Months after breaking off a long-standing deal with Russian companies to build two major hydropower projects, Kyrgyzstan has found a potential white knight in the form of a major Chinese investor.
Kyrgyzstan deputy Prime Minister Oleg Pankratov met with representatives of China’s State Power Investment Corporation on April 6 to discuss plan to build a cascade of four hydropower stations on the Naryn River. Collectively, the cascade is expected to generate around 4.6 billion kilowatt hours annually — more than either of the now-scotched Russian projects.
“We are carrying out work on a few projects to develop new generating capacities that will allow us, in the near future, to considerably increase the amount of power produced. This is of special importance, because energy consumption is growing every year that passes”, Pankratov was quoted as saying by KyrTag news agency.
An official for the state-owned electricity provider State Power Investment Corporation told Kyrgyz media that they have assessed the potential of the Central Asian nation’s hydropower potential and feel ready to begin work on building the 1,150 megawatt Kazarman hydropower cascade.
The terms of the deal are not yet known, however.
According to the company website, Beijing-based State Power Investment Corporation holds assets in hydropower, thermal and nuclear power and has registered capital of $7 billion and total assets worth $120 billion.
In January, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to cancel earlier hydropower construction deals with the Russian companies leading the projects, citing lack of progress in work.
As early as the start of 2015, Energy Minister Kubanychbek Turdubayev was voicing misgivings about the projects.
“People can see no real progress in construction of the Kambar-Ata and Upper-Naryn Cascade hydroelectric power plants. It should be admitted that there are serious shortcomings. Kyrgyzstan's rights have been violated,” he said.
President Almazbek Atambayev in December suggested hopefully that alternative investors could be found, and this Chinese deal — should it go through — may be the answer to his prayers.
There is still the issue of the debt to Russian companies to settle. Kyrgyzstan’s unilateral cancellation of the dam deals left it with a $37 million bill. In mid-February, a commission led by member of parliament and former justice minister Almanbet Shykmamatov toured the abandoned complex serving the Upper Naryn hydro plant. The commission duly turned up all kinds of funny business that reeked of corruption.
The bilateral agreements between Russian and Kyrgyz companies to build the hydropower plants were sealed in 2012. Russia’s Inter RAO UES was supposed to build Kambar-Ata at a cost of $2 billion. The plant was designed to produce 4.4 billion kilowatt hours annually. Another Russian giant, RusHydro, was to build the Upper Naryn cascade, which would have produced 942.4 million kilowatt hours annually.