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Electricity Deficit Widens in Kazakhstan Despite Rising Production

  • Energy officials forecast a growing gap between electricity consumption and production, with a shortfall expected to reach 3.3 billion kilowatt hours by 2025.
  • The country's power grid is divided into three distinct zones, causing distribution challenges and preventing excess production in one zone from offsetting deficits in another.
  • Long-term solutions being considered include linking the separate grid zones and potentially building a nuclear power plant, with a referendum proposed by President Tokayev to decide on nuclear energy adoption.

Energy officials in Kazakhstan have forecast that electricity shortfalls will deepen in the coming two years, thereby increasing reliance on imports and heightening the risk of unscheduled blackouts.

News outlet LS reported on January 25, citing Energy Ministry data, that power consumption this year is expected to reach 120.6 billion kilowatt hours, while production will lag behind at 118.3 kilowatt hours. Demand and production will both grow in 2025, but the deficit will widen to 3.3 billion kilowatt hours, the ministry is predicting.

Some relief is anticipated in 2026 and 2027, when the government expects production to outstrip demand.

But deficits will again be a feature in the three years that follow, according to a government forecast covering the 2024-2030 period.

Inability to provide domestically for the whole country’s electricity needs is partly about rising demand, but the problem is also rooted in the fact that the electricity grid is split into three geographically distinct areas: the north, the south and the west.

What is known as the western zone is anticipated to produce power in excess of domestic needs this year, but as it is not connected to the linked north-south grid, that excess cannot be delivered to consumers where the need is greatest.

Energy officials anticipate that a project to link the western zone to the rest of the national grid will be completed by 2028, thereby putting in place the infrastructure required to even out the current imbalance between the three zones.

Kazakhstan’s  power grid is linked internationally with neighbors Russia, China, and several Central Asian nations to the south.

The most contentious proposed long-term solution for Kazakhstan’s ever-growing electricity needs is to build a nuclear power plant.

In September, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sought to distance himself from having to take a final decision on the matter by announcing a referendum. He has previously expressed support for the idea, though.

At a government meeting in February 2022, Tokayev argued that without nuclear power, Kazakhstan stands to “lose its entire economy,” adding that nuclear skeptics were “populists who do not understand economic realities.”

No date has yet been set for the vote.


By Eurasianet.org

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  • Piotr Berman on January 26 2024 said:
    The opposition to nuclear power in Kazakhstan, perhaps just a vocal minority, is strange given that Kazakhstan is by far the largest producer of raw uranium and a big player in uranium processing.

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