This country will make us peddle hard! More than half of the country is situated at an altitude of 3000 km or higher. Tajikistan inhabitants live challenging lives: it is the poorest country of the former Soviet Union and one of the poorest countries in the world. No less than 44% of the population lives below the poverty border. The many mountains make it a car- or donkey country; only 480 km of railways could be established so far.
- GOING DUTCH: During the Soviet era, Tajikistan was famous for its aluminum smelter. The largest enterprise in Tajikistan, the Tursunzoda Aluminum Smelter (TadAZ) has an overall capacity of over 520,000 tons a year and accounts for 53 percent of total exports making it one of the largest in the world. The Netherlands is Tajikistan’s biggest importer. It imports 36% of all Tajikistan exports, mostly raw aluminum and aliminum products. Hence, the funny fact that the Netherlands is responsible for a lot of the power consumption of Tajikistan. Production of aluminum is only a third now of what it was in the Soviet era, but Tursunzoda still consumes nearly 40 percent of the total power output in the country. It also employs 12,000 workers and indirectly supports a community of 100,000 according to the Tajik Embassy.
- THOSE WERE THE DAYS: While Tajikistan was still a part of Soviet Union, some regions were better off than today when it comes to energy. At the time of the Soviet Union electrification was one of top priorities, and in the 1980s per capita intensity-of-use coefficient was 4,000kWh per year, which was at the time better than in many European countries. Today the existing infrastructure from Soviet time is deteriorating and there are no means to maintain it or repair it in the near future. (Source: World Energy organization).
- TALLEST DAM: Tajikistan is home to the tallest embankment dam, the hydroelectric power station Nurek, that measures 304 m (997 ft). The Tajik government has serious plans to build at least one other big dam (Rogun). Designs for Rogun date back to the 1960s. Uzbekistan is fiercely opposed to the dam and since it is the sole supplier of natural gas to Tajikistan, it has some interesting cards to play in order to stop hydro-developments.
- CHEAP-CHARLEY: Domestic electricity tariffs in Tajikistan, at 2.25 cents per kWh, are some of the lowest in the world.While prices have gone up in recent years, the current rate is still well below the rate of 4.6 cents per kilowatt hour that a World Bank report estimates residential consumers are willing to pay. Increasing electricity tariffs (with the institution of appropriate social safety nets) would not only provide consumer incentives to use less electricity but also move the Tajik electric system closer to a point where it can be privatized.
Top 3 challenges
- WINTER ENERGY CRISIS: Tajikistan suffers from winter energy shortages, caused by a combination of insufficient winter hydropower output when river flows are low and demand high driven by heating needs.The economic cost of electricity load shedding (in summer) and unmet demand is estimated at about 3% of GDP. According to a recent study, unless prompt action is taken, Tajikistan’s electricity crisis can be expected to worsen. By 2016, the shortages could equal almost a third of the winter energy demand. This has a disproportionate impact on the country’s poor and rural households. According to the United Nations Development Program, more than 1 million people in Tajikistan’s rural areas suffer frequent and prolonged blackouts each winter (Source: Worldbank).
- ENERGY POVERTY: The population of Tajikistan is approximately 7.3 million of which 5.3 million live in rural areas. Most rural inhabitants suffer from energy poverty. To illustrate: although 73% of the Tajik population is rural, people in rural areas are consuming only 8.58% of total electricity. The biggest problems are access to energy and energy efficiency. Of 2.5kW energy used in the rural areas, only 0.2kW is useful energy, while the rest is lost as the result of very low efficiency (5-10%) of cooking and heating stoves.
- SMALL-SCALE RENEWABLES: Turning to small- scale renewables would improve the overall quality of life while decreasing the rate of energy poverty in Tajikistan. Utilization of small-scale renewable, especially micro and small HPPs would ease the burden to collect traditional biomass and to buy kerosene for cooking and heating. Such small installations require little, if any, international products, and using local goods and services would result in returning the money to the local economy thus inducing progress. Jobs would be created and people, especially women and children, would have more time for studying and “money making” activities as the result of decreased need for firewood and dung collection. Availability of lighting would allow better quality of life and longer hours for various indoor activities. Additionally, the reduced need for firewood would decrease the damage on local ecosystems. It would reduce the already devastating rate of deforestation which, on the slopes of mountainous Tajikistan, results in highly increased susceptibility to soil erosion, salinization and in the end desertification. Such land cannot be used for agricultural activities nor does it even offer possibility for reforestation. Decrease of dung collection would leave more dung to be used for fertilizing the agricultural land which would then have higher yields. Source: World Energy Case study.
- World Energy case study on Energy poverty in Tajikistan
- List of largest hydro-electric power stations in the world – Nurek ranks 22nd
- The economic rationale of hydro-dams; not so promising after all
- Tajikistan’s Winter Energy Crisis: Electricity Supply and Demand Alternatives – World Bank
- Tajikistan’s Energy Woes – by Michael Cain, professor of Political Science