Central Asia facing new power crisis

By bne IntelliNews November 28, 2012

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Central Asia is facing a new power crisis as shortages in both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan put the shared electricity grid under unbearable pressure. Kazakhstan is now threatening to withdraw from the system altogether.

Kazakh grid operator Kegoc announced on November 27 that Uzbekistan will pay it a $15m penalty due to its illegal siphoning of power over a number of months. However, the payment does not solve the issue and unauthorised withdrawals are continuing. Kyrgyzstan, usually a net electricity exporter, cut exports in September, as it faces a growing energy crisis at home. That puts further pressure on Kazakhstan to make up the shortfall.

A spokesperson for Kegoc, Marat Mukhamedsaliyev, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Tashkent has agreed to make the payment after illegally siphoning off electricity since 2011.

Uzbekistan has introduced rolling electricity blackouts across the country, with the power turned off for one or two hours a day in Tashkent and until 6pm in other cities. Rural areas are receiving no electricity at all, and many towns have no heating. In addition to the electricity shortage, a lack of gasoline has resulted in mile-long queues at petrol stations, and cutbacks to public transport.

Kyrgyzstan is also struggling to supply its population with heat and electricity, which has caused the country to cut its electricity exports to both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan cut electricity generation in September to conserve water in its reservoirs, resulting in a fall in electricity exports of over 1bn kWh to 1.5bn kWh.

The start of the heating season has put further pressure on Kyrgyzstan's energy sector, with gas imports from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan having been cut due to the debts run up by the struggling government.

The mounting problems are now putting pressure on Kazakhstan's electricity grid. Kegoc has had to reduce electricity exports to Russia, and use the power plants in the north of the country to meet domestic demand, CA-News reports.

Kegoc has repeatedly threatened to quit the common grid, which was set up to manage the inter-linked Central Asian electricity grids after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, Bishkek is seeking to persuade Kazakhstan to remain within the system, at least until construction of the Datka-Kemin power line - which will connect the Kazakh and Kyrgyz powr grids - is completed in late 2014.

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