Kyrgyzstan fights energy crisis with run-of-river hydropower

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Kyrgyzstan will construct several dozen small hydroelectric power plants (HPPs) in different regions of the country within the next several of years, which will help the government overcome current energy crisis, according to the official secretary of the energy and industry ministry Batyrkul Baetov. Experts estimate that the project may cost between KGS 7-10 billion (US $115-160 million).

Hydropower accounts for a significant part of Kyrgyzstan’s energy portfolio and large-scale HPPs of the Toktogul reservoir produce 70 percent of all energy in Kyrgyzstan, according to official data of the Energy and Industry Ministry. The energy crisis started two years ago when water levels of the Toktogul reservoir decreased, which hurt the local HPPs energy production.

The government has taken a number of measures to rectify the situation, and even enforced energy consumption limits. Kyrgyzstan suffers energy deficit of 2.4 billion kWh, so during the recent couple of years it had to import electricity from Kazakhstan. At the same time, the tariffs on energy in the country significantly jumped which provoked social discontent among the citizens.

Furthermore, official estimations show that the water flows in the country will continue to decrease until 2030 due to the reduction of glaciers, so the effectiveness of power generation at large HPPs may continue to decrease. The development of small HPPs will help this issue, and may lead to investment in other sources of renewable energy, according to Baetov.

“Working with large HPPs, back in 2008 we developed the National Energy Program until 2025. At that time the share of renewable electricity in the energy balance of the country was 0.16 percent [excluding hydro power generating], while in developed countries it standing at 20 percent. Given the reduction of water inflow in 2030 due to the reduction of glaciers, we urgently need now to construct small HPPs,” said Baetov.

Kyrgyzstan Energy and Industry Ministry estimated that the construction of small HPPs that don’t require large water flows will produce an additional 5 to 7 billion kWh per year by 2025. “The role of this [power generation] industry can grow many times. Businesses already understand the opportunities. In the country recently it has been created Association of small HPPs. In long-term this is very profitable business. However, we should support it to decrease the payback period of small HPPs from current 18-20 to eight years,” said Baetov.

On the issue of electricity imports, Baetov reported that between 2015 to 2016 Kyrgyzstan will be have to import 760 million kWh from Kazakhstan, while now the daily import is standing at 4 million kWh. These figures should be decreased gradually with the commissioning of HPPs, so the country may abandon import supplies approximately by 2019.

“So, today we have organized a catalyst in the development of small HPPs with the participation of experts, authorities and investors in order to be able to quickly and for little money to build them,” added Baetov.

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