Reflecting on Georgian State Electrosystem's Energy Partnership with the United States

By Zurab Ezugbaia
Georgian State Electrosystem

Over the last two decades, international partnerships have helped the Georgian State Electrosystem (GSE) become a strong, stable, company, with the skills and expertise to carry our country’s power system successfully into the future. Much of our success comes from our partnership with the United States Energy Association (USEA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Eighteen years ago, the Georgian power sector was really destroyed, having number of black-outs during the year. The country’s transmission system operator was weak and vulnerable—technically and financially. Through assistance from USEA and USAID, and the hard work of the country’s energy community, the power sector in Georgia is now a leader in the region.

In 2003, GSE began the process of coming under new management and stabilizing our financial situation. Since then, GSE has become one of the few state-owned companies to emerge from rehabilitation with all creditors paid. The Power System of Georgia also improved its finances and infrastructure, constructing new high voltage lines and substations, strengthening the security of supply and system reliability, and diversifying its interconnections.

GSE now operates the first and only high-voltage direct current connection for the region on the border with Turkey which, together with improved interconnections with Azerbaijan and Armenia and strengthened internal backbone network of Georgia, will help establish a regional platform for power trading, position Georgia as an energy transmission hub, and open organized electricity markets in the country.

Under the support of USEA, USAID and the World Bank, GSE is partnering with the Romanian transmission system operator (Transelectrica) to complete the Black Sea Sub-Marine Cable project that will join the South Caucasus countries with Balkans and allow them to achieve direct access to the European power markets.

This success story is the result of the different programs, working groups, workshops and trainings arranged by USEA during last two decades. Together, the energy professionals in our region learn more about system planning and modeling, planning methodologies, forecasting of renewables generation, and changes on the consumption side. USEA support helped our capacity building through the provision of software tools that we now use for long-term planning. We now have the tools and expertise to conduct our own expansion planning, and to propose these plans to our government.

USEA has helped us collaborate with other countries in our region on the assessment of cyber security risks, on the potential opportunities for sharing capacity reserves between neighboring power systems, and so on. My colleagues across the Georgia power sector and I have joined teams from the other 7 countries across the Black Sea region to create frameworks for the multilateral relations and bilateral cooperation between Georgia and Armenia, and between Georgia and Romania.

Dozens of GSE employees were trained and have increased their skills and career opportunities under the programs organized by USEA. They have now been appointed to different positions in GSE—some of them are now department chiefs and unit leaders. Cooperation with USEA has had a significant impact on the professional careers of many of our early- and mid-career managers.

Personally, I have been involved in USEA/USAID-supported events and activities for most of the past seven years. I treasure all the relationships established during these years.

For the electricity sector in the South Caucasus, Georgia usually plays the role of pioneer, innovator, implementer, and promoter of the reforms, market-based solutions, and new strategies and technologies. We are proud to take on this responsibility. Our neighbors benefit from our success.

We look forward to further strengthening the Georgian Power System, as well as the regional partnership framework across the South Caucasus and Southeast Europe countries.

Zurab Ezugbaia, Member of the Management Board, Georgian State Electrosystem.
The Georgian State Electrosystem is the recipient of the 2021 USEA International Partner of the Year Award.
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