May 31, 2022
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Energy Issues in Central Asia and Russia

Energy Issues in Central Asia and Russia

Russia is proposing to build a new transmission line from Siberia to Kyrgyzstan via Kazakhstan. “One of the interesting projects that we started discussing in Kyrgyzstan was submitted to the coordinating council, – this is the construction of an extended line (direct current) from Siberia to Kyrgyzstan through the territory of Kazakhstan. This will increase the exchange of power between the EAEU”– said on May 26 the Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation Nikolai Shulginov at the Eurasian Economic Forum in Bishkek.

Transmission of electricity over long distances using ultra-high voltage power lines is important for all the Central Asian republics; it would help solve the most acute problem – permanent power outages, which have become the scourge of the region.

So, on January 25, 2022, power outages were recorded simultaneously in the south of Kazakhstan, in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. In Kyrgyzstan, electricity was turned off in the cities of Osh, Jalal-Abad, Karakol, in Batken, Chui and Talas regions. In Uzbekistan, the blackout affected Tashkent and Tashkent region, Ferghana Valley, Syrdarya, Jizzakh, Samarkand, Bukhara and Kashkadarya regions. In the south of Kazakhstan, blackouts occurred in Alma-Ata, Shymkent, Taras, and the Turkestan region.

Power cuts caused interruptions in heating and water supply, traffic lights went out, subway trains stopped, airports froze. The internet went down everywhere and cell phones didn’t work.

The Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan said that the cause of the massive power outage was a major accident in the energy system of Kazakhstan, which caused rolling blackouts in Uzbekistan. According to the principle of blackout, it also spread to Kyrgyzstan.

“Due to the significant emergency imbalance created by the energy system of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan), there was a surge in power for the transit of electricity 500 kV “North-East-South of Kazakhstan”. As a result, there was an emergency separation of the transit “North – East – South of Kazakhstan” with the repayment of a significant part of consumers in the southern zone of Kazakhstan. The volume of restrictions is about 1,500 megawatts,” – says the statement of the Kazakh power grid company KEGOC.

The emergency imbalance between the production and consumption of electricity arises, among other things, due to a sharp increase in its consumption. For example, due to the active use of air conditioners in summer and heaters in winter.

In Soviet times, all the republics of Central Asia were part of the Unified Energy System of the USSR and there were no problems with power supply. Operational power flows ensured the uninterrupted operation of all energy networks in the region.

Currently, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and southern Kazakhstan are united in an energy ring, but its capabilities are not enough in critical situations. In the event of an emergency imbalance, the supply of electricity to the three republics turned out to be dependent on the transfer of electricity from Northern Kazakhstan via a 500 kV AC transmission line, in which losses reach ten percent. If the transfer of electricity from north to south of Kazakhstan was carried out through ultra-high-voltage direct current networks of 1150 kV transmission lines, the construction and operation technology of which, as we wrote, only Russia has, these losses would not have occurred, and an emergency imbalance in the networks of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan would most likely , would not cause a massive blackout.

In early April 2022, the Kazakhstan Electricity Association and the country’s five largest energy companies issued an appeal to President Tokayev, in which they announced an impending crisis in the energy sector due to unresolved systemic problems in the industry. “It should be noted that at the moment an energy crisis is coming in the Republic of Kazakhstan,” the text of the appeal says.

Already this year, the deficit of electric capacity in the energy system of Kazakhstan, even taking into account the commissioning of new capacities, will amount to 1,327 MW, the deficit of control capacity will be 894 MW. The situation is even more alarming in the thermal power industry, where a shortage of thermal energy is observed in Karaganda, Pavlodar, East Kazakhstan and other regions.

The United States imposes on the Central Asian republics its concept of solving energy problems, based, as noted in the report of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), on the conclusions of the American development “Global Water Security”. In 2012, this development was the basis of the program YOU SAID Power Central Asia. The countries of Central Asia were invited to copy the model of the energy market of the Scandinavian countries – the energy exchange Nord Pool. However, only about 11% of contracts for the supply of electricity on the exchange Nord Pool lead to physical delivery, everything else is speculative contracts.

At the same time, Russia and China are excluded from participation in the common energy market and, judging by the amount of investments (about $20 million), there are no plans to upgrade the main generation assets and transfer energy (this requires an order of magnitude higher investments).

The American model of a unified energy system of the region creates the possibility of a sudden collapse of the Central Asian energy market by stock speculators and does not imply the renewal of dilapidated energy networks. But to get rid of the energy deficit allows another way. It will open with the launch of the Common Electricity Market (CEM) of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The launch is scheduled for January 1, 2025, according to the January report of the Eurasian Economic Commission “Figures and Facts: Energy and Infrastructure”.

Russia’s proposed construction of a long DC line from Siberia to Kyrgyzstan through Kazakhstan would bring huge gains by minimizing losses in the power grid. Overhead and cable DC lines are simpler and cheaper than AC lines. They require much less wires or cables, their supports are much lighter, the consumption of materials is also less, the power line route is narrower, and the cost of construction is less.

This ensures reliable, economical and fully controlled transmission of large capacities of thousands of megawatts over thousands of kilometers from hydroelectric power plants or thermal power plants located near coal and oil developments to consumers.

Increasing the stability of energy systems. Systemic power system failures are excluded, the number of which in developed countries is growing rapidly with an increase in the capacity of power systems and which cause enormous economic damage.

The biggest benefit comes from 1150 kilovolt DC ultra-high voltage transmission lines, the technologies of which are owned only by Russia. In his speech at the Eurasian Economic Forum in Bishkek, the head of the Ministry of Energy noted that Russia, for its part, is always ready to assist in ensuring the uninterrupted reliable operation of the electric power industry of the EAEU countries and to assist in improving the reliability and safety of the energy system.

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