The vulnerability of energy in Central Asia

The vulnerability of energy in Central Asia

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Date: 28th November 2013
Author: CDKN Asia
Type: Feature
Countries: Asia, Tajikistan
Tags: hydropower, World Bank

Daryl Fields and Alla Ljungman from the World Bank discuss how a partnership between CDKN and the ESMAP programme is building the resilience of the energy sector in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is one of the least developed and poorest countries in Central Asia. Two-thirds of the population live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for livelihoods. Their productively remains low, partly due to energy shortages. The chronic energy shortage is one of the most often cited constraints to private sector investment, and in the winter months people suffer rolling electricity blackouts that result in disruptions to light and heat.

A secure and sustainable source of energy is a key requirement for Tajikistan’s future development. However, climate change is already making this a difficult task.

In Tajikistan, water and energy go hand in hand. More than 90% of the country’s current energy comes from small and large hydropower facilities. But less than 10% of the total hydropower potential of 40GW is being utilised. With the glaciers in the Tajik mountains melting every year due to rising temperatures, climate change poses a threat to the current and future supply of energy in the country.

Climate change also brings the risk of increased competition for water between the agriculture and energy sectors. Higher electricity demand can be expected for both agricultural irrigation and industrial activities as temperatures rise. At the same time, there could be shortages of cooling water for thermal power plants.

To complicate matters, water and regional politics are also closely connected. The region’s largest river, the Amu Darya, originates from Tajikistan and the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan and Afghanistan, a river that feeds extensive agricultural lands in downstream countries.  How this water is used and shared is, therefore, a very sensitive matter.

The World Bank has started work on helping the Government of Tajikistan to better understand the linkages between future power supply-demand balance and climatic conditions, building on an already robust program in the energy and water sectors. With CDKN and others’ support, we will use an innovative methodology that combines stakeholder consultation and power planning methodologies to analyze the impact of climate change on their power sector and evaluate the economics of different technology options and policy alternatives.

The World Bank’s ESMAP team and partners have already carried out this process in four other Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and we are learning and improving the process every time.

What we have seen in the other countries offers potential  steps for the Government of Tajikistan build climate resilience in their energy sector.

  • Diversification of power supply. Diversification of generation technologies is a critical step for energy sector resilience. Much of the existing power generating capacity is approaching the end of its useful service life providing new opportunities for technological upgrading or expansion of solar and wind power.
  • Demand control. Measures focused on reducing demand from the largest power users—industry, agriculture and buildings—are the least-cost option to fill emerging supply-demand gaps. Such an approach would lead to an immediate win for the economy and an effective hedge against climate change.
  • Water management: Water productivity can be enhanced by improving management of water shortages and upgrading to less water intensive technologies.
  • Facility maintenance and disaster risk management. At the plant level, actions can be taken to address extreme climate events, loss of operational efficiency, and environmental impacts by ensuring that plant managers have adequate information about the risks of climate change and possible measures for resilience.
  • Knowledge and institutions: Supporting cross-sectoral consultation and joint planning—particularly among the energy sector, water sector and disaster risk management—and improving data on climate variables are key areas for building adaptive capacity.

Many of these are “no regrets” actions since they offer climate resilience benefits while also providing immediate safety and economic benefits. After our study the Government will have a better understanding of the economics of these actions, and which can provide the most benefits to the country.

After completion of the national study in Tajikistan the Central Asia region will come into focus.  The study will analyse how adaptation policies chosen in one country could impact adaptation in another country in Central Asia. These impacts -- or externalities -- could be positive and/or negative. The regional study will explore various strategies for adapting energy sectors to climate change from a regional perspective, taking into consideration the possibility to export and import energy among Central Asia countries, joint technological solutions, economies of scale in knowledge and institutions, and coordinated water management, and disaster risk management. The methodology for the regional overview will explore how negative externalities can be reduced or eliminated – and positive externalities enhanced -- through coordination and regional cooperation.

The studies are directed to government and utility decision makers to help identify and implement concrete, cost-effective responses to the risks of climate change to the energy security in Central Asia. However, we hope that those who ultimately benefit are the estimated one million people in Tajikistan who spend six weeks or more in the winter without access to reliable electricity.


We occasionally invite bloggers from around the world to provide their experiences and views. The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of CDKN

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