CASA — a Transformational Project
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The opening ceremonies in Dushanbe, Tajikistan that started on May 11 for construction work on the CASA-1000 project mark an important milestone. The project could bring a trade in sustainable electricity between Central and South Asia; address energy shortages in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and provide financing for new investments and improve winter energy supplies for Central Asian countries.
This ambitious project, costing $1.17 billion, is based on a simple idea. In the summer months, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan have more electricity than they need as their hydropower dams fill to the brim with water from melting mountain snow. Much of this excess water simply overflows and is not used to generate electricity. Once built, the
Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000) will generate 1,300MW of electricity from this surplus summer supply and send it through transmission lines to Afghanistan and Pakistan from May to September.
This has benefits for all. For Afghanistan and Pakistan, CASA-1000 will ease electricity shortages during the peak summer season when demand is at its highest. A shortage of energy is cited as the main and most binding constraint to business operations, expansion and job creation. CASA-1000 will also help reduce the countries’ dependency on costly, polluting oil-based power generation. Both countries have major gaps between what they generate and what they currently use in electricity. CASA-1000, while not solving their problem completely, will go some way towards making this problem a smaller one. In addition to reducing energy shortages in Afghanistan, CASA-1000 also has another important benefit for that country. It could help establish Afghanistan as a viable transit country, initially for electricity and perhaps later for other exchanges, as the transmission lines will cross through its territory into Pakistan. This could improve the country’s growth and stability prospects by strengthening ties to neighbours and the wider region.