IEA (2020), Kyrgyzstan energy profile, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/kyrgyzstan-energy-profile, Licence: CC BY 4.0
Kyrgyzstan’s oil and gas resources are marginal, but those of coal are substantial. Recoverable oil reserves are estimated at 5 Mt, with 10 Mt of resources, and gas reserves are estimated at 6 billion cubic metres (bcm) and 20 bcm of resources. Explored coal reserves amount to 1.3 billion tonnes (Bt). Kyrgyzstan ranks fifteenth-highest in the world for hard coal resources, but the government estimates that coal reserves are actually larger, at 2 Bt.
Most oil and gas deposits have been exploited for over 70 years and have produced approximately 70% of their economically viable capacity. In addition, newer oil wells dating from 1992 have depreciated by 30%, so between resource depletion and ageing equipment, oil and gas production has declined considerably since the early 1990s. The government therefore plans to exploit new well sites in the future, with potential recognised in the Ferghana Valley, the Alai Valley, the Naryn Basin, the Issyk-Kul basin and the eastern Chuy Basin.
Kyrgyzstan has approximately 70 coal deposits, but as the majority are difficult to exploit, resources are much greater than reserves. Nevertheless, the government plans to increase coal mining considerably, from 450 kt in 2010 to 3 Mt in 2025 (production was 2.395 Mt in 2018). Growth will come from a 30% increase in the existing mines of Kara‑Keche, Besh-Burhan, Zhergalan, Sulukta and Tash-Kumyr.
Concerning hydropower, the potential of Kyrgyzstan’s rivers is approximately ten times what is currently utilised.
Kyrgyzstan’s energy system is subject to supply security threats as well as other challenges. The network is old and inefficient, and losses are high. In addition, hydro-based electricity production is susceptible to seasonal and weather-related fluctuations: electricity supply is therefore less reliable due to lower water inflows and high demand during the winter months. Furthermore, while demand centres are in the north, more than 80% of hydropower capacity is in the south. Old transmission connections are a further handicap.
Electricity supply is also constrained by the regional water-energy nexus. Kyrgyzstan’s major hydropower source, the Toktogul Reservoir, was constructed in Soviet times to provide a more dependable water supply for downstream irrigated agriculture as well as to generate hydropower. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asian countries began bartering for the exchange of fuel, electricity and water resources, which led to disagreements. Over the past few years Kyrgyzstan has exported electricity to neighbouring countries under bilateral contracts; however such contractual supplies are seasonal and subject to hydrological fluctuations. Volumes of bilateral trade even in high water years do not generate enough funds to procure fuel for winter power generation by combined heat and power plants.
The government’s primary focus is on diversifying energy sources and increasing domestic production, mainly for hydropower; in addition, a number of rehabilitation projects for existing thermal power plants are currently being implemented. The reconstruction of the Bishkek TEC-1 plant to increase capacity by an additional 300 megawatts (MW) was carried out in 2017. At present, the reconstruction of heating networks in Bishkek and Osh as well as the reconstruction of substations and improvement of power regulation and water management at the Toktogul Reservoir are also being implemented.
The government has concrete targets, yet their implementation remains a challenge due to the inadequate finances of the energy sector. The unsustainable tariff subsidy regime imposes a significant financial burden, which has resulted in a serious lag in modernisation and expansion of the electricity, heat and gas systems. Growing demand and insufficient investment do not bode well for Kyrgyzstan’s energy security.
Electricity and heat
Electricity generation capacity in Kyrgyzstan was 3.9 gigawatts (GW) in 2018, from 15 hydropower plants (HPPs) (3 GW) and two co-generation plants (0.812 GW).1 The electricity transmission network is more than 80 000 km long, including 946 km of 500‑kV lines, 2 019 km of 220‑kV lines, 4 613 km of 110‑kV lines, and roughly 190 transformer substations. About 80% of the hydro capacity is in the south, connected by a 500‑kV line to the northern regions that account for 60% of electricity consumption.
Four cities have district heating: Bishkek (85% of households), Osh (35-40%), Kyzyl-Kiya (60%) and Karakol (26%). Electric boilers are the main heat source for the district systems, with approximately 3 000 boilers in operation.
Demand for electricity and heat is increasing, but the systems are aged and inefficient, and investment in rehabilitation and expansion is inadequate.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is financing the rehabilitation of the Toktogul Dam: the first phase (USD 55 million) and the second (USD 250 million) are currently being implemented. The second 120‑MW unit at Kambarata‑2 HPP (360 MW) is also being installed with a USD 138-million loan from the Eurasian Development Bank, and is planned for commissioning in 2021. Another generation facility, At-Bashy HPP, is being rehabilitated with Swiss government support of USD 22.2 million. Construction of the Upper Naryn Cascade (237 MW) started in 2014, but was later suspended, and the planned construction of the Kambarata‑1 Plant (1 860 MW) never started, due to the denunciation of the intergovernmental agreement with Russia.
