Kyrgyzstan to face major energy shortage in winter months

The Kyrgyz government is preparing for a major electricity shortage in the coming winter months, with a deficit reported at 1.5 billion kilowatt hours. To stave off massive blackouts, they have been preparing several contingencies to keep the already energy-starved country supplied with electricity. Agreements with Kazakhstan to provide between 500 million and 1 billion kilowatt hours of power in exchange for increased supply of Kyrgyz irritation water in August.

Winter electricity consumption is expected to be 20% above estimates for last year, according to statements and projections released by Energy and Industry Minister Osmonbek Artykbayev. The operative reason for such low electricity supplies is cited to be the extremely low reservoir levels just outside of the Toktogul hydroelectric power plant, which is the largest in Kyrgyzstan. The reservoir is only expected to accumulate 13.5 billion cubic meters of water before the winter sets in, but this is projected to be insufficient to keep producing power.

However, the unspoken reasons for their current energy crisis is the cessation of natural gas supplies from neighboring Uzbekistan, after the sale of KyrgyzGaz to Russian energy giant Gazprom last April. This caused Uzbekistan to abrogate its contract, saying it had no agreement to supply Gazprom. This left roughly 60,000 households in southern Kyrgyzstan without power.

Russian intervention via Gazprom in their energy industry was intended as a repayment for their accession into the Customs Union and the EEU, but with the current crisis looming and the agreement with Kazakhstan impending, it is unclear if the issue will be fully solved before the advent of winter. Uzbekistan, whose relations with Russia have been strained since Islam Karimov took power, largely wants nothing to do with the EEU because it affects his own sovereignty over the country. This was additionally a concern with the sale of Kyrgyzgaz to Gazprom with Kyrgyz civil activists, who contended that it essentially relinquished a huge amount of state sovereignty to a foreign entity, in particular one that is frequently accused of being beholden to Russian state interests.

Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch

News Briefs:

  • The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization highlights in a new report the dangers posed by Chinese tourists to traditional Mongolian culture. The influx of Han Chinese entering Mongolia and inhabiting parts of inner Mongolia that form part of China have caused the traditional, nomadic people inhabiting the areas to develop a stronger sense of Mongolian identity while simultaneously fear for their culture’s survival. The Chinese government plans to relocate millions from inner China in an effort to eliminate congestion in its more populated area, but as has been seen with the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province, relocation efforts often are not carried out seamlessly.
  • Iran has reiterated its desire to restart its Nabucco natural gas pipeline and begin supplying European countries. The project, which under the best set of circumstances would take around ten years, would theoretically allow European states to reduce their dependency on Russia and diversify their source base, though the reality of the situation leaves many skeptical about whether such a project could get off the ground given the status quo. Proposals have the pipeline running through Turkey, a current large-scale buyer of Iranian petrol, and finally routed into Europe. Iran’s Shah Deniz gas field would serve as the source if the project were to be placed in production.
  • Authorities in Xinjiang province have arrested 18 individuals suspected of knife attacks that culminated in nearly 100 deaths. Chinese officials allege that the arrests were made after a number of individuals “surrendered” to them in order to avoid death at the hands of Chinese policemen. The suspects have been labeled as terrorists by some, though the traditionally pro-government Chinese news outlet Xinhua paints a more sympathetic picture of those arrested, stating that they were coerced into acting violently. It is doubtful that the specifics leading up to their arrest will ever be divulged.
  • Central Asian states have begun to prepare what has been described as the “Afghan threat,” starting on January 1 2015. The drawdown and ultimate withdrawal of the majority of international forces from Afghanistan could, if the Afghan security situation breaks down, create problems for neighboring states such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Tajik officials have met regularly with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss regional security matters, and have allowed Moscow to renew its base within Tajikistan. Uzbekistan, as well, has held meetings with American officials, and rumors of an American military base within the country have begun to circulate, despite both sides’ denials.
  • British gas-to-liquids giant CompactGTL has raised $50m in order to invest in the first “small scale commercial GTL plant in Kazakhstan.” The investment will go towards improving existing technology in the Kazakh GTL sector, and ultimately contribute to a large operation should the initial investment prove fruitful. The plant is expected to be up and running by 2017, stating that an initial year will be set aside for planning and engineering prior to the onset of construction.
  • Ukraine and Western powers have objected to a Russian plan to provide aid through the Red Cross to Luhansk. This has been taken as a “testing of the waters” for a military intervention, and the Russian pretext is that thousands of people are without access to water, electricity and medical aid. Since the Ukrainian army has begun to lay siege to Donetsk, residents have apparently been struggling without reliable sources of power or food supplies. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that an agreement had been reached between the Ukrainian government, the EU, Russia, and the US through the Red Cross. The convoy is bound to depart this morning, but conflicting statements from Ukrainian government authorities make it unclear if the convoy will be allowed through the border, as Andriy Lysenko said it would not be allowed to cross.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s