Tajikistan is rich in hydropower resources. However, insufficient use of water resources and energy is a big challenge for the country. In 2014, Barki Tojik, the national integrated national power utility of Tajikistan, began to implement the Energy Loss Reduction Project in Khujand and its surroundings for about 80, 000 customers. According to Shodkom Subhonkulov, Chief Engineer of Project Realization Group of Energy Loss Reduction at Barki Tojik, the project has achieved fruitful results with smart meters playing a significant role in it.
Rich in hydropower resources, what is Tajikistan's energy development strategy?
Tajikistan is an intriguing country for hydropower activity with an installed hydropower capacity of 5,190 MW, and an estimated hydropower potential of 527 billion kWh per year.
Tajikistan's hydropower potential is ranked eighth in the world, three times higher than the current electricity consumption throughout Central Asia. The effective use of these resources will provide the region with inexpensive and green power.
Hydropower supplies nearly 100 percent of Tajikistan's electricity, which is used for both domestic supply and export. Recent projects in Tajikistan include full commissioning of Sangtuda 1 (670 MW) in 2009, Sangtuda 2 in 2011 (220 MW), and the planned rehabilitation of the Kairakkum and Nurek HPPs, which is expected to begin in 2018.
Tajikistan's largest hydropower station is Nurek, with an installed capacity of 3,000 MW.
Rogun HPP, which is under construction, when completed, will become Tajikistan's largest hydropower project at 3,600 MW, and will turn Tajikistan into a net exporter of electricity. Rogun will also be the world's tallest dam, at 335 meters.
Tajikistan's hydropower resource experiences high seasonal variations, leading to excess summer supply and significant shortages during the winter months. This imbalance has set the stage for electricity trade with neighbouring countries.
While current exports of excess summer capacity to Afghanistan are conducted on a bilateral basis, the proposed CASA-1000 regional interconnection would link Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan's hydropower into a regional grid including Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.
Beyond this new capacity in the planning stages, there is significant scope for rehabilitation and modernisation in Tajikistan. Around three-quarters of the country's installed infrastructure is over 30 years old, and is thus affecting output from the country's existing hydropower facilities.
Most significantly, the Nurek project, which was commissioned in 1979 and produced over 70 percent of Tajikistan's power, is in desperate need of rehabilitation. In 2014, the Asian Development Bank funded the reconstruction of Nurek's switchyard, and the World Bank issued a contract for the techno-economic assessment study for Nurek's rehabilitation. Currently, the tender for rehabilitation of the HPP has been announced.
In addition, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is providing concessionary financing for the rehabilitation and upgrade of the Kairakkum hydropower project, which will increase its capacity from 126 MW to 170 MW.
The rehabilitation is focusing on incorporating climate resilience into the project's design and operation, enabling it to also access funding from the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), marking the first ever use of the CIF for hydropower.
What challenges is the energy sector facing and how do smart meters help solve the challenges?
Much of the infrastructure in the electricity sector in Tajikistan was installed in the Soviet era and though significant efforts have been made over the past 15 years to rehabilitate old facilities and build new infrastructure, it is estimated that about 74% of generation assets are over 30 years old and are in urgent need of rehabilitation.
Nowadays however, the bulk power grid is simply wearing out. Electrical lines and transformers are overloaded, the condition of the electrical network is unsatisfactory, and most of the existing electric meters are of old inductive/mechanical type.
Because of the above-mentioned, we are facing one of the main challenges—the high rate of energy loss.
The Government of Tajikistan has therefore drawn its attention to energy efficiency, and the reduction of technical and commercial losses of electricity. The state joint-stock holding power company for generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in Tajikistan, OSHC "Barqi Tojik", gradually introduced in recent years new technologies with regard to electricity supply with the aim of minimizing energy losses in the power networks.
For smooth implementation of the Energy Loss Reduction Projects, a project realization group (PRG) has been set up. Currently, the PRG is implementing "Sugd Region Energy Loss Reduction Project", which is financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Union's Investment Facility for Central Asia (EU IFCA).
One of the Project's components is Lot-1 "Supply and Installation of Smart Meters, Meter Reading System Equipment, Auditable Billing System in Khujand and Surrounding Municipalities". The contractor of this Lot is the Chinese Consortium of "ZTE Corporation and Hexing Electrical Co. Ltd."
The main purposes of Sugd Energy Loss Reduction Project are to reduce the losses, increase collections and increase the energy efficiency through the supply and installation of smart meters, Billing and AMI smart meter reading systems and the rehabilitation of networks in the Sugd region, in particular in the city of Khujand, the second-largest city in Tajikistan, and its surroundings.
It should be noted that the comparative analysis of the project shows that the main purposes of Sugd Energy Loss Reduction Project have been achieved. The project presents fruitful results and has led to the decrease in energy loss, the increase in the volume of useful energy and a high level of electricity fee collection. At the same time, we can confidently note that the project encourages the rational use of electricity, which is indeed quite noticeable.
It is necessary to point out that smart meters play a significant role in achieving the above-mentioned goals. Smart meters allow us to control and monitor all the events, such as tampering, at all the electrical network levels. They allow us to make up the energy balance at different voltage levels of the chain, control the energy demand and control debts.
What's your next step? What are your major concerns for implementing the smart-meter project?
Our company has about 1.3 million customers, including residential, commercial, industrial and business customers. The ongoing project covers 6.15% of total customers. Taking into account the encouraging and fruitful results of Sugd Energy Loss Reduction Project, OSHC "Barki Tojik" has started negotiations with the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan and foreign financial institutions for the extension of the project area and implementation of such a project in other regions of Tajikistan. New projects will include the replacement of old inductive/mechanical electrical meters with new smart meters.
Our plan is to replace all of the existing old meters with new smart meters. Regarding our major concerns, I can list at least two. The first one is the investment issue and the second is the smart grid and smart meters' security.
It should be noted that new technologies, such as smart meters, are not only revolutionizing the grid from the edges inward. They are at the same time making it possible to meet the challenges that they cause and entirely meet new opportunities that they afford. Utilities must stay abreast of what they are, what they do, and how they can be best utilized to plan, operate and manage this increasingly complex and challenging business. Changes in technology in the energy sector are the biggest challenge cited by power companies around the world. Another important related issue right now is cybersecurity. The energy/utilities industry "has become more dependent upon technology and become more digitized". It's one of the last big industries to digitize. It's made the industry more vulnerable to cyberattacks.
What do you think of ZTE's smart metering and billing solution? How is it tailor-made for your operation?
The smart meter project, including billing and AMI solutions implemented by ZTE in Sugd Region, has become a showpiece for our engineers and our company's guests from surrounding countries. Every single detail and function is designed by taking into account our companies' requirements and Tajikistan's and international standards and regulations. So, we are very happy with the infrastructure, interfaces, functions, and the output of ZTE's smart metering and billing solution.
What do you think of the cooperation with ZTE? What are your expectations for the future?
For our company and for me as a chief engineer of "Energy Loss Reduction" Project Realization Group, it is a privilege to cooperate with ZTE and ZTE's team of experts. ZTE's team is well organized, motivated and knows one's onions. It is therefore a pleasure to maintain our mutually beneficial partnership in the future.
Taking into account the above-mentioned, we are working on a new proposal for new smart meter projects, which will hopefully become the start of a new long-term mutually beneficial partnership between Barki Tojik and ZTE.