Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have more electricity than they can use during the summer months, as melting ice swells rivers that flow through their hydroelectric generators.

Meanwhile, in nearby Afghanistan and Pakistan, some areas have chronic power shortages and high demand for more electricity. In Pakistan especially, soaring summer temperatures lead to rolling blackouts.

A $1.2 billion Central Asia–South Asia Power Project (known as CASA-1000) is designed to match the two, providing Afghanistan and Pakistan with excess power from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Construction of the transmission lines to move electricity 1,200 kilometers is in the beginning stages, said Michael Curtis, an energy expert at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Central Asia, which supports the CASA-1000 project. Multilateral development banks, international development agencies, and other countries also support it.

Map showing route for electrical lines in Central Asia (State Dept./J. Maruszewski)
(State Dept./S. Gemeny Wilkinson)

By 2022, electricity is scheduled to flow from north to south via transmission lines connecting the power systems of the four countries, with “greater economic opportunities for everyone as a result of more revenues and a more reliable energy source,” Curtis said.

Mark Green, administrator of USAID, recently explained to U.S. business leaders that “we are doing our part to make sure that Asia is free, fair, and open to American business.”

“Because of our direct support to facilitate a streamlined and fair procurement process,” Green said, “American companies like General Electric were confident enough to place bids” in the Central Asia–South Asia project.

‘Now working together’

Afghanistan will not only receive much needed electricity, but also will collect revenue from transit fees as power travels across the country into Pakistan.

For Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, revenues from energy sales will allow both countries to invest in their power systems to provide electricity during the winter months when their power is in short supply.

CASA-1000 will invest in community support programs, including health and education, in villages along the path of the newly built transmission lines for all four countries.

“What this project represents, in no small way, is four countries that didn’t always work together now working together to solve hard problems,” USAID’s Curtis said. “They all see the benefit.”