Two new 500‑kV substations, Datka and Kemin, were commissioned and the 500‑kV Datka-Kemin north-south connecting line was completed in 2015; financing for rehabilitation projects in the transmission subsector comes from the ADB (USD 44.8 million) and the Islamic Development Bank (USD 16.25 million). The electricity distribution network also requires significant investment to decrease losses and improve reliability: several distribution network rehabilitation projects are being implemented with support from the KfW Development Bank (EUR 35 million), the World Bank (USD 25 million) and the Islamic Development Bank (USD 16.25 million).
A 500‑kV Datka-Khodjent AC transmission line (200 km) is planned under the CASA‑1000 project. The Kyrgyz component of the transmission line will be funded by the World Bank (USD 45 million), the European Investment Bank (EUR 70 million) and the Islamic Development Bank (USD 50 million).
Approved in 2012 by all participating countries, the goal of the CASA‑1000 project is a 1 200‑km high-voltage power line grid connecting Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The two exporting countries, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, will generate foreign exchange earnings as they export surplus summer electricity. The project will also connect the power systems of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, making the high-voltage electricity transmission network in the region more reliable.
Oil and natural gas
Natural gas is imported via the Bukhara-Tashkent-Bishkek-Almaty pipeline in the north, which transports gas from Uzbekistan to the main Kazakhstan population centres. Annual gas supply to Kyrgyzstan is approximately 300 million cubic metres (mcm) per year.
Gas infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan needs significant refurbishment, as it is over 35 years old and is highly inefficient. The network consists of 709 km of transmission lines, 591 km of average pressure lines, 2 374 km of low-pressure lines, 203 gas distribution points, and 717 control and gas distribution stations.
In December 2013, Kyrgyzstan sold its gas network to Russia’s Gazprom for USD 1 in exchange for taking over USD 38 million of debt and pledging to invest USD 600 million to improve Kyrgyzstan’s gas network over a 25-year period.
The government plans to significantly increase coal mining, from 450 kt in 2010 to 3 Mt by 2025, with a 30% increase from existing mines. During 2018, coal production totalled 2,395 Mt. If production from the Kara-Keche coal mine is increased, it will provide enough coal for the proposed 1.2 GW coal-fired plant, which requires at least 2.5 Mt of coal per year. The Kara-Kechenskaya thermal power plant project has been proposed in order to supply base load power in northern Kyrgyzstan. The government is planning to seek investors for the project through an international bidding process.
The Electricity Law requires that the government take necessary protective measures, including temporary limitations on the use of electricity, in the event of an emergency or natural disaster and when the physical safety or security of people, installations or system integrity is threatened. Such measures must cause the least possible disruption to electricity sector operations and must not be broader in scope than is strictly necessary to remedy sudden crisis situations. Such limitations shall be approved by Government decree as necessary.
The Rules for Use of Electrical Energy, approved by the government and other normative documents for ensuring the reliability of electricity supply, define three categories of reliability. The State Inspectorate for Ecological and Technical Safety monitors implementation of the Rules.
The first category of reliability concerns installations for which uninterrupted operation is essential for preventing threats to life, threats to national security, significant material damage, suspension of a complex technological process, or damage of essential components of utilities. This highest level of reliability must be provided by the electricity supplier through a secondary backup power source completely independent from the energy system network.
A special group within this highest-reliability category involves electrical installations for which uninterrupted operation is essential for accident-free suspension of production (i.e. to avoid threats to people’s lives, explosions, fires and damage to expensive basic equipment). This includes electrical installations for nuclear power stations and life support systems in mines. Uninterrupted energy supply for this special category must be assured by an additional, third independent backup power source separate from the network.
The Rules for Use of Electrical Energy do not obligate energy suppliers to provide customers in the second and third reliability categories with a backup power source, so customers in these categories wishing to have a continuous energy supply in case of power outage or emergency have to install backup generators or power sources (usually diesel generators) at their own expense.
In practice, however, it is common that the infrastructure necessary to ensure backup power is missing and an entire administrative division, having all categories of consumers within it, is fed by one 110‑kV transmission line without a second, fully independent backup power source for consumers of the first category. In the rural areas of Kyrgyzstan, many customers are connected to one 10‑kV feeder that passes through several population centres, irrespective of the category of electricity supply reliability mandated in the effective normative documents. New and existing customers must therefore install backup generators at their own expense to ensure a continuous power supply to their facilities in case of power outage or emergency.
Co-generation refers to the combined production of heat and power.
Co-generation refers to the combined production of heat and power.