Energy system transformation

Renewable energy

Renewable energy resources, including hydro, represented 7.1% of Armenia’s energy mix in 2020. Almost one-third of the country’s electricity generation (30% in 2021) came from renewable sources.

Forming the foundation of Armenia’s renewable energy system as of 6 January 2022 were 189 small, private HPPs (under 30 MW), mostly constructed since 2007. Installed capacity is approximately 389 MW for annual generation of 943 GWh, covering 14% of domestic supply. Several small plants also produce wind power (4.23 MW), bioenergy (0.835 MW) and solar power (56 MW), with limited impact on system supplies.

Vorotan Cascade power generation complex, commissioned during 1970‑1989 and operated by the private company ContourGlobal Hydro Cascade CJSC, has an operating capacity of 404 MW (installed capacity is also 404 MW). Annual generation is approximately 1 000 GWh from three HPPs, covering 15% of domestic supply. Vorotan Cascade’s assets are ageing, however, and require extensive upgrades; a short-term EUR 51‑million rehabilitation plan is therefore under development.

Meanwhile, International Energy Corporation CJSC operates the privately owned Sevan-Hrazdan Cascade complex of hydroelectric plants, with an operating capacity of 552 MW (installed capacity is 561 MW). It was commissioned during 1940‑1962, and annual generation is approximately 450 GWh, or 6% of domestic supply. Various upgrades have been performed since the early 2000s, and one of the seven HPPs (Yerevan HPP) is currently under reconstruction at a cost of USD 40 million.

Constructing small HPPs is Armenia’s favoured course of action to develop the renewable energy sector and secure energy independence. Most designated, under-construction or operational small HPPs are derivational stations on natural water flows. According to licences issued as of 1 January 2022, 20 more small HPPs are under construction, with total projected capacity of 39.3 MW supplying 136.7 million kWh of electricity annually.

According to Protocol Decision No. 3 adopted in January 2009, the scheme to develop small HPPs was approved and recommended to possible investors.

Armenia has significant solar energy potential: average annual solar energy flow per square metre of horizontal surface is 1 720 kWh (the European average is 1 000 kWh), and one-quarter of the country’s territory is endowed with solar energy resources of 1 850 kWh/m2 per year.

Solar thermal energy is therefore developing rapidly in Armenia. Because solar water heating systems not only ensure energy savings but have become cost-effective, they have been installed in nurseries, residential homes and medical facilities through charitable programmes with international funding.

Various low-capacity PV demonstration modules have also been installed: polymeric photoelectric inverters with 9.8 kW of capacity and total surface area of 200 m2 have been assembled on the roof of the Armenian American Wellness Centre, and solar power plants have been installed on the roof of the UN office as well as in the town of Spitak. A solar PV power plant with 100 kW of installed capacity was also built at the Caritas organisation’s Gyumri Day Care Centre for Children and Youth with Multiple Disabilities.

The Renewable Energy Investment Plan for Armenia was approved within the framework of the Climate Investment Funds’ Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Programme (SREP), which has allocated resources to develop up to 110 MW of utility-scale solar PV generation.

Wide implementation of solar PV systems is currently in progress. As of 1 July 2022, around 102.8 MW of solar PV installations (of up to 5 MW each) were in operation. Another batch of grid-connected PV power plants totalling 176.7 MW are under construction, the largest being the Masrik solar PV station with 55 MW of installed capacity. Moreover, more than 6 940 autonomous electricity producers with 136.1 MW of total installed capacity are connected to the distribution grid.

According to the Armenian Wind Atlas developed in 2002‑2003 by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory in collaboration with SolarEn of Armenia, the most favourable areas for grid-connected wind power are classified as 4 to 7 (good to excellent) for wind power resources.

These sites are limited, however, and are located mostly in remote mountain passes at high elevations (2 000 m and higher) with restricted access, resulting in above-average transportation and turbine installation costs. Of the prospective areas, only sites classified as 4 (upper level of the “good” class) and 5 (lower level of the “excellent” class) can be considered realistic for the construction of wind power plants. In 2006‑2007, several local developers and international vendors assessed the total cost of installing wind turbines of up to 195 MW on sites within these two categories as EUR 1.3‑1.6 million/MW.

As of 1 January 2020, wind energy implementation in Armenia was limited. In addition to already-operating wind farms with total installed capacity of 4.23 MW, only one more is under construction with a design capacity of 4 MW.

