With mountains covering 93 per cent of the country and vast natural water reserves, Tajikistan has significant hydropower potential. Investment in existing and new energy infrastructure has been a strategic priority for the government and significant progress was made in 2018.
President Emomali Rahmon inaugurated the first of six turbines at the 3,600 MW Rogun hydropower scheme, which began operations in 2018, adding a much needed 600 MW of capacity to the grid. The dam height was reported to reach 75 metres at the end of 2018 and will be the world’s tallest at 335 metres upon completion in 2032.
Construction of the Rogun scheme originally began in 1976 but was stalled for decades due to political instability, civil war, floods and financial setbacks. Construction restarted in 2016 following a push from the Tajik government and support from neighbouring Uzbekistan after it dropped its objections. When fully commissioned Rogun will represent a landmark achievement and ensure hydropower continues to fulfil Tajikistan’s electricity needs, alleviating shortages and raising export opportunities to surrounding countries.
Achieving energy independence by 2030 is one of Tajikistan’s priority policy objectives, as reflected in the country’s National Development Strategy. The Ministry of Energy and Water Resources is targeting an increase in total generating capacity to 10 GW, as well as reduced network losses and greater power exports. To achieve this, measures have been introduced to attract foreign funding, including tax exemptions, legal rights and guarantees in hydropower construction.
A World Bank study released in 2018 described the Rogun scheme as the ‘centrepiece’ of Tajikistan’s development strategy and highlighted its role in spurring economic growth. However to ensure completion of the scheme and realise the country’s development objectives, the study also called for structural reforms to ensure a more sustainable business environment.
Most of Tajikistan’s main hydropower plants are installed along the Vakhsh River downstream of Rogun. This includes the 3,000 MW Nurek dam, currently the tallest in Central Asia, operated by national utility Barqi Tojik. Commissioned in the 1970s, a major contract was awarded in 2018 to replace all nine power units with new 380 MW Francis turbines and generators, expected to increase total output by 12 per cent. The first unit of the Golovnaya hydropower station was also put back into service in 2018, as part of an ongoing modernisation programme looking to raise plant capacity from 240 MW to 270 MW.
Further north in the Sughd region, the 127 MW Qairokkum hydropower plant on the Syr Darya, built even earlier in the 1950s, has secured investment for replacements and repairs. Financing from international funds will assist in raising plant capacity to 174 MW and include measures to improve climate resilience.
Adapting hydropower facilities to manage greater climate extremes is becoming a global issue, particularly for countries like Tajikistan that are vulnerable to climatic and hydrologic variability. The funding package will bolster the operator’s capabilities and working practices in climate risk management based on international good practice.
Alongside hydropower, development of the grid network is a focus for the government. With diplomatic relations much improved in recent years, Tajik-Uzbek transmission lines were restored in April 2018 allowing annual export of up to 1.5 TWh to Uzbekistan. In addition, the CASA 1000 project is progressing and will bolster regional trading opportunities with Afghanistan and Pakistan once completed.
In the eastern region of Tajikistan, known as Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), an international initiative has supported repairs and installations of small-scale hydropower. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) set up a public-private partnership to assume responsibility for existing units and build new local hydro. These efforts were recognised in 2017 for expanding energy access in the GBAO region, after a reported 96 per cent of households had achieved access to reliable and clean energy supplies.
This country profile is featured in the 2019 Hydropower Status Report. Download the report: hydropower.org/statusreport
This profile was last updated in May 2019.