TASHKENT -- Uzbekistan is looking to its neighbours to help solve its energy problems as it looks for ways to prevent dependence on Russia.
Uzbekistan this winter faced power outages as temperatures in some regions plunged below -20º C.
"My sister's family ... was without heat and electricity for 20 hours a day," Sabokhat Rakhmonova, a journalist from Andijan, told Caravanserai.
"The winter and the subnormal temperatures have become an ordeal and torture for Uzbek women. Children are at home because the schools and kindergartens closed," she said.
"Everything has gotten more expensive: firewood, coal and food."
While residents of the provinces are accustomed to power and gas outages, such a large-scale energy crisis was a jolt to residents of the capital Tashkent.
"Our five-storey building on the outskirts of Tashkent had no power for two days... The gas pressure was very weak for about a week," Konstantin Agafonov, a Tashkent resident, told Caravanserai.
"You couldn't reheat or cook anything. On the coldest days, the heat also went out. It was freezing at night," he said.
The cold briefly shuttered all natural-gas stations in the country, forcing manufacturing facilities that use gas to also reduce capacity or suspend operations.
Uzbekistan currently faces a power shortage of about 8%-10% of its needs.
However, the country will need even more gas and electricity given population and industrial growth.
As of early 2023, Uzbekistan's population was 36 million -- up 753,600, or 2.1%, from last year. If the birthrate remains steady, in 2035 the population will exceed 45 million.
Demand for electrical power will rise by 6.2% to 6.5% annually, according to the country's Institute of Forecasting and Macroeconomic Research.
By 2030, generating capacity will need to be at least 1.8–1.9 times higher than it is now.
Fuel from neighbours
While Uzbekistan has inked deals for Russian gas, it is keenly aware of the dangers of being dependent on the Kremlin for energy.
The Uzbek government on January 24 signed a deal with Russia for the delivery of Russian gas via Kazakhstan using the Central Asia-Centre gas pipeline
Deliveries are scheduled to begin on March 1, and could reach 6–7 billion cubic metres annually.
To avoid becoming more dependent on Russia and to solve its energy problems in the future, Uzbekistan is ramping up its energy co-operation with its nearby neighbours.
In mid-December 2022, it signed an agreement to receive 1.5 billion cubic metres of gas from Turkmenistan for three months, anticipating that an additional 20 million cubic metres of gas per day from Turkmenistan would cover gas shortages in the winter.
Astana and Tashkent the same month also signed an agreement on providing coal for three new coal thermal power stations that are being built in Samarkand, Tashkent and Fergana provinces in Uzbekistan.
Bituminous coal will be delivered from the Shubarkol mine in Karaganda province, Kazakhstan, for at least 10 years.
Kyrgyzstan will be supplying coal too.
In the first 10 months of 2022, it exported almost 431,000 tonnes of coal to Uzbekistan, Kun.uz reported in December.
Coal deliveries from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan could reach 4 million tonnes in the next two years, several media sites reported in January.
For its part, Uzbekistan is planning on ramping up gas production and develop renewable sources of energy.
A January 24 Uzbek cabinet meeting, summoned to prepare for next autumn and winter, ended with a call for production of 56.3 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2023 -- a 4.6 billion cubic metre increase over 2022.
The government plans to save 1.6 billion cubic metres of gas peryear through the deployment of renewable energy sources and heightened energy efficiency.
The construction of two solar power plants with capacity of 600 MW in the Fergana Valley is planned for 2023.
Uzbekistan intends to raise $2 billion to install solar panels and build small power stations. One hundred micro-hydroelectric power plants will be built in the valley.
It is vital for Central Asia to create its own platform for energy integration, said Anvar Nazirov, a Tashkent-based economist.
"Russia is flagrantly meddling in the affairs of the Central Asian countries and stirring up problems between them. For example, it is pressuring Turkmenistan not to supply gas to Uzbekistan or to supply it through Russian companies," Nazirov told Caravanserai.
Purchasing Russian gas in the volumes the country needs would require immense funding.
That grim fact explains Uzbekistan's search for various forms of renewable and alternative energy: biogas, micro-hydropower plants and solar power plants.
For any state to develop in the 21st century, it is important to attain energy self-sufficiency, said Fikret Shabanov, president of Consultations on International Policy and Economy, a think-tank in Vancouver, Canada, said, calling it a strategic foundation of national security.
Uzbekistan needs to reform laws on investing in the energy production industry, with the future buyback of all resources, he said.
"A country that is energy dependent will be forced to reconcile itself to the loss of its political independence too," Shabanov told Caravanserai.
"That will slow down the country's economic development, and that will affect the population's standard of living, which in turn will give rise to a population of socially minded but unemployed young people, and to social and even military and political threats," he said.
A public-private partnership in co-operation with neighbours -- such as Kyrgyzstan -- to develop hydroelectricity, and the creation of a single electrical system for the Central Asian countries could not only satisfy Uzbekistan's needs but bring economic benefits and raise its political standing in the region, he added.
"Given the friendly relations with Kazakhstan and its abundant uranium reserves, developing nuclear power is crucial. But the choice of technology also determines political and economic and technological dependence," Shabanov said.
"I think the policies on guaranteeing the country's energy security need to be reexamined," said Rakhmonova, the journalist.
"First and foremost, we need to focus on our neighbours: Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Turkmen gas is cheaper than Russian gas, so there's something for us to consider and work on there."
Thank you !!!Reply
Of course, we should sort out our affairs without Russia's involvement.Reply