Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Yerevan, Armenia

MS. HERMINE BAGHDASARYAN (via interpretation)Thank you very much. I will just ask two questions. There are a lot of projects that USAID is implementing in the energy sector. How are the projects supported by USAID contributing to increasing Armenia's energy independence? Because in the sector of thermal energy, we’re dependent on natural gas and in other sectors we’re dependent on other resources. So how is USAID contributing toward Armenia’s energy independence?

ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Well, stepping back for a second from the energy sector, let me just say that in recent years, what one hears loud and clear from the Armenian people that I've had a chance to engage with from the leadership, really across the spectrum politically in Armenia, is a fierce desire for independence – independence of all kinds. And I think the energy sector is one of the most dramatic examples of a situation where Armenians don't feel like they are in control of their own destiny. And so diversification is extremely important. 

Knowing this, USAID has invested in the analysis undergirding Armenia's new energy strategy, which aims to diversify the sources of energy on which it draws. So it is not so dependent on external sources, so that it can take advantage of the incredible sunshine that the Armenian people get to enjoy every day. So that it can think about nuclear power in a modern way to make sure that its nuclear capacity is sufficient as part, again, of a diversified portfolio. So that is, I think, one really important example, is supporting this longer term strategy. 

In the near term, already, we have been partnering with the government to try to de-monopolize the sources of electricity. When consumers are dependent on just a single source, it makes them very vulnerable every year to the whims of that source, of that monopoly. And so, even though, you know, this is a work in progress, it will take some time to cover all Armenians, having an electricity market where consumers have reliability and they have a choice, and ultimately, they will have, also, inexpensive prices – that is what we are working toward, where no one company has a monopoly on people's electricity choices.

There are a large number of industrial-size consumers of electricity who are already using the market. But it is going to take a little bit of time to where it meets the needs of ordinary consumers.

MS. BAGHDASARYAN (via interpretation)How has USAID support to Armenia's energy sector specifically addressed the need for skilled workforce development and what are the implications for the country's future?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, we are filming actually in the National Polytechnic, in what will open in September, which is a new USAID-funded Energy Development Lab. And this is a lab in which students and faculty will get exposure again to those modern tools and technical insights that are needed to bring about that energy diversification.

If the Prime Minister's [Nikol Pashinyan] goal of getting to 50 percent of renewables by 2030 is to be brought into reach, it is going to take young people getting skilled, but not only that, people are already active in the workforce, getting retooled, and those are the kinds of initiatives that USAID has supported in the past year in this country, does support here at National Polytechnic, and will support as this effort accelerates in the coming years. 

One of the other things that we are doing here at Polytechnic is partnering with the university to get launched internship programs. Because it is one thing to learn in a classroom, it is quite another thing to actually work at a utility or to work at a new, renewable company, you know, at a startup, and then to bring what you've learned out in the work world back to the classroom. So we want to see more of that movement to and from the practical domains to the classroom. 

And we know that Armenia has struggled over some time to keep its young people in Armenia. The talent of young people here is something that people know about all around the world, because of the diaspora. And that's a good thing – all of that talent. But it would be an amazing next decade if the economy here, if the workforce development could equip the Armenian young people with the skills they need. And if the economy itself would grow job opportunities to make it attractive for Armenia’s best to stay right here in Armenia. And I think the energy sector is a great example of where that can happen – where it's a massive area of growth and diversification, requiring a very specific set of skills, that if we and Armenian universities can partner together, those universities can equip those young people with those skills.

MS. BAGHDASARYAN (via interpretation)Administrator Power, Thank you very much. 


Administrator Power Travels to Armenia - July 2024


Administrator Samantha Power traveled to Armenia from July 8 to July 11 to affirm the United States' deepening partnership with Armenia, highlight USAID's support for the Government of Armenia's reform agenda, and advance efforts to enhance Armenia's resilience.

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