Uzbekistan’s energy sector is sputtering, and blackouts are becoming more common in the Central Asian nation. To help keep popular discontent in check, Islam Karimov, the country’s strongman president, has come up with an ambitious renewable energy program.
Citing Uzbekistan's "significant experience" in developing renewable energy, Karimov in March instructed the country’s research institutions to speed up pilot projects aimed at tapping solar, wind and other renewable resources. For instance, he ordered the establishment of an institute for solar power at the Uzbek Academy of Sciences with the help of "international financial institutions." He also called for the creation of a factory to produce photovoltaic panels.
The factory -- to be operated jointly by the state-run Uzbekenergo power company and a Chinese solar giant, the troubled Suntech Power Holdings – hopes to produce the equivalent of 50 MW of panels by this October, and 100 MW by 2015. Also this autumn, under Karimov’s orders, Uzbekenergo plans to hold a tender to build a $240-million, 100-MW solar power station in the Samarkand Region.
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Murat Sadykov is the pseudonym for a journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.