ARMENIAN AND IRANIAN ENERGY ministers have announced that the two countries will expand their seasonal trade in electricity and will move forward with the joint construction of the Arax hydroelectric power plant.

The announcement came after a three day official visit to Armenia by Habibollah Bitaraf, Iran’s energy minister. The hydro plant is to be constructed on the Arax river, on the border between the two countries.

Officials from the two countries have been conducting feasibility studies on the hydro plant for some time. The energy ministers said they have already agreed in principle to go ahead with the project, which is estimated to cost some US$35M.

The seasonal trade in electricity between the two countries was started in 1998 and has since totalled 1.3BkWh, or approximately US$40M. Armenia imports electricity from Iran in the winter, when Iran’s hydro power plants operate at a low load factor. Iran’s seasonal demand reaches its peak during the hot summer months and imports it from Armenia where the summer peak is low.

The increased power trading scheme is to start in August 2002 with the opening of a new power exchange facility in Armenia, near the Iranian border.