Kabul, Afghanistan – While the current leadership struggles to shape political and economic crisis in the country, the Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) said Afghanistan owes more than $100 million for electricity imported from neighboring nations.
Currently, 73% of Afghan power supply is imported—22% from Iran, 4% from Tajikistan, 17% from Turkmenistan, and 57% from Uzbekistan, according to sources.
Akhtar Mohammad Nusrat, a spokesman for the ministry, said that banks in Central Asian countries, especially Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, were having difficulty transferring money, which has prevented Breshna’s debts from being paid.
“Uzbekistan has its own problems, we want to pay, but the problem is in the banks,” Nusrat said, as TOLOnews quoted.
As Uzbekistan and Tajikistan share a bigger portion, the former head of Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) Amanullah Ghalib says the country pays about $300 million a year to Central Asian countries to buy electricity.
“Afghanistan buys most of its electricity from Uzbekistan. It is about 108 million dollars a year. The problem now is the payment of the bills,” he said, adding Ukraine war has complicated the banking process for neighboring countries.
Meanwhile, Kabul residents criticizes governments approach in buying energy from neighboring countries, saying Afghanistan has water resources that could solve the need for domestic power.
“Electricity is one of the basic necessities of the people, governments are obliged to provide electricity,” said Noor Agha, a resident of Kabul. “Despite abundant water resources, it is itself a major problem for the government to import electricity from Uzbekistan,”
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Previously, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said that Afghanistan imported more than 80 percent of its electricity from neighboring countries and that if those countries cut off their electricity, the homes of more than ten million Afghans would go dark.
In an effort to maximize the use of country’s raw materials, the Taliban government attempts to increase its energy production from coals in industrial operations – a natural resource Afghanistan has in abundant.
First Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abul Ghani Baradar, in a statement last month, ordered respective departments to produce more energy using coal, maximizing the utmost potentials of local resources.
Chairing the economic commission, Baradar called for concerning departments and ministries across the country to “set priorities according to the volume of coal and the need for electricity”, encouraging immediate actions on the new plan, according to a statement from his office, as TOLOnews quoted.
“The commission instructed the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Chamber of Industry and Mines, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Investment, under the leadership of the Ministry of Energy and Water, to generate electricity from coal in industrial parks, large cities and other such areas,” the statement read.
Energy in Afghanistan
Afghanistan currently generates over 600 megawatts (MW) of electricity from its several hydroelectric plants as well as using fossil fuel and solar panels. Over 670 MW more is imported from neighboring Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Energy in Afghanistan is provided by hydropower followed by fossil fuel and solar power. According to Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), approximately 35% of Afghanistan’s population has access to electricity, which covers the major cities in the country.
Many rural areas do not have access to 24-hour electricity but this should change after the major CASA-1000 project is completed.
The Central Asia-South Asia power project, commonly known by the acronym CASA-1000, is a $1.16 billion project currently under construction that will allow for the export of surplus hydroelectricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and finally to Pakistan.
Groundbreaking for the project took place in May 2016 by leaders of the four nations. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2023.