EghtesadOnline: Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian says Iran is willing to increase power exports to Afghanistan and also send experienced engineers to help rehabilitate that country’s broken power infrastructure.
“The contract to sell power (close to 200,000 kilowatts per day) to neighboring state has been renewed for one more year, but it accounts for a very small share of the country’s growing demand,” the minister was quoted as saying by ISNA.
Iran and Afghan officials recently signed MoUs for expanding cooperation in the power sector. One project to build a 220 kilovolt power transmission line for Nimruz Province in southwest Afghanistan will commence soon.
Power wastage is one of the main concerns in the war-ravaged country. Electricity wastage is said to be 38%, according to Financial Tribune.
“Iran can help Afghanistan reduce power wastage to below 30%,” he said, adding that Iran has succeeded in reducing power waste in its grids from 18% to 11%.
Ardakanian said Afghanistan can help link Iran to Central Asia so that they can exchange electricity whenever there is extra production on one side and demand on the other.
Iran currently exports electricity to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and exchanges power with Armenia and Azerbaijan under swap deals.
According to Homayoun Haeri, a deputy energy minister, linking the two country’s electricity networks will be in the interest of both nations.
“Using hydro and solar power, Afghanistan can become a big exporter of electricity and by connecting its grid to Iran it can facilitate the process of supplying power to Turkey, Iraq, and other countries,” Haeri has been quoted as saying.
The Afghan National Development Strategy (a poverty reduction plan) has identified alternative energy, such as wind and solar, as a high value power source. Afghanistan is in dire need of sustainable sources of electricity and the need is growing.
After four decades of wars, violence, internal strife and terror attacks Afghanistan’s power sector is being revived gradually. However, 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 15 hours a day, which is severely hampering economic growth.
According to Afghanistan’s national electricity utility, its installed generation capacity is around 650 megawatts, mainly hydropower, fossil fuel and solar. However, as domestic production is insufficient for the 35 million population, it imports power from neighbors including Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
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.
The overthrow of Daoud Khan in 1978 and the subsequent invasion by Soviet forces in 1979 marked the beginning of lengthy and exhausting armed conflicts in the impoverished country. This included civil war between government forces and militants, fighting against the Taliban and the bloody 2001 US invasion that has killed at least 150,000 people and destroyed the country’s infrastructure.