Uzbekistan Urges Energy Alternatives as Annual Crisis Begins
Authorities in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, have ordered local eateries to switch to alternative sources of fuel, such as coal and wood, in a bid to ease energy shortages this winter. The measure was prompted by a surge in the consumption of gas for heating, Uzmetronom.com reported this month, and marks the start of Uzbekistan’s annual energy crisis.Uzmetronom, which is believed to have ties to the security services, said cafes and restaurants in Tashkent would most likely use condensed natural gas sourced privately in bottles, rather than from government-run mainlines, for cooking. Others will burn wood. The Moscow-based Fergana News website reported on November 21 that "an increasing crisis in gas supplies and deliveries" had led to “skyrocketing” wood prices. This annual energy crisis has forced authorities to consider renewable sources. On November 22 President Islam Karimov opened a solar energy forum in Tashkent. Karimov said that with electricity consumption in Uzbekistan projected double to 105 billion kWh by 2030, his government is encouraging the use of solar technologies, hoping to generate 2 billion kWh a year from solar, a savings equivalent to $250 million, reported the pro-government UzDaily website. Moreover, the Asian Development Bank has promised a $110-million loan for the construction of a $310-million solar power station in Samarkand Region by 2019, the Novyy Vek newspaper reported on November 22. Uzbekistan has said it wishes to build a number of photovoltaic power plants with a combined generating capacity of 2 GW over the next several years, though it is unclear how the other plants will be financed. Tashkent is believed to have major cash-flow problems. "The project to build several solar power stations aims to compensate for a constant fall in oil production in the country," the private Novyy Vek said. Oil output has fallen from 78,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2010 to 68,000 bpd last year, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Despite frequent electricity and gas outages around the country, Uzbekistan is continuing to sell electricity and gas abroad: Its electricity exports to Afghanistan exceeded $53 million in the first nine months of 2013, the 12news.uz website reported on November 12. According to the State Statistics Committee, gas and other energy exports totaled $5.03 billion in 2012. Uzbekistan's cash-strapped energy sector also suffers because customers chronically fail to pay, authorities say. On November 1, the Cabinet of Ministers resolved to cut electricity supplies to businesses and organizations like schools and hospitals that fail to pay at least 50 percent of their electricity bills in advance.
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