The shortfall of electricity had surpassed 7,000 MW. The power generating capacity has badly affected the process of economic growth, as well as millions of households in the country facing continuous hardship.
The Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) project is a significant step in building a functioning, efficient electricity system across Central Asia and South Asia. The export of electricity by Central Asian states to Afghanistan and Pakistan would generate the required revenues to cater for the developmental needs of the former. It would also help in generating substantial economic activity in the latter by providing cheap and clean power.
The significance of the electricity from CASA for Pakistan can hardly be over- stressed. The country has been in the grip of a weakening power crisis for well over a decade. The groundbreaking ceremony of the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project, known as CASA-1000, was formally held on 12th May, 2016 near Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
On May 12, 2016, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif broke ground on CASA-1000, the long awaited $1 billion power project which will transfer electricity from Central Asia to Pakistan via Afghanistan. Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon, Kyrgyz PM Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah joined the Pakistani premier in Tursunzoda, Tajikistan for the inauguration of the 1,200km, 1,300MW electricity link which is expected to be operational in 2018.
Of the 1,200 km long CASA-1000 link, a 500-kilometre 500KV AC line will run from Datka to Khudjand, and a 750-km high voltage DC link will then connect to Kabul and eventually Peshawar. Two 1300MW convertor stations will be constructed at Sangtuda and Peshawar, with the former converting the voltage from AC to DC, and the latter from DC to AC.
The CASA-1000 represents landmark cooperation among Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The project is designed to transmit 1,300MW of electricity from Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Initially only 1,000MW will be provided, out of which Afghanistan and Pakistan will be receiving 300MW and 700MW electricity respectively through a 1,222 kilometer transmission line.
This transmission system envisages the creation of Central Asia-South Asia Regional Electricity Market that eventually would lead to inter-regional cooperation and integration.
Designed on the pattern of 340,000-kilometre North American Grid and the 230,000 kilometer European Power System, the project enjoys the support of the World Bank Group, Islamic Development Bank, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), US State Department, United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), Australian Agency for International Development and other donor communities.
It has been agreed that Pakistan will purchase electricity at 9.35 dollar per kilowatt during the initial 15 years, which also includes the transit fee to be paid to Afghanistan. The project is expected to be operative by the end of 2018. Pakistan will receive 1,300 megawatts of cheap and clean electricity from Central Asian states, more than the initially planned 1,000MW. Afghanistan has abandoned its share of electricity due to dearth of demand. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been working on electricity trading arrangements under the Central Asia-South Asia (Casa) 1,000 projects that will transmit 1,300MW of power from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Afghanistan had been given assurances that it would be provided electricity either by Tajikistan or a power generating facility in Pakistan.
Tajikistan Minister of Energy and Water Resources Usmonali Usmonzoda, who signed the protocol on behalf of his country, said Pakistan and Tajikistan had done a lot of work in the energy sector over the past three years. A lot of action has been taken, resulting in improvement in energy cooperation and CASA-1,000 power project is one of them. Tajikistan has already laid transmission lines that are supplying electricity to Afghanistan.
During the joint commission meeting, both sides expressed the resolve to initiate physical work on the CASA-1,000 project as early as possible to achieve the desired results.
The two sides agreed to establish joint ventures with Oil and Gas Development Company and Pakistan Petroleum Limited for exploration and processing of hydrocarbons in Tajikistan in a government-to-government arrangement.
CASA-1000 will go a long way in bridging the energy shortfall. It’s not only going to help South Asia overcome the power shortfall, but it will ensure collaboration between the two regions on multiple other fronts.
The government should now focus on renewable sources and work on solar and wind energy to further overcome the shortfall and overcome the dependence on imported fuel.
CASA-1000 would bring a massive overhaul in the energy sector. Power generation was on schedule to reach thirty-one thousand MW by 2018 due to the government’s ongoing efforts. The importance towards Central Asia has been on the cards since the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) was put to paper.