Turkmenistan looks to boost electrical production, exports

The Central Asian nation in the next 3 years can double its power generation and increase electricity exports by fivefold, analysts say.

By Dzhumaguly Annayev

2013-10-09

ASHGABAT – Turkmenistan is tapping into its huge natural gas reserves to generate electricity for export and domestic consumption, officials say.

The country is poised to become Central Asia's largest producer and supplier of electricity, Jumo Nazarov, a spokesman for the Energy Ministry, told Central Asia Online.

"Yes, it's those gas reserves that have enabled us to produce a special Planning Document for the Development of the Electricity-Generating Industry up to 2020," Jumanazar Karajayev, spokesman for the Council of Trade Unions of Energy Workers, said, referring to a seven-year national power industry development plan adopted in the spring.

As a result, Turkmenistan's electricity production has increased by 138% since 2007 and has reached almost 4,000MW, he said. Ten power stations and 32 steam-gas turbines, most of which came online in the past decade, are producing all of this power.

The government is allocating 14.25m TMT (US $5 billion) toward implementing the plan and building 14 more gas-turbine power stations by 2020, Elina Shumskaya, senior analyst at the Institute of Strategic Planning and Economic Development of Turkmenistan, said.

This "will double the amount currently generated and enable five times as much electricity to be exported", she said.

Whereas four new gas turbine stations built in the past five years in Dashoguz, Akhal and Balkan oblasts were intended for internal consumption, the future power stations will generate electricity for export, Karadzhayev said.

Electricity will become one of Turkmenistan's main export commodities in the coming years, officials with the state-owned Turkmenenergo Co. said. Natural gas is the country's principal export.

"We are now supplying electricity to Afghanistan ... but the questions of diversification of export deliveries will soon be completely solved," Kakageddi Khojageldiyev, a company spokesman, told Central Asia Online, naming Turkey, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Armenia as potential customers.

Turkmenenergo has signed a three-year deal with partners in Turkey for exporting 600m KW there, he said.

Weak link in the chain

While the Energy Ministry and Turkmenenergo are looking to boost electricity exports, officials recognise that delivering electricity to domestic consumers via the national grid is problematic.

"We have more than enough electricity, but our problem is ensuring an uninterrupted and stable delivery to the general public and other domestic consumers," Khojageldiyev said, noting that the main problem was worn-out and outdated power supply lines.

Roughly 70% of street power transmission lines and domestic wiring were built 50 or more years ago, he said. The lines cannot carry heavy loads of electricity and are vulnerable to disruptive surges when consumers plug in various modern appliances like air conditioners, he said.

The dilapidated state of the transformer sub-stations and power supply lines was blamed for a short circuit that led to a late-September fire destroying an apartment building on Gurbandurdyyev Street in Ashgabat.

"And such fires due to wiring faults have been taking place frequently recently," Maksat, a fire-fighter, said.

Nevertheless, problems with the unified power grid can be solved easily through modernisation projects in rural areas that fall under the country's Social and Economic Transformation Programme, officials like Karajayev say.

In the first half of this year alone, workers laid more than 500km of power transmission lines and they plan to lay another 24,000km of new lines by 2020, he said.

In addition, work has started on installing overhead power transmission lines in order to provide 500kV service in the entire power grid, Karajayev said.

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