The hydro plants – Rioni, Shaori, Lajanuri, Gumati and Dzevruli – are all located in western Georgia and have a combined value estimated at US$20-25M, according to the Interfax news agency.

The privatisation of these plants was considered in 2002, but following a recommendation from the World Bank concerning their poor technical condition, the Georgian government dropped its plans to sell them.

An official from Georgia’s Energy Ministry said that in 2003, the US Agency for International Development was ready to provide Georgia with a grant worth US$15M to carry out urgent repairs at the plants in the run up to their privatisation but the work was never carried out.

The Ministry indicates that there are investors interested in the plants, but it is not yet known whether they will be sold separately or as a whole.

While the privatisation of the five facilities looks likely, more interest centres over the future of the Inguri hydro power plant situated on Georgia’s border with Abkhazia. In meetings with the Georgian prime minister and other officials this week, Andrei Rappoport, deputy chief of Russian power utility Unified Energy Systems (UES) tabled the idea of privatising almost all of Georgia’s power generating assets, including Inguri, the country’s largest hydro plant and the supplier of 45% of its total power supply.

Georgia has yet to decide whether to sell off Inguri, but its fate may be swayed by Russia’s plans for investment in the country’s electricity system. UES is to spend US$9M in Georgia by the end of 2004, with US$5M going towards the rehabilitation of the Tbilisi power grid and US$4M on repairs at the Khrami 1 hydro power plant, said Rappoport.