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.

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