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‘Energy Bus’ Helps Rural Communities Find Solutions


In Washington:
Georg Schmidt

Phone: +1 (202) 458-2934

Email:
GSchmidt@ifc.org


Washington, D.C., May 3, 2005 — An innovative new project to help impoverished rural communities in Azerbaijan gain access to electricity, the “Energy Bus,” is now up and running, supported by a partnership of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the government of Azerbaijan, oil company BP, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Eurasia Foundation.

The Energy Bus is a mobile source of information on energy conservation and renewable energy generation that travels frequently throughout remote parts of Azerbaijan. It informs local people about proven alternative energy sources and helps them identify long-term, cost-effective solutions. These include simple solar panel water heaters, wind power generators, mini hydro plants, sawdust heaters, biogas units to generate cooking gas, and advice on home insulation and energy efficiency. All technologies are designed to produce energy from inexpensive resources available locally.


IFC's participation in the project comes through the SME Linkage Program associated with its investments in the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field development and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline projects. The linkage program is designed to help local communities see more benefits from the large-scale foreign investment project that carries Caspian Sea oil through Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.


The government of Azerbaijan will lead the project as part of its drive to bring energy to the rural communities. It plans to visit up to 150 villages a year, traveling through most regions of Azerbaijan. The total cost of the project is about $450,000, of which a third is financed by BP, $75,000 by IFC, and the remainder from the other partners.


The project is currently planned to last for two years with possible future extension. It will be managed by the local non-governmental organization Umid, one of the leading groups working to improve social conditions in Azerbaijan.


“IFC is pleased to be involved in this project as part of our larger effort to ensure that local communities and businesses derive real, long-term, and sustainable benefits from our investment in the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan Project,” said Shahbaz Mavaddat, Associate Director of IFC's Southern Europe and Central Asia Department. “This project highlights the need to find solutions which will improve the population's access to energy in Azerbaijan."


“As one of the biggest operators of regional energy projects, BP decided to be involved in the Energy Bus because we saw it as an opportunity to help people get access to low-cost diversified energy resources,” added BP Communication and External Affairs Director Clare Bebbington. “This will raise awareness of potential means of saving energy within communities and also support the Azerbaijan government in its poverty reduction efforts. The project will, where possible, use locally available low cost materials and encourage local companies to create new manufacturing businesses to provide energy saving equipment.”


The mission of IFC
(www.ifc.org) is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses. From its founding in 1956 through FY04, IFC has committed more than $44 billion of its own funds and arranged $23 billion in syndications for 3,143 companies in 140 developing countries. IFC’s worldwide committed portfolio as of FY04 was $17.9 billion for its own account and $5.5 billion held for participants in loan syndications.