Anahit Simonyan, Head of Operations at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), believes that compared to other countries of the region renewable energy is developing in Armenia with a ‘tiger jump’.
She noted in her interview to Mediamax that current challenge in Armenia is to change the culture and mentality which requires time while an enabling environment for the sector development is already in place.
No innovation for the sake of innovation only
“I think the strategic policy is well managed and targeted” – she said. “Success stories are necessary for the rollout and people should see the benefits before choosing it. I believe it is a matter of time; however, financial investments as well as knowledge and experience are needed.”
Anahit Simonyan argues that the youth are endowed with great potential in innovation technologies.
“During the implementation of this project we collaborated with various sector organizations; unequivocally the innovation path and the real application of innovations in economy will lead us to progress. However, I must emphasize that there should be no innovation just for the sake of innovation, instead they must be brought to the practical domain. Maintaining this potential in Armenia and contributing to the country’s economy is the key challenge.”
Anahit Simonyan noted that it is a must to use natural resources of a country with 305 sunny days.
“Unfortunately, we are not using fully the potential given to us by our natural and climatic conditions. Shall not we finally break free from the dependence on HPPs and gas? We will not understandably be able to eliminate them altogether but the share of renewables must be maximized.”
Speaking about the production of heaters operating on renewable technologies, Anahit Simonyan noted that this is already being done quite successfully.
“Production was launched by the companies, which had foreign partners in the initial stage or were able to import some technologies from the abroad. It extremely important for those technologies to have application and export potential. The demand, legal framework and potential definitely exist. Local consumer’s attitude shall also change – it is better to pay slightly more but support the local product,” - she said.
From local projects to regional clean technology platform
Renewable energy is one the three main priority areas for the UNIDO projects.
Anahit Simonyan told that years ago they had implemented a pilot project in Gegharqunik province. Two small biogas stations were installed for households in Pambak village and they still operate.
“We also installed a medium-size station on the mount Geghama. Construction has been completed but the second phase – commissioning – unfortunately never happened; now we are trying to find financing for operation. This is an important project as it is the first attempt to introduce a model whereby the station will be operated by a community development fund or community rather than one or two owners. It could be used later for production assets. Technical and organizational difficulties are constantly present in remote villages of provinces where people are guided by short-run expectations and hardly imagine the prospect, which is understandable. However, those projects are rather prospective but, in principle, we are satisfied by our collaboration with the communities,” – Anahit Simonyan says.
UNIDO also implemented clean production project targeting waste-free production processes. In a two-year period about 20 enterprises went through cleaner production and resource efficiency assessments receiving advice.
“We go after small businesses as we believe that the big businesses will pave their road. We are looking for funds to implement an energy saving project at production plants, which is very important for us. Two years ago we implemented a Clean technology project for the SMEs. It was an acceleration project with an objective of discovering programmatic business ideas, turning them into business plans and providing opportunities for funding. This two-year acceleration project resulted in around 64 business applications, after trainings they took part in national competitions. National winners visited Silicon Valley to establish contacts and raise funding,” – she said.
Anahit Simonyan underscored the importance of supporting small businesses to find new partners. She also told that the Clean technology projects brought about the idea of creating a regional clean technology platform with specific interest expressed by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
“It is important to have the driving force in Armenia,” – concluded UNIDO representative in Armenia.