YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia can attract billions of dollars in investments from U.S. energy companies if it liberalizes its energy sector, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, Richard Mills, insisted on Wednesday.

Mills stood by his recent statement that such investments could total as much as $8 billion. “That figure is the potential amount that can be invested here if the electricity markets are fully open, if there is free competition, and if there are no obstacles to energy exports to Georgia and Iran,” he told reporters.

“This is very important and infrastructure needs to be in place to do that,” he said.

Mills said the figure is based on the Armenian Energy Ministry’s estimates which the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan believes are realistic. “Some of this $8 billion investment is building that infrastructure,” he said, referring to power transmission facilities that would allow for greater electricity supplies to Georgia.

According to Mills, U.S. investments could also be channeled into renewable energy. “Armenia has a lot of potential for renewable energy development and American investors and companies are showing a strong interest in coming here to develop that potential,” the diplomat explained.

One U.S. company, ContourGlobal, is already involved in the Armenian energy sector, having purchased the country’s largest hydroelectric complex, two years ago. The U.S. government strongly supported the $250 million takeover of the Vorotan Hydropower Cascade.

State-run Russian companies still have much stronger presence in the sector. They are Armenia’s principal suppliers of natural gas and nuclear fuel.

Mills revealed that Armenian Energy Minister Ashot Manukian suggested two investment projects then they met recently. He said they relate to hydropower and electricity generation from waste heat. Mills did not elaborate, saying only that the proposals will be presented to potential American investors.

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