A newly constructed solar power plant in Talin, in 2017

Armenian Solar Power Project in Limbo

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By Nane Sahakian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — An Abu Dhabi-based company appears to have put on hold plans to build Armenia’s first massive solar power plant.

The Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, also known as Masdar, won in 2021 an international tender for the construction of the 200-megawatt plant near Talin, a small town 67 kilometers outside of Yerevan.

Masdar pledged to invest $174 million in the plant, 85 percent of which it would own. The Armenian National Interests Fund (ANIF), a government agency tasked with attracting foreign investment, was due to control the remaining minority stake.

The facility was initially expected to be built by the end of 2023 and ANIF said it was expected to start generating electricity in 2025.

No signs of construction or preparations for it are now visible on the 500 hectares of land set aside for the solar power plant.

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Commenting on the delay, ANIF said late last week that “processes preceding the construction” are ongoing. A construction company capable of implementing the project has still not been chosen, it told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

“The program will not be suspended,” insisted the Armenian Ministry of Economy. It gave no reason for the delay, saying vaguely that “the remaining issues are under discussion.”

The solar energy project was by far the biggest foreign investment attracted by ANIF since its creation in May 2019. Unimpressed by its track record, the Armenian government initiated an ANIF management overhaul in January this year before deciding to liquidate the fund altogether.

The decision was clearly also influenced by the collapse of another Armenian-Emirati joint venture. An airline set up by the United Arab Emirates-based carrier Air Arabia and ANIF in 2021 was stripped of its Armenian operating license in March two months after discontinuing all commercial flights to and from Yerevan.

A Fly Arna plane lands at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport on an inaugural flight, June 10

Although Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan claims to have eliminated “systemic” corruption and created a level playing field for all businesses, virtually no large-scale Western investment projects have been launched in Armenia during his rule.

In 2018, Pashinyan’s newly installed government helped to effectively disrupt a multimillion-dollar gold mining project launched by a British-American company and strongly opposed by local environmentalists. In 2022, it controversially rejected a $300 million bid by a consortium of French companies to build a big ski resort on the slopes of Armenia’s highest mountain, Aragats. The government approved instead a more modest project proposed by an obscure Russian-Armenian businessman for the same location. That project is also reportedly in limbo now.

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