By Sameylla Poiya – an expert at the Centre for Contemporary Afghan Studies.
The development of an energy strategy is crucial for the economy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which has huge potential for using wind power, mini-hydropower plants and solar energy. The country has several regions, which can be actively used for non-traditional power generation today. However, this is insufficient. But, this is hampered by the absence of a legal basis. I believe the government should set up an Agency for Developing Non-traditional Renewable Sources of Energy, ADNRSE. It should, first and foremost draft a law on supporting the use of renewable sources of energy in Afghanistan. The law should stipulate the mechanism of state support for promoting this power generating sector. The Lower House of the Afghan parliament should set up an energy committee that could study a draft law for adopting it by the parliament later.
The ADNRSE should support not only those sources that generate renewable energy for the whole sale market but also other sources that work autonomously. The Agency, on the one hand, will establish practical control and carry out recording. In short, it should provide information about the amount of power generated by a given generator at a base of non-traditional sources. On the other hand, it should help the electricity producer to get a premium from the average price on the whole sale energy market. This is a systematic approach that helps investors to implement their projects and sell electricity on the market.
The US experience can provide as an example here. Laws in force in several states allow the power supplying companies to produce up to 17 percent energy using non-traditional sources.
The use of non-traditional energy sources should be closely linked with the implementation of Afghanistan’s power supply programme. The country that has not developed its rich-hydrocarbon resources yet should consume rationally all kinds of energy. Electricity is sold in some provinces where power is generated by diesel power plants using imported fuel at 0.3 US dollar per kilowatt-hour. This is four times higher than all acceptable limits. If wind power generator or hydropower generator is installed in line with climate conditions in a given province following a feasible study the price of a kilowatt-hour will be at least two times less. We see that this is quite realistic, acceptable and beneficial. In view of this, there are broader prospects for developing nontraditional renewable energy sources in Afghanistan, especially wind power and mini-hydropower plants.
The developed countries in the world have gained a great deal of experience in the production of large- medium- and small-sized wind power farms, and Demark and Germany are leading countries in this area. They have 1.5, 3 and 5 megawatt wind power generators. They are quite powerful and moreover, they can work in a system rather than autonomously. The share of electricity generated by wind power plants in the European Union is no less than 5%. This is a quite significant figure since the overall capacity exceeds 700 GW (gigawatt). According to experts, average investment in a non-traditional installation of 1 kilowatt capacity is between 1.5 and 2 thousand US dollars. In fact, the price of a one-kilowatt capacity traditional power generating installation increases with the growth of oil price and rate of inflation. However, it is expedient for supplying small- and medium-sized wind power stations and also second-hand installations with long working lifespan for Afghanistan as a poor country.
A series of wind power units of capacities up to 100 kilowatt could be better for Afghanistan. They are basically working on autonomous regime. Most likely, another option could be the use of bivalent power supply with combined wind and diesel installations of capacities up to 100 kilowatt. This is also quite economical but large-scale installations with capacities between 1.5 and 2.0 megawatt are inexpedient since these projects are costly. These are used in the countries where there are enterprises consuming high power.
Afghanistan has a good natural potential for developing hydropower. At present, electricity produced by hydropower stations is considered as the cheapest and this has been economically justified. Unlike large stations that need big investment and take long time to construct and payback, small hydropower stations are considered as rational and promising. The agency should do its best to increase the share of renewable sources of energy in total electricity production, and this may help Afghanistan to cover up the energy deficit in ten years.
Concerning cooperation with other countries in small hydropower station construction, it must be said that Russia is among the leading countries. Russia has good scientific and industrial potential. Several Russian companies are engaged in hydropower station construction. There are companies that fulfill whole complex of work on the construction of hydropower stations, starting from surveying, designing, installation, construction to commissioning.
Solar energy is a promising area in the future. Russian scientists have developed advanced solar batteries using nanotechnology and there are no such batteries elsewhere in the world. Afghanistan has favourable climate conditions to use them, and this may help the two countries to promote mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.
With the construction of small- and medium-sized enterprises in Afghanistan the demand for electricity has grown. For one, Puli-Charhi industrial city needs its own autonomous power station. The enterprises have concluded that it is advantageous to have an autonomous power station rather than linking the factories to the national power grid. They pay a large sum for linking the enterprise with the power grid and servicing and at the same time they often experience shortage of electricity and power cuts. Consequently, investors are ready to invest money in the construction of non-traditional renewable energy sources and the task of the agency is to establish contacts between the business community and authorities. Under the law drafted by the agency on supporting the use of renewable sources of energy in IRA should provide a mechanism on the basis of which business could cooperate with the government and the sponsors effectively.
The West is convinced it is impossible to achieve peace only by military means in Afghanistan and there is a need to develop the country’s economy. In fact, it is impossible to solve economic problems without developing power generation. All structures in the world handling macro-energy understand clearly that without developing non-traditional and renewable power generation it is impossible to speak about the development of the energy sector as a whole.