Limitations of the Central Asian Energy Security Policy: Priorities and Prospects for Improvement

CIGI Paper No. 103

May 20, 2016

The Central Asian energy system represents a unique case in which — despite a long history of mutually beneficial cooperation — regional actors suddenly decided to pursue myopically self-interested energy policies. In the 1990s and early 2000s, coordinated operation of the national energy sectors ensured energy security for Central Asian states. However, isolationist energy policies focused on full self-reliance and self-control, without the establishment of self-sustaining independent energy systems, significantly compromised the security of the CAES. While most of the Central Asian states, since then, have succeeded in building a country-wide energy-transporting network, they still suffer, to differing extents, from excessive dependence on single sources of energy, lack of production capacity and seasonal variation of power generation.

For example, Uzbekistan’s lack of a major gas field significantly limits the state’s ability to meet a fast-growing internal demand for energy. Authorities in Tajikistan have failed to utilize its possession of four percent of the world’s hydro power potential, because of water-energy nexus disagreements between upstream and downstream states in the region. The Government of Kyrgyzstan responded to energy insecurity by making a difficult decision to sell its strategic gas sector. In Kazakhstan, 80 percent of electricity is still generated by environmentally damaging coal-fired thermal power plants. Turkmenistan may have to sell large quantities of gas to external markets at the expense of its domestic consumption.

Apparently, without energy sector development innovations, securing sufficient energy supplies will be problematic. In terms of resource potential from fossil fuels and hydro power, as well as system-level energy governance, Central Asian states and Canada share similar characteristics. Canada has achieved remarkable progress in reducing energy loss through efficiency initiatives, engaging in mutually beneficial trade and developing a mechanism to coordinate provinces’ energy sectors. This paper looks at what Canadian best practices in energy security can offer Central Asian states to improve their prospects for energy security.

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About the Author

Farkhod Aminjonov is a senior research fellow at the Eurasian Research Institute of Akhmet Yassawi International Turkish-Kazakh University. In his position, he contributes to the institute’s work on energy, economics and security. He has experience conducting a number of collaborative research projects with Canadian, German, Norwegian and Turkish research institutes.