Electricity Supply in Afghanistan
The early power supplies in and around Afghnasitan have been many small basic diesel and small hydroelectric plants fed from melting snow. Significant instrastructure is often a early target in conflict. Electricity distribution is managed by the Kabul Electricity Directorate, Ministry of Water and Energy, Dahan e Cahman, Kabul.
For most people in the Afghan capital Kabul, electricity used to be something of a luxury, but thanks to neighbouring Uzbekistan many homes now enjoy almost uninterrupted power from January 2009. Afghanistan is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Three decades of war have destroyed what little infrastructure existed and, despite millions of dollars of aid, progress has been slow.
Only about 7 per cent of the country’s population has access to electricity, according to 2007 government figures, and Afghan energy distribution ranks among the lowest in the world at under 20 kWh per capita.
But a new power line from Uzbekistan began transmitting electricity to Kabul on 22 January 2009 as part of an Afghan long-term energy development strategy. We started receiving 20 MW (megawatts) from Uzbekistan and today we will start receiving another 20 MW,” Engineer Wahid Qayum, in charge of electricity provision for the entire country.
“We are now able to provide 180 MW of power to Kabul at peak times, and 160 MW at other times,” Qayum said. The total still falls well short of the 300 MW that Kabul needs, but the new transmission line, jointly funded by India and the Asian Development Bank, will gradually increase output, Qayum said. By March 2009, the new line is expected to deliver 150 MW of power, 120 MW of which will be allocated to Kabul and the remaining 30 MW to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
By early April 2009, all of Kabul will have 24-hour electricity,” Qayum said. While some homes in the city are still without electricity and others are subject to power cuts because of load sharing agreements, the increase in power has already made a difference to many ordinary Afghans.
The Australian Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) project managed a $130 million electricity rehabilitation project to improve the electricity transmission and distribution system in Kabul, Afghanistan and rehabilitate a hydropower station in Tajikistan in 2008. The work, carried out in a country in conflict, threw up interesting challenges which required a flexible approach from the engineers.
Part of the work involved constructing a 220kV power system to supply power from Uzbekistan to a major substation on the northern outskirts of Kabul. This system is known as the North East Power System (NEPS). In the meantime, people in Kabul have had less access to electricity as the winter of 2008/09 saw reduced snow falls and hence low water levels at hydro generating stations.
Budget constraints have also limited the available fuel for operating gas turbine generators in Kabul.
An emergency meeting was held by the minister of energy and water with companies working on the NEPS to look at possible ways to shore up power supplies while the NEPS was being constructed. One of the options was to deliver power from Uzbekistan.
The 220kV connection from Uzbekistan to the Chimtala substation in Kabul is about 550km long. Without critical equipment to provide reactive power compensation, the line could not be safely energised and operated at 220kV.
After some discussion and analysis an alternative approach was proposed where one circuit of the 220kV double circuit line would be energised at 110kV. This would allow some power to be delivered to Kabul without dangerous over-voltages on the line. Modifications and bypasses would be made at several points along the line and at a main substation at Mazar e-Sharif to provide protection for the 110kV circuit to Kabul.
According to the Ministry of Energy and Water, this was one of the first times that electricity from any central Asian republic country was brought to Kabul City.
A separate project is in place for Barki Tojik in Tajikistan to export surplus electricity to Afghanistan and to improve the energy output from Tajikistan’s hydropower plants. The major components is a 220kV transmission line from the Sangtuda substation to Tajikistan-Afghanistan border.