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Tajikistan enters Afghan energy market
Tajikistan could become major regional electricity exporter
By Dilafruz Nabiyeva
After construction delays, Tajikistan finally began regular exports of electricity to Kabul this September.
The Sangtuda-Pul-i-Khumri project aims to boost electrical supply and will allow Tajikistan to export up to 300MW of surplus energy during the summer. The 220kV power line crosses 118 km in Tajikistan and 163km in Afghanistan.
Tajikistan will limit exports to the summer during the next two to three years because Tajikistan needs all of its generating capacity for itself during the winter months, when domestic demand increases and production declines. Tajikistan typically faces winter shortages of 4 billion kWh of electricity.
Currently Tajikistan is supplying Afghanistan 15MW daily, Nozirjon Yedgori, spokesman for the Tajik energy holding company Barki Tojik, said.
Exports were delayed; presidents intervened
Electricity exports were supposed to start somewhat earlier under a contract the two countries signed in 2008 guaranteeing a set amount of electricity and allowing potential extra deliveries of electricity.
“According to the guaranteed part of the contract, Tajikistan (was supposed to export to) Afghanistan 20GWh of electricity in August and 25GWh in September,” Yedgori said. The variable part of the contract allowed for an additional 5GWh in August and 8GWh in September (if infrastructure permitted), he said.
Electrical energy exports haven’t reached full capacity because two substations in Kunduz and Pul-i-Khumri, Afghanistan, are still under construction.
“According to the original contract, two substations should have (already) been built ...,” Yedgori said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon discussed energy exports in early September. Negotiations hit an impasse because Afghanistan did not complete the two substations and considered importing Uzbek energy, which is available year-round.
However, the parties came to an agreement, noting the project’s economic importance for both countries.
Exporting electricity will be beneficial for Tajikistan even if the country faces an energy shortage because it needs to maintain a presence in the regional energy market, Bahram Sirojev, honorary chairman of the Association of Power Engineers of Tajikistan and academician of the Moscow-based International Academy of Engineering, said.
Cheaper than Uzbek power
Afghanistan will be paying Tajikistan US $0.035 per kW, the Tajik Energy and Industry Ministry said.
The transmission line will open a door for Tajikistan to Pakistan’s energy market and will provide northern Afghanistan with cheap energy, Tajik observers said.
Uzbekistan now provides Afghanistan electricity year-round, but within a few years, it will not be able to compete with Tajikistan since Tajik hydropower plants produce cheaper energy than the thermoelectric power plants Uzbekistan uses, Sirojev predicted.
“Even if, in 10 years, we are able to use only 20% of our energy capacity, this will still transform Tajikistan into a major energy exporter,” said Suhrob Sharipov, director of Tajikistan’s Centre for Strategic Studies. “In turn, cheap Tajik electricity will stimulate economic recovery for our neighbour.”
For Tajikistan, the transmission line to Afghanistan is the first step in capturing the Asian market, Vafo Niyatbejov, a leading foreign policy analyst at the Centre for Strategic Studies, said.
Pakistan, notorious for frequent blackouts and brownouts, is next in line for inexpensive electricity. Afghanistan and Pakistan’s joining of the large regional CASA-1000 project testifies to this need, he said.
CASA-1000 is the flagship project of the Central Asia-South Asia Regional Electricity Market (CASAREM). The project seeks to create a power transmission system from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The system will be a public-private partnership, with 90% of the funding coming from international financial institutions (such as the Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and World Bank) and 10% from private investors.
Participating countries discussed CASA-1000 September 19 in Bishkek.
The export of electricity to Afghanistan is a great achievement for Tajikistan as it prepares to open up the promising Afghan market, Mirzosharif Islomiddinov, a former Tajik MP, said.
“I am quite sure that in the near future Tajikistan will become a major player in Central Asia’s energy market,” he said. “And this is the first step, which has given our country the ability to call itself a supplier of cheap and environmentally clean energy in the region.”