Nataly Mouravidze: EBRD remains committed to supporting Azerbaijan’s renewable energy ambitions

Nataly Mouravidze: EBRD remains committed to supporting Azerbaijan’s renewable energy ambitions

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is currently exploring potential collaborations with several Azerbaijani banks for the year 2023 and beyond, noted Nataly Mouravidze, Head of EBRD operations in Azerbaijan, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Trend.

“One of our key objectives in Azerbaijan is to strengthen local financial institutions so that they can in turn ensure that the private sector can readily access the necessary finance for its growth. We are actively driving the growth of financial markets as well,” she said.

Moreover, according to Mouravidze, the bank is also looking to expand its involvement in trade finance and lending to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

“Our focus for the upcoming years will be on bolstering competitiveness, promoting green finance initiatives, supporting women in business, and boosting youth employment. There is still plenty of work ahead to help SMEs truly thrive in Azerbaijan,” the head of EBRD operations noted.

Furthermore, Mouravidze pointed out that the EBRD is ready to review the country strategy for Azerbaijan.

“Azerbaijan is working on creating more opportunities for investors who want to tap into its rich natural resources, strategic location and a growing private sector. As outlined in the country’s vision for 2030, today’s Azerbaijan prioritizes market-oriented reforms, business-friendly governance and trade liberalization,” she said.

According to Mouravidze, the EBRD’s next country strategy will take all these tenets in consideration. The review period is approaching fast and the bank is already preparing to engage with authorities, clients and partners.

“What I can say with confidence at this stage is that diversification and greening of Azerbaijan’s economy and our efforts to expand local businesses’ access to finance are set to remain top priorities for our work in the country,” she noted.

Speaking further, the head of EBRD operations said that the bank remains in close contact with different developers who are planning to implement new renewable energy projects in Azerbaijan.

“We are very proud to have supported the first privately owned, utility-scale solar power plant in Garadagh. The installed capacity there will be 230 megawatts. Nevertheless, we do not want to stop there. We are also working with Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Energy to develop the renewable energy auctions scheme and we expect the launch of the first renewable energy auction later this year. We remain steadfast in our support of Azerbaijan’s renewable energy ambitions declared through the country’s resolute Paris Agreement commitments,” she said.

In regard with other renewable energy initiatives, Mouravidze noted that the EBRD is following the developments on the Black Sea submarine cable initiative with great interest.

“It is a very ambitious project aiming to link Azerbaijan and Georgia with European power grids. As of now, we know that the project is in its exploratory phase, but we are fully prepared to explore potential investments not only in this endeavor, but also in other grid-related projects throughout the region in general, and Azerbaijan in particular. Investment in strengthening Azerbaijan’s power grid is a key to the growth of the country’s nascent renewable energy sector,” she explained.

Moreover, as the head of EBRD operations in Azerbaijan noted, the country is also capable of producing environmentally friendly hydrogen.

“We have been working with Azerbaijani authorities since 2022 to assess the potential for a low-carbon hydrogen economy in the country. The study showed that Azerbaijan is more than capable of producing renewable hydrogen, which can in turn support local decarbonization and provide cost-competitive renewable fuels to high-demand regions like the European Union. Now, the next step would be to develop a national hydrogen strategy that prioritizes sustainable development laws and frameworks to incentivize the production of low-carbon hydrogen. The country will also need to align such a strategy with relevant international laws and regulations. Afterward, works could begin on expanding the renewable energy production and further developing the electricity grid, both in line with the future demand of course,” the official explained.

Mouravidze believes that the EBRD and Azerbaijan’s cooperation has yet to reach its full potential.

“Throughout three decades of our work in Azerbaijan, we have built a very strong relationship with the government, the private sector and other stakeholders. Recently, there have been numerous success stories like our Green Cities programme in Ganja, investment in Aztelekom and financing of the first utility scale solar power plant in Garadagh. Our policy dialogue with the ministries of the economy, finance, energy, education, and other state institutions have been quite fruitful as well. I am confident that we can do more, and the key priority for me during my tenure here will be to capitalize on these building blocks to strengthen this longstanding partnership between the EBRD, the government, and the private sector of Azerbaijan,” Nataly Mouravidze concluded.