Kambar-Ata-1 HPP, wayout of Kyrgyzstan’s electricity crisis

By: Aynur Jafarova

Lack of electricity remains one of the most important issues for Kyrgyzstan with its 5.5 million-population. The problem becomes more severe in winter when the average temperature often falling below zero.

And after neighboring Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which export electricity and gas to Kyrgyzstan, reduce their energy supply due to a drop in air temperature-which led to an increase in domestic gas consumption- the problem becomes more and more drastic.

So, resolving this problem has become one of the top priorities of the government. The local and international experts believe construction of the hydro power plants (HPPs) is a wayout of this problem. From this point of view, Kambar-Ata-1 HPP is again on the agenda.

In his recent interview with local TV channels, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev said the funds for the construction of Kambar-Ata-1 HPP will be provided fully by Russia.

“There are several issues on Kambar-Ata which have not yet been resolved. And when we say that Russia is experiencing a financial deficit, I would like to make a clarification: a deficit is not experienced by the Russian Federation, but by some Russian companies; the funds for the projects are designated by international agreements, and they will be allocated duly,” he noted on December 1.

The president has repeatedly said that works on the second unit of Kambar-Ata HPP will be completed by 2016, and it will work at full capacity.

It is believed that if constructed, the Kambar-Ata HPP-1 will pave the way for Kyrgyzstan to gain absolute energy independence in the near future, and electricity generated at this plant can be used both to meet the demands of the country and even exported to neighboring countries.

However, several issues on the construction of the HPP remain unresolved. The Kyrgyz side insists on building dams with a power capacity of 1.9 GWt per year while Russia proposes the capacity of 850 MWt per year. This issue has not been resolved yet.

Also, the implementation of the Kambar-Ata HPP-1 project is hampered by political instability in Kyrgyzstan. The political instability in Kyrgyzstan is a common feature of politics in this country and the investment climate in the country is very hard. Investors and even representatives of small and medium-sized businesses of Turkey, Iran, Kazakhstan and other countries avoid making investments in the country. So, Kyrgyzstan has not found any other investors besides Russia for the Kambar-Ata HPP-1 project. And now the abovementioned problems are among the main reasons behind Russia’s delay to launch the project.

Another problem is Uzbekistan’s concerns over the construction of Kambar-Ata HPP-1. This country has repeatedly expressed concern over the construction of hydropower facilities in neighboring countries, which may affect water and energy balance in the region.

So, Kyrgyzstan should not rely solely on hydropower, but the country with about 1.4 billion tons of coal in its deposits also needs to develop coal power plants. Kyrgyz experts believe that Kyrgyzstan’s energy problem will be resolved by using coal instead of gas in industry, heating and electricity production.