The power system of Central Asia: in one chorus, but with different scores

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The power system of Central Asia: in one chorus, but with different scores 29.04.2018 12:27

Leaders of the former Soviet Central Asian republics, declaring their desire to establish stable economic relations in the region, periodically discuss the issues of creating a regional union or sharing the water and energy resources. At the same time, either the occupation of the leading position (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan) or the solution of its problems in the fuel and energy sector (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) is the cornerstone.

However, if the fiasco of such seemingly promising projects as the Central Asian Union, the Central Asian Economic Community, the Central Asian Cooperation (organization) is no longer remembered, it is often said about the re-creation of a single energy ring. We recalled it also at the Forum of Eurasian Integration "Prospects for the Development and Strengthening of the SCO", held in Sochi on April 17-18.

It should be recalled that during the Soviet period, a unified system of water and energy facilities in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan functioned successfully in the region, including 83 power plants. It made it possible to maximally increase (by regulating peak loads and electricity flows) the stability of the operation of the energy systems of each of its constituent republics and rationally use the main reservoirs for the needs of the agricultural sector.

After the collapse of the USSR in the region, one was enthusiastically engaged in the creation of sovereign and independent economies, stories, energy systems. On subjective political grounds and contrary to economic logic, territorial-production complexes were destroyed. So, each of the republics, under the motto "We die, but we will not yield either a cubic meter of sovereign water or a kilowatt of sovereign electricity!", violating the previously established balance, started pulling the water-energy blanket upon itself. Disruptions began with supplies of gas and coal to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

In turn, the latter, compensating for the winter energy shortage, began to drain the maximum of water from the reservoirs, creating problems for Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Moreover, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have passed laws on the sale of water flowing in rivers. True, they could not implement them in the practice of interstate relations. All these actions led to the occurrence of system accidents, violation of dispatch modes, flooding of territories among ECO partners, but no attention was paid to this.

And this is understandable. In the region, oligarchic and financial-industrial groups pursuing only their own interests were formed. Their "market" thinking rejects the opportunity to sacrifice own interests for the sake of cost-effective integration processes. Many decisions in the economy and politics are also adversely affected, in particular by Kazakhs, by the division of clans, juzes and regions.

As a result, energy separatism in each of the republics gave rise to many problems. Undoubtedly, attempts have been made and are being made: various working groups meet periodically, but there is no way to reach a compromise. Decisions at the international level are sought at the level of energy and water departments.

Among the reasons preventing the restoration of a unified energy system, one can name:

- different models of electricity markets;

- the procedure of customs control of interstate electricity flows hindering the efficient operation of power systems in parallel mode;

- the lack of a unified methodology for calculating tariffs for the transit of electricity;

- high transaction costs due to the multitude of intermediary firms;

- lack of a legal basis for equal access of energy producers of one country to the domestic electricity market by another;

- inadequacy of the mechanism of guarantees of return and protection of investments;

- high physical and moral wear of equipment, threatening accident-free interaction of the electric power systems of states.

A number of these reasons attracted attention to the above-mentioned Sochi forum of Eurasian integration "Prospects for the Development and Strengthening of the SCO." So, the president of the National Energy Security Fund Konstantin Simonov said: "There are a lot of projects for the integration of energy systems within the SCO, and outside this organization, but I treat them with care. The process of "electric unification" is very difficult - even on the basis of the post-Soviet space. All states are different both in terms of electricity generation, both in terms of tariff policy, and in terms of export-import. "

Developing the idea of K. Simonov, let's say that, for example, for the loopback of the energy systems of the region, it is necessary to unify the tariffs for electricity. Now in the republics there is a system of so-called cross-subsidization of electricity prices for the population due to high tariffs for industry. Moreover, through growing tariffs, money is directed not to modernization, but, in fact, is returned to the energy monopoly companies themselves. But there is a need for a significant modernization of the infrastructure: since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the modernization of equipment of power plants and networks in the countries of the region has not been seriously dealt with, and it has high technical and moral wear

The run-out has led to a drop in available capacity and throughput of power systems. All this is exacerbated by the seasonality of consumption (in winter consumption is much higher than summer consumption) and unequal in value by electricity flows, which complicates economic efficiency.

It is impossible to quickly resume the volume of energy construction - the industry is distinguished by long construction cycles and the need to accumulate huge investments. The calculation for private investors is untenable: queues from those who want to invest in such a risky and long-paid business, like energy, are not observed in the region. To expect them in the near future from Western banks is also unrealistic.

Another source is the state. But will governments be able to take on these considerable expenses and bring them into the budget? It is hardly. Moreover, the interest of the "top" countries (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) in new hydropower projects objectively contradicts the interests of the lower neighbors (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan) in water use.

Thus, in order to restore the unified energy system, it is necessary to create a common energy market (hence, understandable rules of the game and the absence of political contradictions), a clear state policy for the modernization of generating and distribution capacities and the definition of funding sources. Without solving all these problems, the plans for restoring the regional energy ring are doomed to the piles of not implemented programs, which in excess fill the cabinets of government offices.


Sergey Smirnov