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Firewood in Georgia: burning the candle in both ends

by | Jan 25, 2012

Georgian forests are shrinking by 8 million kWh equivalents of trees per year. The police have checkpoints some places to prevent illegal cutting, but the government still has no strategy for developing sustainable alternative sources, except for a hydropower effort partly for export.

TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgians use nine times more wood than what is sustainable, according to a new study.

If nothing is done, it will lead to a catastrophe, according to Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN).

Annual firewood consumption, measured in energy output, is 12 billion kWh, while the sustainable level in Georgia is only 1.3 billion kWh.

Georgia has great renewable energy potential — wind, sun, biomass, hydro power and geothermal — but today imports around 70% of its energy.

Among the renewables, the country has only made use of its hydro power. There are more than 26 000 rivers in Georgia, but according to the Energy Ministry, three hundred rivers have energy importance. Their average annual energy is around 50 billion kWh equivalents.

According to the CENN report, besides the big hydro power potential in the country, only the small projects are considered renewable energy potential. Among the plans, the economically realistic projects amount to around 5 billion kWh, or around 6-8%.

Wood is also one of the main energy sources in Georgia. Despite the fact that natural gas is now distributed by pipes to almost the whole country, people still cut down trees for firewood, destroying woods and affecting serious damage. Forests are shrinking by 8 million kWh equivalents of trees per year.

Wind energy is not being adopted at all, according to the report. When it comes to sun and biomass energy exploitation is at a very low level.

Plant, animal and some other kinds of waste can be used as energy resource. Four hundred bio energy machines where installed in different villages in Georgia with the help of international organizations.

Giorgi Abulashvili, the director of Energy Efficiency Center says that every farmer can build his own bio energy machine for just 200-300 lari which will give him his own energy, based on animal and plant matter or waste, and he won’t have to pay anything for it. However, the Georgian population is not well-informed about this issue and is suspicious about new and unknown sources of energy.

But this is not the only problem. This way of obtaining and distributing energy is not a priority for the government.

Georgian legislation does not even define the concept of renewable energy sources. There is no law about it nor governmental strategy.

“This creates an awkward situation which doesn’t help to develop the usage of renewable energy sources,” the report says.

According to the report, the achievable potential of renewable energy sources in Georgia is around 0.9-1.3 million tons of oil equivalents in a year.

The bottom line is to not overexploit a renewable energy source; then it isn’t renewable anymore.

“The renewability of the energy source should be dependent not on the source power, but on the level of negative influence on the environment.”

 



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