On the 3rd of July 2017, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, met President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov during an official visit in the Republic of Turkmenistan. Among the addressed topics, the following subjects were discussed:
- the projects regarding the transit of the electricity, oil and natural gas:
- energy transit project (500kV line) between Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP-500);
- natural gas transit project between Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI);
- energy transit project between Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TUTAP);
- the development of a railroad between Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Turkmenistan;
- the cooperation on security matters ;
- cooperation in organizing the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games/ 5th Asian Indoor Games which will be held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan;
- the cooperation in different domains, such as culture, science, education, art, tourism and sport;
During the visit, the following bilateral cooperation agreements were signed:
- The Agreement on cooperation between The Ministry of Energy and Water of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and The Ministry of Energy of Turkmenistan on supply of Turkmen electricity to Badghis and Jowzjan provinces of Afghanistan;
- The Agreement between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Government of Turkmenistan on international road transport;
- The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Government of Turkmenistan on cooperation in the carpet industry;
- The regulations on organization of the railway communication through the Turkmen-Afghan state border between the Akina and Imamnazar stations;
- The Agreement between the Governments of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Government of Turkmenistan on International Railway checkpoint on the Turkmen-Afghan state border;
- The Agreement on the scientific-educational collaboration between the Jowzjan University (Afghanistan) and the Magtymguly Turkmen State University (Turkmenistan);
- The cooperation program between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan for the 2018-2019 period;
The visit takes place on the basis of bilateral relations between the two countries. Also, the visit occurs in consideration of the 7th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) that will take place in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on 14-15 November, 2017.
RECCA’s project in the region for the electrical energy transit (500kV line) between Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan is called TAP-500 and it is one of the most important in Central Asia.
Motivation for TAP-500
The power supply situation is complex in the Central Asian region. In some states (e.g. Afghanistan) there is not a homogenous national power network. If the national grids exist, these are not synchronized with the ones from other neighboring states, which makes the development of regional projects more expensive because of the need for intermediary stations to interconnect the national networks.
Through the TAP project, Turkmenistan wishes to increase its capacity for the yearlong export of the surplus electricity to Afghanistan and further to Pakistan. The growth predictions of the energy surplus are to 3500MW until 2020. It should be mentioned that the electrification rate in Turkmenistan is 100% as of 2016.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, has one of the lowest rates of access and usage of electricity in the world (approx. 30%), with a current peak demand of 850MW expected to increase to 3500 MW by 2032. The absence of a national electricity grid and a power transmission ring connecting the major points still under construction grow the potential of the market. At this moment, Afghanistan’s power grid has a number of islands, “isolated power grids”, working asynchronously, which cannot be interconnected due the technical differences because of the different operational phase angles and frequency variations, thus increasing the supply costs and reducing the network reliability.
There are long term plans to synchronize with the national power grid of Turkmenistan, but for the moment Afghanistan’s power grid is not synchronized with any of the neighboring countries from which they import energy (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan).
Pakistan represents a market that already has an electricity deficit with a significant load shedding of 6 hours urban and 8 hours in rural and the electrification rate is approximately 70%.
In conclusion, the development of Afghanistan’s national power grid is necessary in order to become an electricity transit corridor between the energy-rich Central Asian countries and the ones from South Asia that are energy-poor. For this reason, there are two major projects for the power distribution in the region:
- Turkmenistan–Uzbekistan–Tajikistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan (TUTAP), developed by the Central Asia-South Asia Regional Electricity Market (CASAREM), with the aim to supplement the power demands from Afghanistan and the winter exports from Tajikistan and Pakistan. The electrical line developed under the TUTAP is in the Nord-East side of Afghanistan and has a capacity of 220 kV.
- Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP).
The TAP-500 project
The TAP project will be used for bulk energy transfers and strengthening the national power grids of each country (Afghanistan and Turkmenistan) by using an asynchronous connection (n.a. the synchronization problems between the two networks are solved through intermediary stations).
The project started through a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan on the 13th of December 2015. It aims for a capacity of 2000MW and will complement the already existent connection of TUTAP and CASA projects which are under development of CASAREM framework. As project partners, besides the three countries that signed the Memorandum there is also the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Since the beginning of the project, numerous meetings took place. For the TAP-500 project there were 6 routes considered as possible options. During one of the meetings, the project was divided into 2 phases, as follows:
- The first phase (to be completed by 2019) will use of the TUTAP infrastructure to export Turkmen power to Afghanistan and Pakistan (TUTAP is modular and is being extended and phased as per available financing). It will export energy from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan to supply the Afghanistan’s grid and the surplus power to be exported to Pakistan;
- The second phase (to be completed in 2021) will transfer power through a line starting from Mary (Turkmenistan) – Serhetabad (Turkmenistan) / Towrgondi (Afghanistan) – Hemand – Herat – Kandahar – Spin Boldak (Afghanistan) / Chaman and Quetta (Pakistan);
The next phase of the project includes the following steps:
- to increase the generation capacity for the Mary power complex (located 11 km South from City of Mary, Turkmenistan). The Mary power plant uses natural gas (primary source) and oil (secondary source) and the Karakum canal as a water source. The capacity of plant is 1,685 MW;
- the Yolotan-Tahatbazar-Serhetabat transmission line (220 kV) extension to 500 kV to be commissioned in 2018;
- plans to build a 500 kV line from Towrgondi (Turkmenistan border) to Spin Boldak (Pakistan border);
- to build (500/200 kV) substations at Herat and Kandahar;
- to complete the transmission ring in Afghanistan;
- to create the interconnection between the TAP project line with the national power grid of Pakistan;
- to build of a voltage level substation at Chaman and transmission lines;
The official meeting between the two head of states endorses the cooperation between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan for the regional projects currently under development. The TAP project enables the year-round energy export from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Enhancing urban and rural access to electricity, most beneficiaries being homeowners and small and medium-sized businesses, will boost economic development. Cooperation is based on the previously obtained results and the joint efforts of the two countries to fight against terrorism and radicalism by reducing extreme poverty. This type of poverty represents a primary motif for numerous very poor youths to become radicalized and to be recruited by regional and global terrorism networks.
Likewise, regional projects such as TAPI, TAP, TUTAP and Lapis Lazuli seek to create economic interdependencies against zero-sum games that can lead to a total stall of the economic growth in the region. Last but not least, the Turkmen minority of approximately 1 million people, mainly located along the border of Afghanistan with Turkmenistan in the Badghis and Jowzjan provinces, will gain from the current energy agreement signed during the visit.