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With Uzbekistan’s withdrawal on Dec. 1 from the United Central Asian Energy System, which consisted of 83 thermal and hydroelectric power stations in five countries, the network has ceased to exist.
TASHKENT ― With Uzbekistan’s withdrawal on Dec. 1 from the United Central Asian Energy System (UCAES), which consisted of 83 thermal and hydroelectric power stations in five countries, the network has ceased to exist.
Uzbekistan is located in the heart of the region, and electricity was therefore transferred between UCAES member countries across its territory. The system shielded member states from the effects of spikes in demand and seasonal variations in river levels, which had previously had a marked impact on their domestic supply capabilities.
Uzbekistan’s claim that it provided adequate notice in September and October that it would withdraw from the UCAES on Dec. 1 caused bewilderment in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz National Electricity Grid Deputy Director Murat Durusaliyev said that while the Uzbek government made several announcements regarding its withdrawal in October, subsequent bilateral talks indicated the issue had been taken off the agenda.
Most power stations in the region have been in operation for more than half a century, with worn-out equipment that does not meet current capacity requirements. Outdated power lines are causing yearly electricity losses of 11 percent in Tajikistan, or four billon megawatts (MW), and up to 42 percent in Kyrgyzstan, or more than two billion MW.
The UCAES helped alleviate many of these problems, but countries in the region will now have to face them again. The Kazakh government is considering unification with Russia’s national grid. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are doing everything possible to speed up the construction of their domestic hydroelectric power stations along rivers in the mountains. In particular, the company responsible for completing the Rogun hydroelectric plant in Tajikistan is intensifying its efforts, but the rivers are fed by Tian Shan glaciers, which over the past century have lost 35 percent of their mass.
Uzbekistan, which has flat terrain, is relying on thermal power plants that now generate 40 percent of Central Asia’s electricity. Efforts to upgrade the Syr Darya, Navoi, Talimarjan, Mubarek and Tashkent thermal power plants, the largest of their kind in their region, are well underway. Their total capacity will increase by around 900 MW by next year. “We will then be able to offer electricity to our neighbours, not through the UCAES, but on a bilateral basis,” said Shukhrat Hamidov, a manager at Uzbekenergo.