Construction to Begin on the Afghanistan Leg of CASA-1000
On February 6, 2020, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani announced the construction of the Afghanistan portion of the CASA-1000 electricity transmission project was set to begin. The entire CASA-1000 project – short for the Central Asia-South Asia power project – is one of the largest power projects in Central Asia, transmitting surplus hydroelectricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan through Afghanistan to Peshawar, Pakistan. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have some of the greatest potentials for hydroelectric power generation in the world. Meanwhile, Pakistan has long suffered unmet power needs, especially in the summer. Afghanistan also has a significant need for additional electricity both for individual consumers and for business and industry.
Once construction is fully complete, the transmission line is expected to carry 1,300 megawatts of electricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Three hundred megawatts from the transmission line will be allocated to Afghanistan and the remaining 1,000 will be transmitted on to Pakistan. The leg of the project referenced by President Ghani in his declaration will run from the Badakhshan region in northeastern Afghanistan to the Chitral region in northern Pakistan, extending 349 miles across the country from Tajikistan to the border with Pakistan.
Afghanistan consumes 5.53 billion kWh of electricity but only produces 1.21 billion kWh, meaning the county relies heavily on importing electricity to satisfy its current demand. Additional electricity will be needed as Afghanistan develops. Pakistan, too, has long needed additional electricity and other energy supplies. A 2018 World Bank blog post noted nearly 50 million Pakistanis lacked access to the grid and that the country ranked 115th among 137 economies for reliable power.
The CASA-1000 electricity project, along with other proposed and ongoing projects to promote greater and more reliable supplies of electricity in the region, is a positive development that will help improve the economies and lives of the people in the region as well as provide a vector for the greater connectivity needed among these countries. The CASA-1000 will help satisfy the region’s growing demand for electricity with its transmission of the excess amounts of electricity Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan generate in the summer to Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the same time, CASA-1000 will bolster intra-regional cooperation among the four countries involved, signaling a step closer toward implementing the planned Central Asia-South Asia Regional Electricity Market (CASAEM). Thus, overall President Ghani’s announcement is a positive one, politically as well as economically.