Only one-in-three Afghans get electricity - Feb 8, 2012 - - Development Issues - Technical Articles - Index - Library - GENI - Global Energy Network Institute

Only one-in-three Afghans get electricity

Feb 8, 2012 -

Only one in three Afghans has access to electricity despite years of spending to improve supply, and the country is still far too dependent on imported power, the head of the country’s state owned power utility told Reuters. Abdul Razique Samadi, the chief executive officer at Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), said the situation in the capital, Kabul, is far better than the rest of the country, with around 70 percent of households connected.

“Instead of having electricity for two hours, we have power for 24 hours and it is quite reliable,” he told Reuters. About half of India’s 1.2 billion people have no access to power and less than a third of sub-Saharan Africa is electrified.

Connecting Afghans to power is key to boosting an economy weakened by decades of war and improving living standards in a country with a poor record on health and education .

Demand in Kabul has tripled over the past five years and is rising each year. Samadi estimates Afghanistan will need around 3,000 megawatts (MW) to meet the country’s needs by 2020, compared with current supply of around 600 MW. But demand is still so modest that his total forecast for 2020 is just 5 percent of what is consumed by the United Kingdom now — even though Afghanistan’s population is already nearly half the size of Britain’s.

Power cuts are still a regular feature of life, especially at peak times, with more Afghans wanting to watch TV, use electric radiators or cook on electric stoves. To meet its shortfall, the country has to rely on expensive, noisy and polluting diesel generators . Access has improved since a new power line from Uzbekistan began transmitting electricity to Kabul in 2009. Land-locked Afghanistan also sources power from its other neighbours Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. More than half of total supply comes from imports and that is unlikely to change in the near term, Samadi said. Afghanistan’s power stations mainly hydro plants have potential to produce around 500 MW, but actually churn out less than half because of water shortages and maintenance problems.

“For now we are quite vulnerable. We are dependent and here we have a problem,” Samadi said. Imports are also limited by an inadequate transmission network, and even though several projects are planned to strengthen power links, they will take years to complete.—Reuters