Uzbekistan, a long-time opponent to neighboring nations building hydropower plants, has declared its own ambitious plans to harness the power-generating potential of rivers.
News website Podrobno.uz reported on May 3 that the government intends to build 42 new hydropower plants in the coming five years. Another 32 existing hydropower stations will be overhauled under the same program.
Those intentions have been laid out in the presidential agenda for the development of hydropower in 2017-2021.
Uzbekistan continues to rely heavily on creaky energy infrastructure dating back to Soviet times. As a partial result, in the provinces, particularly in the Ferghana Valley and in the Kashkadarya, Surkhandarya and Samarkand regions, power shortages are a chronic problem.
The use of water resources for the generation of electricity is rare. In fact, reliance on renewable energy is weak on the whole. According to data cited by RFE/RL’s Uzbek service, the proportion of renewables in total electricity output in Uzbekistan amounts to less than 1 percent.
Solar energy is in principle a highly promising avenue. The country typically has around 320 days of sunshine in any given year, amounting to 51 billion tons of oil equivalent in energy terms.
Zokir Rahimov, the director of the Tashkent-based Eko-Energiya research center, told EurasiaNet.org that as solar energy-conversion technology is currently all imported, harnessing the sun’s potential remains more expensive than using more traditional energy sources, which currently produce power at the cost of $0.02 per 1 kilowatt.
“The installation of a 1 kilowatt solar panel would currently cost members of the public and companies around 33 million sum ($4,100). Solar batteries and related components are not produced inside the country,” Rahimov said.
Uzbekistan does not currently provide subsidies for the acquisition of solar panels, so the incentives simply are not there. Also, private investors are at the moment forbidden from building their own solar stations and selling power to the public.
Some companies have turned to the technology for their use, however. A 1.2 megawatt solar station completed in April 2016 in collaboration with Australia-based energy industry company ENESOL is used to provide power to natural gas fields in the Bukhara region operated by Russia’s LUKoil.
Uzbek lawmakers are currently working to change all that with legislation titled “On Renewable Energy Sources,” which is slated for approval by the fall.
“The law envisions the participation of the private sector in the production and use of renewable energy,” Rahimov told EurasiaNet.org.
Rahimov is involved in drawing up the legislation.