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Tajiks hope to save energy through metering

Every autumn, as river flows dwindle, hydro-power-dependent Tajikistan restricts power consumption. This year the rolling blackouts began November 1.

The relevant government resolution restricted provincial residents to only nine hours of power daily. Only Dushanbe and the oblast capitals are exempt from the cutback, which will be lifted sometime in the spring.

The Nurek power station is vulnerable to declining flow in the Vakhsh River, Nozir Yodgori, spokesman for Barki Tojik, the national utility, said.

“Right now, the inflow of the Vakhsh river is 268 cu. metres per second, 194 cu. metres less than 15 days ago,” he said November 14.

The hardships begin again

For Tajiks, deepening cold and fewer hours of electricity mean hardship.

Living in a multi-storey apartment building with small children in winter is trying, Dushanbe mother Gulbakhor Nazarova said.

“If you live in a house, you can heat it with a stove, but I have nothing to heat my home with,” she said. “What can you install on the third floor? In the brief time you’ve got power, you have to heat the home, cook and boil water too.”

It’s particularly difficult to keep one’s home warm, Khujand resident Majigul Gulyamova, said. “You turn on the stove, but as soon as they cut off the power, the place starts to cool down.”

Poor choice of other options

Resource-poor Tajikistan has ended up with electricity as the only available energy source, former Barki Tojik CEO Prof. Bakhrom Sirojev, said.

“Everything is done by electricity now, including cooking and boiling water,” he said. “The [annual] shortage occurs because consumers like us rely more and more on electricity for household purposes every year. Just imagine, our population is about 8m, and if every average family switches on the electricity, we consume 20 billion kWh in a year.”

Tajikistan generates only 16 billion kW annually when annual demand solely for household purposes is about 20 billion kW, he said.

Reliance on a diverse menu of energy sources helped Tajik consumers in the past, he said.

“Our hydro-power stations [HPSs] formerly supplied enough electricity all year, when many household tasks, including cooking, were done with natural gas, energy from the [coal-fired] Dushanbe central heating station, coal and firewood,” he said. Scarcity of natural gas, coal and wood has curbed those options.

Tajikistan needs more hydro-power than the relatively small HPSs like Sangtuda-1 and -2 can provide, he said.

Tajikistan is capable of generating enough electricity with proper management, independent energy consultant Gulomiddin Sayfitdinov said.

“We had enough energy until 1996,” he said. “And we’ve built Sangtuda-1 and -2 since then. Where does all the energy go?” He called for improving the country’s infrastructure.

Wasted Energy

With no oil or natural gas to speak of, Tajikistan is pushing energy conservation.

Tajikistan needs to do a better job of conserving scarce energy, Shodi Shabdolov, a member of the parliamentary committee on energy, industry, construction and communications, said. The country loses 12 billion kW of electricity annually, he said, attributing most of that loss to leakage in inefficient power lines.

As lawmakers drew up a new law on energy conservation, which took effect in September, he travelled with an energy industry delegation to a number of developed countries to see how they managed electricity, he said.

“They fully track energy conservation problems,” he said. “We hardly monitor electricity use at all. We should be automatically tracking how much a power station produces and how much it sends out.”

The planned introduction of power meters will help reduce the waste of electricity, he said, adding that Tajikistan can look to how Pamir Energy, a venture funded by the Aga Khan Foundation, set up automated monitoring of its Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast customers’ power consumption.

Authorities are planning to introduce power consumption monitoring in Sughd Oblast and Dushanbe, he said. “We won’t have the sort of losses we have now” once they’re in place, Shabdolov said.

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