Central Asia Faces an Energy Crisis Due to Fall in Water Level in Rivers

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CABAR.asia reports that power crisis in Kyrgyzstan has gained momentum in recent years.  Electricity produced within the country reportedly fails to cover the needs of the population, and the country faces energy shortages.  Electricity imports rise every year.  

Energy in Kyrgyzstan is reportedly being produced by over thirty public and private hydropower plants and two thermal power plants.  Hydropower stations have been the main source of energy in the country in the last ten years – they produce over 85 percent of energy consumed in the country. However, energy production has declined in recent years.

According to Kyrgyzstan’s National Statistical Committee, total energy production by hydropower plants in 2018 was 14.3 billion kWh, while it dropped to 11.9 billion kWh in 2022.

Due to the reduced energy production and growth in consumption, Kyrgyzstan has to import electricity from neighboring countries. And imports have risen in the last 2 years. 16 percent of total consumed power was imported in 2022.  

The Ministry of Energy of Kyrgyzstan urges people to save electricity and not to exceed a 5 kWh limit, which, according to them, is enough for domestic needs of people. If the limit is exceeded, electricity could be switched off for 1-1.5 hours.  

In 2018, public hydropower plants produced over 14.2 billion kWh of energy, 40 percent of which was produced by Toktogul HPP. But in 2022, total power production by public HPPs reduced to 11.8 billion kWh, and Toktogul HPP produced only 36 per cent of total production.

This is due to the fall in water level in the reservoir. Toktogul HPP, just like most large-scale HPPs of Kyrgyzstan, was built on River Naryn, which begins on Issyk-Kul. The river’s volume affects the power system of the country. Inflow, outflow and total volume of water at Toktogul HPP have been recorded every day since 2019. According to this data, the level of water has declined substantially in the last five years.

Kyrgyzstan is one of the largest areas of glaciation in Central Asia. Almost all mountain ranges have glaciers. But glaciers have been shrinking in all large-scale river and lake basins.  In 70 years, the area of glaciation in the Kyrgyz Republic has reduced by 16 percent.  Shrinking glaciers lead to reduced water content in rivers.

It is to be noted that other reservoirs in Kyrgyzstan also face water level decline.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) notes that Central Asia and its neighboring countries need more energy to fuel their development, but climate change means they must significantly cut carbon emissions and accelerate the transition to clean energy.

As far as Tajikistan is concerned, with abundant water potential from its rivers, natural lakes and glaciers, the country is almost exclusively reliant on hydro for electricity generation.  Tajikistan is home to some of the world’s largest hydropower plants and is ranked eighth in the world for hydropower potential with an estimated 527 terawatt-hours (TWh). Currently only 4% of the country’s hydro potential is exploited.

Tajikistan is prone to natural disasters and ranks high on the international climate impact lists.  Disruptions in rainfall, growing temperatures, reductions in glacial cover and extreme weather events are among ongoing and anticipated impacts of climate change in Tajikistan.

According to experts, there are more than 13,000 glaciers in Tajikistan. Their total volume is 850 cubic kilometers.  It should be noted that a significant part of the water resources of Central Asia is concentrated in Tajikistan. Thus, the melting of glaciers in this country poses a huge threat to the entire region as a whole.  Tajikistan is highly vulnerable to shocks caused by climate change, such as droughts, floods, landslides, etc.  It is assumed that by 2050 up to one third of the glaciers in Central Asia will completely disappear, which will dramatically increase the risk of flash floods from the breakout of glacial lakes.

The long-term weather trends show more hot days and fewer cold days with considerable variations in precipitation. Hydropower generation is highly sensitive to weather and water conditions, and the changing climate is creating new challenges for the planning and management of hydropower plants.  Avalanches in winter, flash floods in spring, and high temperatures and dust storms in summer affect both the transport sector and people in their dwellings.

Tajikistan’s reliance on hydropower has helped keep its total and per person greenhouse gas emissions the lowest in Central Asia, and one of the lowest in the world. While its economy and population grow, Tajikistan has committed to keep its emissions below 1990 levels. Completion of construction of the Roghun hydropower plant may double its clean energy production capacity. A key source of greenhouse gas emissions in Tajikistan remains agriculture, but the country’s emissions per unit of agricultural production are the lowest in Central Asia.

Source: Asia Plus