Solar Energy in Armenia

The past few years I am pleasantly and gratefully  “addicted” to kiva.org . A unique online small loan program to reduce poverty worldwide, including Armenia. It enables you to directly loan money to the individuals of your choosing, and in the country of your choosing.

It is a safe reliable and transparent program. (The past few years between me and few other people that I know, who are also pleasantly and gratefully “addicted” to the program, together, we have made about one thousand small loans to the borrowers from Armenia without any default. Many even pay it before the term of the loan without any penalty). No need to further elaborate. Just click on kiva.org  choose Armenia, do your due diligence, and help reduce poverty in Armenia, $25 at a time.

I usually loan to the farmers in Armenia who need the loan to expand their family farm operation. Last week, I loaned to a family who wanted the loan to install solar heating system to their farm house. Currently as they stated, the house is heated with “electricity and natural gas which is fairly expensive”. They requested the loan “to pay for a solar heating system to save money and use the saved money to develop the family farm”. It sure beats the “conventional wisdom” that solar energy is too expensive. I hope other farmers, or villagers could do the same.

This year, there was much talk about the development of the alternative and renewable energy, including the Solar Energy, in Canada. The reason was that, the air pollution, and the Global warming caused by the air pollution, had reached a critical point all over the world.

At last, the political leadership of the developed  world, including Canada, started taking some action. Canadian government actually took some action to impose carbon tax on polluters, and also started consultations with the provincial governments to do the same.

Armenia is almost totally  dependent on Russian and Iranian oil imports for its fuel energy. Needless to say, both countries are doing it for their own benefit at the expense of Armenia’ political and economic dependency from these two authoritarian, and democratically challenged countries.

Armenia is blessed with abundance of the “raw material” of the solar energy, the SUN. Despite the “conventional wisdom” that solar energy is expensive to produce, the reality is that, Solar Energy probably is a cheaper, cleaner, and safer, source of energy, if you factor in, the longterm harm that the fossil fuel energy production does to the environment, and to the health of the people all over the world. Needless to say, the cost to remedy this harmful effects at a tremendous cost, is left to the shoulders of the future generations. An unfair, irresponsible, and very costly burden to say the least.

Fortunately, a quick Google search indicates that, there is awareness of the potential of the solar energy in Armenia. According to some reports, Armenia has substantially more sun hours than some of the European countries that are producing large amounts of solar energy. There seems to be some other encouraging signs too.

This past May, Armenian Parliament has passed legislation to encourage the development and the use of the alternative and renewable energy, including the Solar Energy, through some tax concessions. Some experts say it is not enough, and more incentives are needed including the reduction of import duties on Solar Panels.

As I said earlier, Solar Energy could be also the best source of energy in rural areas specially in the remote regions where the “conventional” energy is hard to deliver. This too could be encouraged by the government through grants, subsidies, tax exemptions, and encouragement of the private sector to get more involved as well. Even foreign aid institutions like USAID could be encouraged to allocate funds for such an environmentally friendly projects.

It will be a prudent move if the government of Armenia sets realistic targets and deadlines to increase the production of the alternative energy for the next fifteen to  twenty five years, to accommodate the increased demand of energy and help also reduce the political and economic dependency on Russia and Iran.

According to one report Armenia’ energy production is as follows. 39% Nuclear – 33% Hydro – 22% Natural gas and oil – 6% Alternative and Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Small Hydro, etc). I could not find a reliable source that shows the amount of the energy each of this Alternative and Renewable Energy sector produces.

The Nuclear Power Plant is old, very old, and it is in a way on life support system with a very short life span. It is located dangerously close to Yerevan, where almost half of the people of Armenia live. It is a serious and dangerous, if not existential, hazard that cannot be ignored.

I am not even sure if Armenia is desperately in need of this old and dangerous source of energy built by the Soviet Union. It seems Armenia has no shortage of energy. I have heard that, Armenia exports electricity to the neighbouring countries, specially to  Georgia and even to Iran that makes Armenia a net exporter of electricity that is mostly produced by the old and dangerous  Atomic Energy Plant near Yerevan.

Let me finish with a more optimistic note. Through Google research I learned also that, the American University of Armenia, and AGBU, have used sizable amounts of the Solar Panels on their newly built institutional buildings. There were few pictures showing Solar Panels installed on residential houses as well. One picture that I loved the most, showed Solar Panels installed on a church roof with the imposing “dome” Գմբեթ,  “blessing” this modern day “miracle”.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian

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