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Uzbekenergo unhappy with Tajikistan’s energy export strategy

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Tajikistan has placed itself in direct competition with Uzbekistan as a supplier of electric power. From August this year, Tajikistan has agreed to supply electricity to Afghanistan through the new Sangtud-Puli-Khumri power line, an Uzbekenergo spokesman says.

At the end of July, the Tajik energy company Barki Tochik and the Afghan company Breshna agreed to begin transmitting electricity along the new Sangtuda-Puli-Khumri line, the Afganistan.ru website claims.

Tajikistan will begin exporting power to Afghanistan in August, but electricity will only be supplied during the summer months, because Tajikistan usually experiences power shortages in winter.

For the first month, Afghanistan will receive a guaranteed 20 MW/h and an additional 5 MW/h optional. In September, Tajikistan’s supply of electricity rises to a guaranteed 25 MW/h and a further 8 MW/h optional.

The amount of power Tajikistan is supplying to Afghanistan over six months is less than Uzbekistan supplied to Afghanistan for the whole of 2010.

After a new power transmission line was launched in 2009, Uzbekistan became Afghanistan’s main energy supplier, initially supplying round-the-clock electricity to the capital Kabul.

But for Uzbekenergo, finding itself up against two new competitors in the form of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is a source of great concern to this state run energy corporation, an Uzbekenergo employee told Uznews.net.

“The Sangtuda-Puli-Khumri power line is only the start of it: if the project is an economic success, then our neighbours have every chance of becoming the main electricity exporters to Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.

In his opinion, the Tajik-Afghan project may not generate particularly healthy returns in its early stages because Tajikistan is offering electricity at “dumping prices” to its neighbour in the south. Barki Tochik wants to sell the electricity at 3.5 cents per kW, the source claimed, whereas Uzbekistan’s prices are no lower than 7.5 cents per kW.

This cut-price electricity is highly attractive for Afghanistan and may even persuade the country to turn to Tajikistan exclusively for its energy supplies in future, he said, and added that if the project to build the Rogun hydroelectric power station is successful, Tajikistan will be able to increase its energy exports considerably.

Tashkent is worried not only by Tajikistan’s decision to begin supplying electricity to Afghanistan, but also by the fact that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are actively progressing the CASA-1000 project, which envisages the construction of a high-voltage electricity line from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Pakistan via Afghan territory.

Tajik electricity engineers say that Barki Tochik would be able to export more than 2,000 MW/h to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the summer months if the CASA-1000 project is successful.

If this becomes a reality, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will generate greater revenues by supplying cut-price electricity than Uzbekistan does by supplying relatively small amounts but charging a much higher tariff, they claim.

“If the arrangement goes ahead, Uzbekistan will only retain an advantage over its competitors in winter, when electricity production in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is considerably reduced,” our expert source said.

He believes that the start-up of electricity exports from Tajikistan to Afghanistan will give Tashkent even more incentive to lobby against the construction of the Rogun hydroelectric power plant and will provide additional tension to already strained Uzbek-Tajik relations.

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