The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is helping the government of Afghanistan to prepare a national power transmission grid project through a US$750,000 technical assistance (TA) grant.

The ADB said the project would interconnect the northwestern power system with the northern and central power systems to supply the provinces of Badghis, Faryab, and Jawzjan, which are not currently electrified from a grid.

About 800 km of double circuit 200 kV line is planned under the project from Mazar Sharif to Herat, including the upgrading of 142 km of existing single circuit 110 kV transmission line from Mazar Sharif to Shebergan. It would also develop a National Load Dispatch Center in Kabul to coordinate the dispatch of generation and power imports from neighboring countries.

“The project will improve system stability, reduce losses, and boost the reliability of electricity supplies in a country where there is no national power transmission grid and much of the power sector has been destroyed or damaged after more than two decades of conflict,” said Chong Chi Nai, an ADB senior energy specialist.

The ADB said daily rationing of electricity, frequent brownouts, aging power generation plants, missing overhead transmission and distribution lines, and proliferation of small diesel generators that are inefficient and polluting characterize Afghanistan’s power sector.

The electrification rate is estimated to be about 6% and the annual per capita consumption of electricity is among the lowest in the world.

Under an ADB-financed Emergency Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Project, 220 kV transmission lines are being repaired in the north, while India is financing the detailed design of a line to interconnect the northern and central power systems and enable the import of power from Uzbekistan to meet acute shortages in Kabul.

But the western power system centered on Herat does not yet have a transmission network system. Under construction is a double circuit 132 kV transmission line from Iran and a single circuit 220 kV transmission line from Turkmenistan to make it easier to import power from these two countries.

The TA study will conduct the financial, economic, social, and environmental analyses of the envisaged project and finalize the technical project design. Its poverty reduction potential will be analyzed, with particular attention on the affordability of connection charges and monthly bills.

The total cost of the study is about $900,000, of which the government will fund $150,000 equivalent. The Ministry of Water and Power is the executing agency for the study, which is due for completion around January 2005.