YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—A U.S. energy company announced on Wednesday that it is close to buying three big hydroelectric stations generating a considerable part of Armenia’s electricity.
The New York-based ContourGlobal said it is engaged in “advanced negotiations” with the Armenian government over the takeover of the plants built along the fast-flowing Vorotan river in the southeastern Syunik province.
“While commercial terms are still being finalized the purchase price will be very significant and all of the funds will be sourced from outside of Armenia using a combination of ContourGlobal’s own resources and those of prestigious international financial institutions,” it said in a statement. They include the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank Group division, according to the statement.
“In addition to the full purchase price, ContourGlobal will be committing to invest further in a major overhaul of the main generating equipment at the power plants,” added the company. “This investment is urgently needed given the age of the plants and the under investment in recent years.”
Constructed in the 1970s and 1980s, the Vorotan Complex cascade is the largest power-generating facility still owned by the Armenian state. With an operational capacity of over 400 megawatts, it is nearly as powerful as the Metsamor nuclear plant that accounts for roughly 40 percent of Armenian electricity production.
The Soviet-era hydroelectric plants were supposed to be refurbished with 51 million euros ($66 million) in loans that were provided by a German development bank to Armenia in 2010. Officials said at the time that the modernization will be complete by 2015.
The Armenian Ministry of Energy declined to comment on their possible takeover by ContourGlobal. The Vorotan Complex management also declined a comment when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Energy Minister Armen Movsisian did not deny the plants’ impending privatization when he was confronted by opposition lawmakers in the Armenian parliament on Wednesday.
ContourGlobal operates 33 power plants in 17 countries around the world. Its operational revenues exceeded $1 billion in 2011.
In recent weeks the Vorotan cascade has been at the center of media speculation resulting from ongoing Russian-Armenian negotiations over the price of Russian natural delivered to Armenia. There have been suggestions that Yerevan is ready to grant Russia’s Gazprom giant control over the facility in return for a 30 percent price discount. Energy Minister Movsisian has dismissed this speculation.