US will help South Asia get electricity from Central Asia
* Boucher envisions 500 kilovolt power line built in next few years
* Says diversification of energy transport routes will increase global energy security
WASHINGTON: The US wants to spearhead a project to transmit electricity from Central Asia across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Richard Boucher said on Thursday.
Under the plan, a regional power grid stretching from Almaty to New Delhi would be fed by oil and gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and hydropower from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. “Within the next few years, we expect to see private investment lead to the establishment of a 500 kilovolt power line transmitting much-needed electricity from Central Asia across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India,” Boucher told a Congressional hearing.
“Together with other donors, we are exploring ways to export electricity from Central Asia to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India,” Boucher said, adding that in partnership with multilateral development banks and other donors, Washington wanted to help “build new links” among the countries of the broader region and connect them more closely to the rest of the world.
“One of our leading objectives is to fund a greatly expanded Afghan power grid, with connections to energy sources in Central Asia. “It’s a winning solution for both sides, providing much-needed energy to Afghanistan and serving as a major source of future revenue for countries like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.” New energy routes, Boucher said, would ensure that the next generation of South and Central Asian entrepreneurs had access to the resources they needed to prosper.
“We want to give South Asians access to the vast and rapidly-growing energy resources in Central Asia, whether they are oil and gas in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, thermal power in Uzbekistan, or hydropower in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.” Boucher said that the “opening” of Afghanistan had transformed it from an “obstacle” separating Central from South Asia into a “bridge” connecting the two, which in turn opened “exciting new possibilities”.
Chinese and Indian companies are increasingly competing with US and Russian entities in the contest to develop and export energy resources in Central Asia.
Boucher said that Washington supported establishing “multiple, commercially viable” pipelines and other new energy transportation routes.
The US, he said, “believes that diversification of energy transport routes to and from Central Asia increases stability and energy security, not just regionally but throughout the world.” He noted that the US Trade and Development Agency would in June host a forum on the Central Asian electricity sector, which Washington hopes will spur investment and promote further regional cooperation. “We are also funding feasibility studies in energy, transportation, and telecommunications, and coordinating with the International Financial Institutions and other donors.” AFP