Starting in April through to September, Tajikistan will export 1.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity to Uzbekistan.
Mirzo Ismoilzoda, head of Tajik state-run power company Barki Tojik, said at a press conference on February 14 that although the sales agreement is in place, the sides have yet to land on a price mechanism.
Despite the lack of clarity on the financial details, the very agreement represents another major step forward for the champions of regional integration.
In Soviet times, the five Central Asian republics were linked by a unified power grid. Coordination on sharing and distributing power resources has faltered in the past decade, however, leading to collapse of the system. Since Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in Uzbekistan in 2016, integration has again been placed firmly back at the top of the agenda.
Officials at Barki Tojik informed Eurasianet that an agreement has been reached on resurrecting the unified power grid, although technical details have still to be worked out.
Under a system that had been in place since the 1970s, republics rich in hydropower resources supplied neighbors at periods of high production and then later received electricity in return from republics whose power generation relied primarily on fossil fuels, such as coal and gas.
Uzbekistan dealt a fatal blow to this set-up in 2009, when it pulled out in response to what it said was Tajikistan’s abuse of the system. As a result, Tajikistan has endured grievous winter-time power shortages as Uzbekistan has been unwilling to either sell Dushanbe its own electricity or grant power transit privileges to others. Turkmenistan has repeatedly stated its willingness to export power to Tajikistan, but has lacked the means to do so.
Tajikistan already exports electricity to Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, but the volumes are modest. Exports to Afghanistan in 2017 came in at 1.3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, netting Tajikistan around $50 million. Afghanistan would like to receive greater volumes in winter, but Tajikistan cannot spare the capacity.
Energy and Water Resources Minister Usmonali Usmonzoda grumbled last month that because of a lack of demand from buyers in summer, Tajikistan allows vast amounts of water to flow unused downstream past its hydropower plant — a wasted potential of 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. At least now Uzbekistan will be soaking up some of that squandered capacity.