We are in a country where demand for energy is at its highest during the winter when the power sector of Afghanistan records its peak load in the season. The sector had been supplying quite uninterrupted energy to its consumers until the year 2012, but since then there has been seasonal power shortage across the country. The question is why the sector has been failing for past few years to avail sufficient energy to consumers?
One way to look at this problem is our unhealthy social attitude. To better understand this problem we need to look into it in terms of four major provider and consumer of the energy sector, namely the Power Sector, State, Donors, and People.
The Power Sector:
There are mainly two government organs involved in this sector; The Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), and Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS). DABS or Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat is an autonomous organ and is no longer functioning directly under the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW); rather it holds the shares from four ministries, i.e. Ministry of Finance (45%), Ministry of Energy and Water (35%), Ministry of Economy (10%) and Ministry of Urban Development Affairs (10%). We will analyze the role of both the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), and Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS)’s decision makers regarding these blackouts and why they should be held accountable.
- While extending transmission lines for the imported electricity from neighbouring countries to the capital Kabul, it wasn’t designed for the current level of loads. The Maximum capacity of the transmission lines doesn’t cross beyond 380MW at the exporter’s side while these lines in their paths provide energy to many provinces. Loading these lines beyond the above mentioned capacity will certainly cause their melt down. They are also extended in 220KV transmission mode which is not suitable for distances beyond 330Km, while distance between Uzbekistan and Kabul is roughly 700Km, and nowadays this calculation error costs DABS more than 50MW line losses during the peak hours. This loss would have dropped to one fourth of it had they extended it in 500KV transmission mode. The extension of these lines was carried out directly under the supervision of the Ministry of Energy and Water. Either the ministry couldn’t predict such levels of load in less than a decade or it didn’t want to go that far. In other words it shows either incompetency or insincerity.
- When finally the imported energy arrived, it has a maximum capacity and could not cross its maximum value due to the above mentioned limitations. It needed a master plan for distribution. DABS should have expanded its network in the context of the energy it could avail to the people. However, the network has been expanded so fast and so unrestricted, without even slightly considering the ratings of the power equipment, causing the overload of its 70% equipment and almost the loss of control over the expansions of distribution network. DABS’s decision maker.
understand this fact that their positions are not stable and are floating over the political river. Therefore they never think or plan long term projects instead they favour short term projects and superficial results so that they would be honoured and appreciated while they are still in power, forgetting the future thinking that why to work for the day whentheywon’tbesittingintheircurrentpositions?!.
- DABS failure in accurately forecasting the load, and then maintaining balance between its generation, consumption and the seasonal impact on the two, are the other significant factors involved behind these blackouts.
- Kabul has more than seventy of 15KV feeders for distribution, while less than 10 of them are the actual priority or category lines which must be excused from load shedding (outages). DABS management and some staff have excused more than half of the Kabul from load shedding for unknown reasons, which means the other half must pay for it too apart from its own share of load shedding. This not only caused problem for middle class citizens but also created a kind of electricity mafia in the network.
- State includes all government, Parliament and judiciary employees. Some of these employees misusing their power, pressure DABS for providing them 24 hour electricity. Their direct interference has entirely disturbed the distribution process.
- The State in general and government in particular sees DABS only a good source of income, while forgetting to address its problems at all.
Unlike many speculations, donors never support reliable and long term projects in Afghanistan. They impose irrational limitations and conditions before and during the implementation of projects. They don’t just hand over money to the authorities. For example, few years ago USAID announced that it will help Afghanistan’s energy sector. They set up many conditions on the government of Afghanistan and then all it helped was some Diesel and Diesel Generators to Afghanistan.
Ultimately, it’s the people who face the problem. On one hand, they are expected to cooperate with DABS and honestly implement the ban imposed by DABS of using heavy current drawing home appliances (such as heaters and etc.) during load peak hours. On the other hand our people have been subject to many difficulties and injustices. Their social attitude has become very unhealthy. They never use the proper approach for solving their problems. Instead of cooperation and paying their share for reform they opt to attacking DABS’slowerhandemployees,whichforsurenotonlycan’t solve the
problem but further worsen it. This pressure on the employees will get them into the corruption as well.
How to reduce the impact of these shortcomings?
The problem is not that small to root it out in a day or two. However, steps can be taken to reduce its impact. Here are some suggestions:
- The President of Afghanistan can appoint a skillful committee to investigate the matter, particularly the load shedding process.
- His Excellency can also pressure both DABS and MEW to form a joint commission for finding a way out. It could be immediate extension of new transmission lines to some parts of the country, or accelerating the already proposed projects of Turkmen and Kirgiz electricity.
- Until the problem is resolved in the coming years, DABS should halt all its utilization networks expansion. Instead it should work on the reliability and relief of its transformers and existing lines from overloading to the existing customers.
Note: This article represents only my personal view. The criticism is positive and constructive in nature and is not meant to target any specific person. It is only intended to motivate reforms.
By Sayed Abdullah Sadat