National Power Networks: managing the transmission transition

Uzbekistan Special Report Interview with Elmurodov Kholik, First Deputy Chairman of the Board, Uzbekistan National Power Networks

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GlobalMarkets: What is the remit of Uzbekistan National Power Networks?

Elmurodov Kholik: The main activities of the company are the operation and development of the main electric networks of Uzbekistan, the supply of electricity through the main power grid of the country, and the implementation of interstate transit in co-operation with the power systems of neighbouring states.

Currently, our organisation consists of 14 regional power transmission lines and 77 substations. Overall, 4,713 specialists work in the company.

GM: What are the main challenges you face?

EK: The total length of Uzbekistan’s power grid is around 255,000km, more than six times the length of the Equator. Among them 9,700km is 220-500 kV main overhead power transmission lines which are serviced by our organisation. It is clear that such a long network needs constant construction and repair, modernisation and innovative technologies.

Unfortunately, nearly 62% of our electric network is more than 30-35 years old. The distribution networks are extremely worn out, which leads to a large loss of electricity, now accounting for more than 2.8% of the total energy supplied by thermal power plants to the grid.

GM: What are your main investment projects?

EK: The largest project we are working on at the moment is the modernisation and upgrade of our 22 main power substations in order to increase the reliability of electricity supply. This involves the renewal of old machinery and power lines with modern equipment corresponding to international standards.

The renovation project was started in 2017 and will finish in 2022. It is being partly financed by the World Bank, which has provided a loan of $150m. The total cost of the project is $292m.

Also ongoing is the construction of the Takhiatash-Sarimoy transmission line in the Khorezm region. A 340km stretch of line is being built at a cost of $258m, of which $150m has been provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The project is due to be completed this year.

Work also began this year on the construction of an overhead transmission line from Navoiy TPP to Besopan. The new line, which will cost $80m and is partly funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, will provide electricity for the newly established mining and metallurgical production facilities in the Navoiy region and to develop the power grid in the northwest.

Our next major project, which will start this year, will be in the Tashkent region. We have undertaken to provide a high-quality power supply to the Tashkent Metallurgical Plant, as well as to meet the needs of the population and industrial facilities in Tashkent and the border areas of Tashkent region.

GM: Do you have any projects outside the country?

EK: Yes, we are currently working on the construction of the 500kV Surkhon-Puli-Khumri power transmission line to Afghanistan.

This will improve our relations with Afghanistan and enhance our ability to export electricity to neighbouring regions, thereby increasing the inflow of foreign currency into Uzbekistan and our standing in the international arena.

The total length of the line is 246km, of which 45km pass through the Surkhandarya region of Uzbekistan and 200km through Afghanistan.

GM: What effect have improvements in regional co-operation had on your work?

EK: In the last three years, we have seen dramatic change. Previously, working on our transmission lines outside Uzbekistan was very challenging due to the difficulty of moving equipment and personnel across borders.

Today, thanks to the efforts of our president, this has become much easier. We have been able to monitor and make repairs to our lines in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and our regional partners have been able to come and work in Uzbekistan. This has been mutually beneficial.

GM: Are you ready to support the expansion of renewable energy in Uzbekistan?

EK: It is very important for us to be prepared for the transmission of generated electricity by renewable energy sources.

As a company, we are very supportive of initiatives to produce cleaner energy and improve efficiency. We are working on bringing the issues of energy efficiency and energy conservation to the general public and introducing proposals to start education on the topic at pre-school age.

We also closely work with citizens, raising awareness about what steps must be gone through to produce electricity, how it can be delivered, and the continuous and quality distribution of energy to consumers. Energy efficiency and efficient use of natural resources are inseparably linked with the development of society. I think this is our duty to the future generation and our debt to nature.

GM: What other changes are you making at National Power Networks?

EK: We are making gradual changes to our company management, partly as a result of the projects we are working on. New technologies require a different approach to planning and forecasting, so this is helping us to change our management patterns.

We are also working with IFIs to improve our internal standards. We recently undertook a project with the ADB on upgrading our information communication technologies.

We also understand that we need to bring in expertise and technology from outside Uzbekistan in order to build a modern transmission network.

We are open to innovation and keen to work with foreign partners with experience in the energy sector, and hope we can provide a platform for mutually beneficial co-operation.