The Georgian government needs to build a response plan in case of emergency situations in the energy sector, an American energy expert thinks.
"There should be a plan in terms of different scenarios of what could happen, so when it happens you are in a far better position to fix it, rather than doing it in hot manner," Bhamy Shenoy told The Messenger.
The emergency plan is only a part of the energy strategy Georgia needs to bring to action, says Shenoy, who is also a member of the advisory board of the state-owned oil and gas producer Saknavtobi.
He contends the government also should put an emphasis on developing an integrated energy plan that includes diversification of gas sources. Already Georgia anticipates receiving an additional source as Shah-Deniz gas pipeline starts operating presumably later this year. But Shenoy urges Georgia to not only depend on Shah-Deniz gas but look for additional sources.
Currently the government views Iran as a potential energy provider. Minister of Energy Nika Gilauri held talks with the Iranian government this week. Although Gilauri did not comment on details of his talks, he said there is a theoretical and practical possibility for Iran to become an alternative supplier.
Shenoy says the decision of Georgia to seek out Iran as an alternative source of gas was a real surprise to him and warns Georgia should be cautious not to upset the United States by making an agreement with Iran. "The United States is definitely a big ally of Georgia and it helped Georgia in many ways," he said.
Shenoy gives the example of India who at one time considered getting gas from Iran. "Even a country like India could not totally ignore what the United States will do [in response]. So when such a country like India is thinking of [the U.S. position], I cannot imagine Georgia is in a position to totally ignore this," he said.
If Iran satisfies its nuclear ambitions, it would end up isolated and Georgia would be cut off from Iranian energy, Shenoy forecast: "This was not a good move on part of Georgia to have approached Iran at this particular time."
It was a surprise for Shenoy that Georgians have so far taken the energy crisis in stride and not broke out in protests and public dissatisfaction.
A specialist in the gas sector, Shenoy doubts there is anything the capital's gas distributor Tbilgazi can do in such an emergency. "The way it is managed, Tbilgazi is totally incapable of handling this kind of emergency situation," he said. Shenoy advised officials to at least prepare liquid propane importers to bring in more supplies.
The expert, however, thinks Tbilgazi should develop its own response plans for emergency situations. "They should be thinking about such kinds of things earlier, and expect that they cannot afford to depend only on one source and to put more pressure on the government to look for such sources," he said.
Shenoy thinks the government should give a higher priority to storage of gas, liquid propane and fuel oil. "It should really look at how commodities are to be stored, but especially gas," he said.
Several Georgian and Russian experts said the explosions in North Ossetia will spoil Russia's image as an energy supplier. Shenoy agrees Europe will look for other sources of gas and says that this will happen especially after the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas and the recent explosions."Every time they [Europe] will think of getting any supplies from Russia, simultaneously they will have to think in terms of what they should do, what kind of a price Russia will get. It will definitely be less. If some other country comes forward with gas even at a higher price, they are likely to give more preference to that supply than to Russia," he said.