Every winter, Afghans weather the cold with a bukhari (wood stove) for warmth and use candles or gas lamps to light up the long, dark nights. But this winter, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and a consortium of donors including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, the Asia Development Bank, the Government of India, and the Government of Germany launched an effort to bring round-the-clock power to Kabul.
On December 14, 2008, the Ministers of Energy and Economy requested assistance from USAID to import 40 megawatts (MW) of power from Uzbekistan to serve the Kabul area within one month. USAID’s partner, The Louis Berger Group/Black & Veatch, handled the effort’s management, engineering, and coordination.
Bringing energy from Uzbekistan was a complex process and required innovative engineering solutions. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with support from USAID, negotiated the purchase of electricity from Uzbekistan while USAID and other partners re-engineered an existing power line to transmit electricity from Uzbekistan to Kabul through Mazer-e-Sharif.
Electricity started flowing from Uzbekistan on January 20, 2009, and began to power Kabul City one day later. Now, over 216,000 residents have round-the-clock access to power only 36 days from the inception of the project.
“I can study at night without ruining my eyes,” 22-year-old student Sharifa Fahim happily exclaimed. Muneer Jamili, a Kabul businessman, looks forward to enjoying a hot shower every night. “Electricity has changed our lives,” he said.
Now that power has reached Kabul, the project will continue to bring more affordable electricity to the capital and other parts of Afghanistan. Mr. Gulla Jan Hairan, acting spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water, explained, “We have modernized [the] system and made it more efficient to benefit the public. We will continue work for the 220 kV power flow planned for April and September this year. The new line is expected to deliver 180 MW of power, 150 MW to Kabul and 30 MW to Mazar.” One megawatt of electricity reaches 800 households and powers 20,000 50-watt lightbulbs.