Afghanistan has one of the lowest rates of access to and usage of electricity in the world, though the situation has changed significantly since US and coalition combat operations began at the end of 2001.
In a review published in WIREs Energy and Environment, Abdullah Fahimi and Paul Upham review the current energy (particularly electricity supply) landscape of Afghanistan, at a time when the security situation remains problematic. Agreements with Central Asian countries and Iran are now in place for importing electricity and thousands of small-scale renewable energy projects have been implemented in rural areas. Several large-scale energy projects have been developed and rehabilitated; the institutional, policy and regulatory landscape has evolved; and transmission lines and distribution networks have been expanded.
Different energy futures are in principle open to Afghanistan. The country’s wind power potential alone, both technical and when resolved to include only windier regions, exceeds projected power demand for several decades ahead. Hydropower at different scales and solar photovoltaics also offer high potential. Yet Afghanistan’s adopted Power Sector Master Plan of 2013 relies heavily on imported and indigenous coal, gas and large hydropower production, which has also led to internal disputes over power line import routes.
A 2015 addendum to the Power Sector Master Plan acknowledges that the dramatic cost reductions experienced by wind and solar PV merit further attention to these options in the medium term. The institutional context of the Afghanistan energy sector is complex, comprising multiple ministries, government agencies, aid agencies and intergovernmental organizations. It remains to be seen whether the relative weight given to the different options, renewable and non-renewable, centralized and decentralized, evolves, as Afghanistan continues to develop.
Kindly contributed by Paul Upham.