TBILISI: Outages highlight weak infrastructure

The Messenger
Tuesday, March 1, 2005, #038 (0812)

Outages highlight weak infrastructure

Both water and electricity systems go offline in domino effect
By Keti Sikharulidze

More water woes: low water levels and a
diminished generating capacity in
Georgia’s hydroelectric systems, like the
Zhinvali reservoir pictured on Sunday
(above) have made the country even more
reliant on the Kavkasioni line
Severe weather damaged the country’s sole high voltage electricity line from
Russia Monday morning, leaving the capital Tbilisi temporarily without power and
knocking its water system offline for most of the day.

The loss of power, and subsequently water, came only days after the president
held an emergency government session addressing problems in the energy sector.

To make matters worse on Monday, the 370 kilovolt Kavkasioni high voltage
transmission line, Georgia’s only electrical connection to Russia, was taken off
line three separate times on Monday because of the weather and high winds.

The accidents first occurred at around 10:50 am., immediately causing blackouts
throughout the country including Tbilisi. According to the state power system
the deficit of the energy during the accident was nearly 600 megawatts.

According to Black Sea Press, the Kavkasioni line was repaired in forty minutes
and the import of 50 megawatts was restored at first. According to electricity
officials, 160-megawatts was imported from Armenia as well, which was
distributed among vital objects.

Speaking with Rusatvi-2, Minister of Energy Nika Gilauri stated on Monday that
the accident was caused by bad weather along the Kavkasioni high transmission
line and added that the system would be fully restored by the evening.

“The situation will be better after we finish repairs on the 9th power unit [in
Gardabani] and tonight we are going to test it. It will be ready for functioning
by tomorrow afternoon. Until then we will have to fully load the Kavkasioni
line,” said Gilauri.

Water service in the capital stopped shortly after the first outage as the
city’s water service, Tbiltsqalkanali, lost its pumping capacity. Lela Chanidze,
assistance to the director of the water service, confirmed to The Messenger on
Monday, that the lack of the water resulted from the breakdown of the
Kavkazioni. “By the evening the entire city will receive water supplies,” she
added; for most of Tbilisi, water had returned by 8:00 p.m.

On Monday, Gilauri also highlighted his ministry’s new two-year program and
stated that the accident that happened on Kavkasioni was the best example of the
priorities of the two-year program, which includes constructing a separate high
voltage line.

“Our energy system has always depended on this one Kavkasioni line, which could
be knocked out by bad weather or by sabotage. Such accidents badly affect the
entire energy system of Georgia,” said Gilauri.

Already this year, there have been at least two cases of sabotage on the line
when unknown people shot out the insulators used to hold the line to towers in
the Kodori Gorge.

According to the ministry’s plan, Georgia should first build its generating
capacity to meet the country’s needs and then use imports only as backup should
be necessary only for reservation. The two-year plan includes the construction
of new power plants and the refurbishment of turbines.

“If we fulfill the plan as it was presented, I can assure you that such deficits
of electricity will not be repeated any more,” said Gilauri.

Gilauri also said the ministry would print booklets detailing information on
electricity limits during repairs to the Enguri Hydroelectric Station that are
to begin on April 1.

“The schedule for electricity will be different in each region of Georgia and
this information will be sent to all residents of Georgia,” he said.