UPDATE – Tajik president to court foreign backing for 3,600-MW Rogun

Tajik President Imomali Rahkmon confirms his government will seek US$1.3 billion in foreign investment to complete the 3,600-MW Rogun hydroelectric project, which had been earmarked as a Russian project.

The Rogun hydroelectric plant, started in the Soviet era but never completed, is key to Tajikistan’s aim to become a significant electricity exporter.

“We will set up international financial consortia to build hydroelectric plants, including Rogun,” Rakhmon said in an address to parliament April 30.

The move comes amid signs of decreasing Russian influence in the ex-Soviet state bordering Afghanistan. In the latest sign, Rakhmon changed his name from Rakhmonov to make it sound less Russian.

In 2004, Rakhmon granted Russian aluminum company RUSAL the right to complete the construction of Rogun, on the Vakhsh River, in return for a Russian promise of investment in the impoverished Central Asian state.

However, Tajikistan broke the deal with RUSAL in 2006 over technical disagreements and Russia offered its utility monopoly, Unified Energy Systems (UES), as a replacement contractor. (HNN 10/27/06) UES already is helping Tajikistan build the 670-MW Sangtuda 1 hydroelectric plant on the Vakhsh River. (HNN 1/15/07)

However, UES said in April it is no longer sure about its role in the project. (HNN 4/23/07)

“We are obliged to take part in the tender, but I cannot say now whether we will,” Andrei Rappoport, head of the UES Federal Grid company, said April 20. “The political leadership shall decide who will handle the project. We are ready if this is us.”

Some commentators have suggested Rogun will give Tajikistan more control over how much water is available to its neighbors, especially Uzbekistan with which it has chilly diplomatic relations.

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