Investigations have revealed precise geothermal energy source sites for the construction of geothermal power plants. At the Jermaghbyur site, geological and geophysical explorations have found that high-pressure hot water (20‑25 atmospheres, up to 250°C) is available at a depth of 2 500‑3 000 m. If these data are confirmed, it would be possible to construct Armenia’s first geothermal power plant with 25‑MW capacity in this area.

Biomass is not widely used as a power or gas source in Armenia. Annual biogas potential of around 135 mcm is just beginning to be exploited, and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund recently produced an Assessment of Bioethanol Production, Potential Utilization and Perspectives in Armenia exploring possibilities for bioethanol production and presenting the concept to investors. Currently, only one company with 835 kW of installed capacity is producing electricity from biomass.

In 2005, the municipality of Yerevan and Japan’s Shimizu Corporation signed a contract to implement the Nubarashen Solid Waste Landfill Gas Capture and Power Generation Clean Development Mechanism Project in Yerevan. According to Shimizu Corporation calculations, implementation of each phase will result in CO2 emissions reductions equal to at least 56 000 tonnes.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is crucial to Armenia’s economy. Given the country’s extreme dependence on imports for fossil fuel supplies, any energy conserved by citizens, businesses and infrastructure translates into financial savings, reduced pollution and greater energy security. The potential for energy efficiency in all sectors has been repeatedly assessed as high, despite the economy’s relatively low energy intensity. Although the government has taken legal action to promote efficiency through various programmes and policies, potential for efficiency improvements remains largely untapped.

On 24 March 2022, the government of Armenia adopted a decision on Approving the Programme on Energy Saving and Renewable Energy for 2022-2030, the Action Plan Ensuring Implementation of the First Phase (2022-2024) of the Programme on Energy Saving and Renewable Energy for 2022-2030. This is an important step on the pathway to energy efficiency initiated by Armenia in 2004 with its first law on Energy Saving and Renewable Energy.

Last evaluated by the government in 2022, Armenia’s potential for energy efficiency is high. Cumulative energy savings for total final energy consumption will amount to 931 ktoe. Estimates for sectoral energy efficiency potential in the Programme on Energy Saving and Renewable Energy for 2022-2030 are:

  • industry: 19 ktoe
  • transport: 744 ktoe
  • residential: 92 ktoe
  • agriculture: 34 ktoe
  • service sector: 42 ktoe.

Following adoption of its first comprehensive legislation on energy efficiency as part of its 2004 law on Energy Saving and Renewable Energy, Armenia approved a National Programme on Energy Savings and Renewable Energy in 2007 and a National Energy Efficiency Action Plan in 2010. In 2012, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development also helped the former Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources develop a Sustainable Energy Action Plan aimed at developing legislation to promote energy efficiency investments across the economy.

In 2021, several parallel efforts were under way to create a comprehensive policy framework for energy efficiency in Armenia.1 The government’s new National Programme on Energy Saving and Renewable Energy for 2021‑2030 (adopted 24 March 2022) includes Armenia’s main energy efficiency policies and targets to 2030, based on analysis of available 2008‑2020 data.

The government is working to align its policies and market protocols with those of the European Union and of the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Armenia is a treaty member. Indeed, international partners, including development agencies and lenders, play an important role in shaping Armenia’s energy efficiency policy agenda.

Impacting these efforts are several important barriers to energy efficiency policy making in Armenia. Obstacles include gaps in data availability as well as concerns about the quality of available data; limited administrative capacity to develop provisions and enforce compliance; and generally low levels of public awareness on the benefits of energy efficiency. Major political developments, notably the 2018 revolution and the Covid-19 pandemic, have also delayed or disrupted several ongoing energy efficiency policy initiatives.

The legislative framework for organising energy audits is set out in the Law on Energy Savings and Renewable Energy (2004) and its amendments and supplements of 2016, 2017 and 2018, and in the Regulation on Conducting Energy Audits (2006). The government has devised a methodology for conducting voluntary energy audits of buildings and is also developing an Energy Audit Institute. Energy auditor training and advancement have had technical assistance support from international organisations such as the UN Development Programme, the Global Environment Facility and the INOGATE Programme. Energy efficiency certificates for existing buildings should be issued based on energy audits.

To enable the implementation of important instruments such as energy passports and energy audits for buildings, three national standards were developed during 2013-2021 to support better energy performance of buildings:

  • AST 362-2013, on energy conservation, energy passports for buildings, and basic rules
  • AST 371-2016, on the methodology for performing energy audits on residential and public buildings
  • AST ISO/CIE 20086-2020, on lights and lighting, and the energy performance of lighting in buildings.

