EghtesadOnline: Afghan minister of water and energy has invited private companies in Iran’s power sector to help his war-ravaged country rebuild its electricity infrastructure.
Mohammad Gul Khulmi, who met with Iran’s deputy energy minister, Homayoun Haeri in Kabul at the weekend, said: “Afghanistan is interested in using the experience of Iranian companies in expanding its power infrastructure. Barely 40% of Afghans have access to electricity,” IRNA quoted him as saying.
Afghanistan is in dire need of electricity and the need is growing, Gul Khulmi stressed.
After four decades of conflict, Afghanistan’s power sector is slowly recovering, but still a large part of the population does not have access to the grid. Even those connected to the network suffer from frequent blackouts, sometimes up to 9–15 hours a day, which impacts residential and commercial users and severely hampers economic growth, according to Financial Tribune.
According to Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), the national electricity utility, Afghanistan’s installed generation capacity is around 650 megawatts, mainly from hydropower, fossil fuel and solar.
However, as domestic production is insufficient for the 35 million population, Afghanistan imports power from neighbors including Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
According to 2016 statistics, Afghanistan generated 1.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and imported 4.4 billion kWh.
Due to the large influx of Afghan refugees returning home from Pakistan and Iran, Afghanistan may require as much as 7,000 MW in the coming years.
However, it needs technical and financial support to do so.
“Renovating old facilities, reconstruction of generators damaged during the war years are among the negotiations with the Iranians,” Gul Khulmi added.
The overthrow of Daoud Khan in 1978 and the subsequent invasion by Soviet forces in 1979 marked the beginning of a lengthy and exhausting series of armed conflicts in Afghanistan including civil war between the government and the rebels and later fighting against Taliban and then the US invasion to Afghanistan.
Referring to efforts to connect the power grids of the two neighbors, he said it would benefit sides both countries.
Link to Central Asia
The Afghan minister said his country could connect Iran to Central Asian countries, so that they can exchange electricity whenever there is extra production on one side and demand on the other side.
Iran currently exports electricity to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and exchanges power with Armenia and Azerbaijan under swap deals.
Approving Gul Khulmi’s comments, Iran’s deputy energy minister said that linking the two electricity networks will be in the interest of both countries.
“Using hydro and solar power, Afghanistan can become a big exporter of electricity and by connecting its grid to Iran can facilitate the process of supplying power to Turkey, Iraq, and other countries,” Haeri was quoted as saying by IRNA.
The Afghan National Development Strategy has identified alternative energy, such as wind and solar energy, as a high value power source. As a result, several solar and wind farms have been established and more are under construction.
Haeri added that Iran is willing and able to send seasoned engineers and technicians to help repair and rebuild Afghan power infrastructure.
Iran and Afghan officials signed several MoUs in the power sector. According to one agreement, the project to build a 220 kV power transmission line for Nimruz Province of Afghanistan will commence next week.
Power wastage is one of the main concerns in Afghanistan. Electricity wastage is said to be near 38%.
Iran can help Afghanistan reduce power wastage to below 30%,” Haeri said, adding that Iran has succeeded in reducing power waste in the grids from 18% to 10.4% and efforts are underway to further trim the number to below 10%.