This is due to the low incomes in the country and the fact that people cannot afford to use basic energy-intensive equipment, such as washing machines, refrigerators, etc. 

On the contrary, to substitute their energy needs especially in rural areas, people try to cut firewood that is cheaper and burnt inefficiently, which is also the cause of a number of environmental issues. For instance, in rural areas of Georgia, about 96 % of the energy used for household heating comes from firewood, same data overall in Georgia is 56%. Although there are a bunch of opportunities, especially in the electricity generation sector of Georgia.

Development of HPPs around Georgia is a source of fighting with unemployment in regions as well as a reason for the improvement of infrastructure such as roads, electricity transmission/distribution lines, water supply, etc. In addition opportunities in other renewables such as solar can provide off-grid electricity supply to high mountain villages where building the grid is not commercially viable, while these regions are very popular for tourism. Challenges of the water supply sector for both residential and commercial use, as well as for irrigation are not much easier. Old infrastructure in the sector and the need for vast investments are some of the causes for frequent interruptions and supply schedules. It also appears that the tariff system in the water sector is more socially oriented so that the residential sector is hardly paying for the water supply cost, while the business sector is heavily overpaying for its water supply. This clearly shows a significant cross-subsidization between commercial and residential consumers. Environmental problems exist in water supply sectors as well, that is caused by damaged or no sewage infrastructure in regions of Georgia. In addition, there is a very small amount of wastewater treatment plants and no treatment standards. Panelists and the audience of the dialogue discussed supply quality problems in the electricity and water supply sectors. The importance of leadership and proper management in government-owned water supply utilities was also discussed. Furthermore, panelists also discussed opportunities for cooperation between electricity and water supply sectors in order to make supply more inclusive for the population.

The panel discussion was organized in scopes of the broader Inclusive Growth Dialogue Platform initiative of the ISET-PI, supported by the Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus (SDC).