Furthermore, construction norm RACN 24‐01‐2016 on thermal protection for buildings (a mandatory building code based on Russian norms), approved in 2016, also tightens energy efficiency requirements. It contains building-specific stipulations for heat transfer resistance; energy efficiency characteristics; energy efficiency classes; and energy passports.

Amendments to the law on Energy Saving and Renewable Energy in 2016, as well as Government Resolution No. 426-N of 12 April 2018, established the technical regulations for energy-saving and energy efficiency in newly constructed multi‑apartment buildings, as well as for structures reconstructed/renovated with state funds.

The Procedure for Energy Audits is the norm-setting legal act that regulates energy audits in Armenia. This procedure was approved by Government Decree 1399-N of 31 August 2006 and revised by Decree 1105-N of 4 August 2011 and Decree 1026-N of 10 September 2015.

Its aim is multisectoral (intended primarily for production enterprises) and it evaluates the use of fuel and energy resources in a building. Based on Government Decision No. 1399-N, energy audits should be implemented by an energy auditor certified by an accredited conformity assessment body.

Environmental protection

Four main laws cover priorities and objectives for environmental protection and the rational use of natural resources: the Law on Ambient Air (1994); the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment (1994); the Law on Environmental Fee Rates (2000); and the Law on Environmental Inspectorate (2005). Furthermore, environmental impact assessments are required for specific projects under the Law on Expert Testing of Environmental Impacts (1995). Information on public hearings is published on the Ministry of Nature Protection website.

The Law on Atmosphere, the Law on Waste, the Water Code, the Land Code, the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment and Expertise, the Tax Code, etc. have been developed and are in different stages of adoption. Environmental tax rates and nature utilisation payments will be completely revised and raised.

The Law on Environmental Impact Assessment and Expertise is also being amended. Within the framework of the newly developed draft law, the administrative portion has been simplified, especially for cases in which the planned activity aims to reduce pressure on the environment and eliminate negative effects. Internationally qualified, experienced professionals are expected to be involved so that environmental impact assessments will be carried out more comprehensively, objectively and effectively.

According to draft amendments to the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment, all small hydropower plants, regardless of their size, will be subject to an environmental impact assessment.

Climate change

Armenia has signed and ratified numerous international environmental conventions:

  • the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol (February 2017)
  • the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (February 2017), which entered into force 22 April 2017
  • the UNFCCC (1994) and its Kyoto Protocol (2005)
  • the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1992)
  • the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (1991)
  • the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1989)
  • the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (1983).

Armenia ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2005 as a non-Annex I Party and has implemented a number of Clean Development Mechanism projects. The energy sector accounts for 69.8% of СО2-equivalent emissions according to Armenia's Third Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC.

As part of the UNFCCC Copenhagen Accord in 2009, the Ministry of Nature Protection prepared a list of priority climate change mitigation measures such as investing in renewable energy; modernising thermal power plants; improving energy efficiency; reducing fugitive emissions of methane from gas distribution and supply systems; developing electric transport and increasing the use of natural gas as an engine fuel; curtailing methane emissions from solid municipal waste; and enforcing degraded forest restoration, reforestation, reduced logging and conservation.

Armenia’s energy-related CO2 emissions totalled 7.1 Mt in 2017 – one-third (31.2%) the emissions of 1990, mainly owing to a strong decline after dissolution of the Soviet Union. Transport accounts for 25% of energy-related CO2 emissions, followed by power generation (18%), the residential sector (18%), the commercial sector (8%), manufacturing (7%) and agriculture (1%). There are also 23% fugitive emissions from natural gas.

Technology research, development and deployment

Research and development (R&D) in energy technology and innovation in Armenia is not significant, though it is becoming more important. The government’s plan to develop new renewable energy technologies will increase the need for technology and innovation funding, and for skilled human resources. Greater R&D activity will benefit from the country’s highly skilled labour force, particularly in the fields of science and information technology.

Approximately 65 research institutes and universities were involved in state-financed programmes and projects in Armenia in 2020. According to the government, its R&D priorities are in the social sciences and humanities, life sciences, renewable and new energy sources, information technologies, space and earth sciences, and applied research.

  1. It is important to note that the Covid-19 pandemic has redirected attention away from energy efficiency policy making in Armenia and slowed progress in this area, with some funding streams initially earmarked for efficiency programmes diverted to pandemic response.