Since 2018 the Energy Saving Foundation (ESF) and the Union of Communities of Armenia (UCA) have been implementing the EU for Armenia’s Sustainable Energy Program (EU4ASEP), promoting utilization of renewable energy in Aparan and Artik communities of Armenia. Both Aparan and Artik communities are signatories to the Covenant of Mayors.
The project manager, executive director of ESF Astghine Pasoyan talks about the goals, results, and achievements of the program.
-Mrs. Pasoyan, would you please introduce us to the program details: what has been done, which stage is the EU4ASEP project in?
-The project is in its final stage. It has already delivered two small autonomous solar power systems in Aparan Community and is currently building a grid-connected commercial solar power plant in Artik Community. Both communities are not merely receiving an investment in a sustainable energy system, these are also based on a sustainable financing scheme, whereby the financial dividends from the generated solar energy are reinvested in further sustainable energy and climate investments.
-What is the overall goal of the program and what it brings to the partner communities?
The project has an overarching goal of the project is to increase the utilization of renewable energy for reducing the carbon footprint of energy generation and raising energy security of Armenia. The project seeks to deliver this goal by raising public awareness on the business models, financial and environmental benefits of renewable energy installations, and showcasing workable business models that can be scaled up for other users, especially among the municipalities. Hence, the investment measures are strongly supported by awareness-raising activities.
In its early stages, the project has conducted a baseline assessment of public perception on sustainable energy issues in partner communities, and followed up with massive awareness-raising measures but organizing Sustainable Energy Week events in partner communities, ensuring coverage of project developments in the press, on the web and social media,
– What economic and environmental issues are addressed by the Project?
-The project introduces innovative business models for the introduction of renewable energy solutions into the municipal economy. The legal reform allowed enabling the local governments to own and operate solar power plants both for their own use (up to 150 kW capacity), but also for commercial operations, grid-connected with electricity sales to the grid. The project provides financial models to the partner cities so that the financial resources accrued due to renewable energy are reinvested in more sustainable energy projects.
Environmentally, every kilowatt-hour of renewable energy produced in Armenia leads to the avoidance of 443 grams of carbon dioxide emission.
The energy sales in both communities will be accrued on newly created “COMO Funds” which will create a new budget revenue stream for further financing of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
-The first phase of the project has ended and the Aparan community has already been operating its solar systems for over a year. What are the results? How did the plants perform compared to planned indicators?
There are two systems, 11 kW system at the Cultural House of Aparan, and a 21 kW capacity system – at the Municipality. They jointly generated nearly 48 megawatt-hours solar electricity during the first year of operation. This leads to avoided 21 tons of CO2. This is higher then expected and planned by the technical designs.
When ready in November 2021, the Artik solar farm will have 600kW capacity and produce 1335 MWh of clean energy yearly and lead to nearly 570 tons of CO2 emission reduction per year. Together, the project will lead to nearly 12,000 tons of CO2 emissions reduced over the system lifetimes. Over the system lifetime, these will generate over 1 mln euro in municipal revenues earmarked for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.
-Is it possible that the Project continues? Do other Armenian communities express interest in similar projects?
The EU4ASEP project has a limited scope, budget, and timeframe and it will be ending in 2021. However, the project does not just deliver the power plants, but also the full packages of documentation and guidelines for other cities to follow the lead. There is great interest from the other Covenant signatories. ESF intends to help them design and implement similar projects as well, using their own resources, bank loans as well as State subventions.
-What makes the project unique or replicable?
-The purpose of the project was not only to create a renewable energy investment but also to make it replicable through its delivery model and illustrate the viability of similar investments. The project puts renewable energy within the municipal reach, makes it a source of income for the cities, creating a steady revenue stream, which can help repay the investments within reasonable terms as well as generate means that can help finance similar investments in the future. The business model is simple and replicable for other cities. This demonstration project not only demonstrates the technical solution but also the delivery mechanism, paving the way for other communities to follow.
– Mrs. Pasoyan, to conclude, could you please tell us about the solar potential of Armenia, to what extent it is being utilized and what potential cooperation areas exist with the EU in this field?
Armenia is blessed with solar energy with insolation comparable to countries like Egypt. The Armenian Government has implemented an impressive reform creating adequate market incentives for the private sector to invest in the development of solar electricity generation capacities both for autonomous producers as well as licensing or auction-based feed-in tariffs for grid-connected solar power producers. The 2021 Energy Strategy of the Republic of Armenia till 2040 envisions 1000 WM solar power development, of which 15MW is exclusively allocated for municipal solar power plants. Any support that can be directed to Armenian municipalities for further promotion of sustainable energy investments will have a multiplier effect on the environment, global climate systems, as well as green recovery of local economies through increased investments and job creation.