shines a light for us on Uzbekistan’s power crisis this winter.

The majority of Uzbekistan’s population are having a tough time this winter as the country’s energy supply problems go from bad to worse. Unplanned power cuts and lengthy rolling blackouts have become everyday occurrences in almost every Uzbek neighbourhood.

In larger towns the electricity is switched off for up to six hours a day. In Tashkent the power is off for 1-2 hours every day. Outlying villages sometimes have no power for weeks at a time.

A shortage of coal and fuel oil in this Central Asian country is wrecking havoc on the populations’ need for heat, light and transportation.  Power cuts are now an everyday occurrence and there are stories of violence against energy company employees.  In the absence of a secure energy supply, many have resorted to gathering dung bricks, twigs, cotton-plant stalks, scavenged pieces of brown coal. In Tashkent, residents have given up on gas and are using wood as fuel.

These failings in the energy sector prompted the Uzbek government to adopt an Anti-crisis Programme; recently dozens of managers have been arrested, and hundreds of engineers, inspectors and controllers have been sacked and/or disciplined.

To find out why the situation is such a mess, the author of this post interviewed former employees of the state-owned energy company Uzbekenergo who have since left the country.  His findings suggest that a combination of obsolete plant, distribution equipment and monitoring systems,  increasing losses from theft and waste, and political decisions have brought about the energy shortages. For example, the country’s decision to pull out of Central Asia’s Unified Energy System in December 2009 led to a 20% decline in electricity output.

The electrical system was built in the 1950s to 1970s and was never ungraded to withstand the heavier loads today from Uzbekistanis. As a result generators, transformers, and substations are constantly breaking down and are offline for extended periods of time.  These breakdowns are most likely to happen in periods of peak loads, such as winter, particularly in peak hours, which are the cause of the blackouts and power surges.

The author suggests that widespread corruption and theft of electricity is also rampant, although it is not clear if this is a cause or a result of the obsolete infrastructure issues.

Other posts on the Uzbekistan energy situation are:    Andijan cemetery plundered for firewood   Tashkent left in the dark as electricity supplies falter   Uzbekistan to import electricity from Kyrgyzstan   Public transport services in Tashkent cut back as a result of fuel shortages

eurasia review    Uzbekistan Energy Profile: Production Hurt By Poor Infrastructure – Analysis

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