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    Gradual return of electricity in Central Asia after massive blackout


    January 25, 2022 - CE Noticias Financieras

     

      Electricity gradually returned Tuesday in three Central Asian countries after a colossal blackout, the origin of which is still unknown, an incident that affected millions of inhabitants and caused major infrastructure disruptions.

      "Electricity supply was resumed throughout Kyrgyzstan following a large-scale power failure," a spokeswoman for the energy ministry announced to AFP on Tuesday afternoon after several hours of blackout.

      The Uzbek ministry also indicated that "electricity supplies to the country's regions are gradually being restored".

      And in Kazakhstan, AFP journalists reported the return of electricity in Almaty, the country's main city. The situation in other urban centers in the south of the country was not known at the moment.

      A large part of Almaty was without power at around midday local time (06H00 GMT), as was Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent and Kyrgyzstan's Bishkek. Kazakhstan's capital, Nursultan, was not affected because it relies on a different power grid.

      According to the press and local authorities, the outages also impacted large parts of provinces in all three countries.

      The electrical interdependence of these three states is very high due to a regional grid inherited from the Soviet era.

      And despite the investments made in the energy network since their independence three decades ago, such power outages are frequent.

      - Skiers locked out of cable cars -

      Uzbekistan's energy ministry said in a statement released on Telegram that the blackout was due to an accident in the Kazakh grid.

      "The Uzbek power grid, which is connected to the Unified Power Grid, was damaged by an accident that triggered sudden voltage and frequency changes on 530 lines from Kazakhstan," it specified.

      The outages are due to "an accident that affected the regional power grid," a spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's energy ministry told AFP, without providing further details.

      Kegoc, the Kazakh electricity company, reported an "electrical overload", but also offered no further details on the breakdown.

      Several airports in the region were disrupted: Tashkent airport halted take-offs for a time, and Bishkek airport reduced its operating capacity.

      In the Kyrgyz capital, the media reported that the breakdown disrupted the operation of pumping stations, affecting water distribution.

      And in Tashkent, the metro came to a halt, an AFP reporter reported.

      In addition, Russian agencies reported that in a ski resort near Tashkent, some 80 people were stuck in the cable cars and had to be rescued.

      - The worst breakdown in "a decade" -

      Central Asia's power grid has been affected by a severe summer drought that has reduced hydropower generation in Kyrgyzstan, a major regional producer.

      On the other hand, the boom in cryptocurrency mining in this region, particularly in Kazakhstan following China's ban on this activity, has increased demand.

      According to Sergey Kondratiev, an expert at Russia's Institute for Energy and Finance center, Tuesday's breakdown is the most significant in the region "since at least a decade."

      "The main reason for these accidents is the lack of coordination of distribution services," he told AFP.

      Central Asian countries have a unified system created in Soviet times to optimize costs, he explained. "But for the past 20 years, all these countries have been making decisions based on their interests."

      But "the interaction of the distribution services of the three countries is necessary, because a problem not solved within a few minutes can lead to a breakdown," according to this expert.

      cr/gkg/apo/zm/dbh/en/en/mb

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