Energy Security in Kyrgyz Republic and Its Role in the Regional Integration



Kyrgyz Republic has a developed democracy in the region which represents a model for its neighbors with their autocratic governments. But, because of political and ethnic disturbances in the country which occurs frequently in last more than 20 years, there is not a stable political environment to pave the way for economic development even if it is the first country in its region which launch market reforms by Askar Akaev. Another reason which stands in front of sustainable development of Kyrgyzstan can be explained by lack of hydro-carbon sources in its lands on the contrary to its neighbors’ situations (except for Tajikistan). On the other hand, the Kyrgyz lands are blessed with the rich water resources which give the life to not only to Kyrgyzstan but also to the region. One of two main headwaters in Aral Basin takes its source from the mountains located in Kyrgyzstan; Syr Darya.

Energy-Water Dilemma between Upstream and Downstream Countries in Aral Basin

Water-Energy allocation in the Central Asia was controlled by the Soviet government for a long times, hereunder while Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s energy need was supplied by rich oil and gas reserves of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, huge irrigation projects located especially in Uzbekistan, South of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan were realized thanks to release of water sources how much they demand coming from upstream countries; Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Centralized USSR government created a dependency between those upstream and downstream countries to meet the needs of both sides. But, emerging of small sovereign states in Central Asia in early 1990s abolished the central governance on the issue so, Kyrgyz and Tajiks could not reach planned deliveries of coal, oil and gas to use in winter from their neighbors. After being sovereign each country serves its own interest and coming to an agreement gets difficult day by day. Old multilateral agreements on water allocation of Amu and Syr Darya rivers between upstream and downstream states replaced with bilateral, annual and ad hoc agreement between the parts. In February 1992, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan become parts of the first regional agreement which is called as “the Agreement on Cooperation in Joint Management, Use and Protection of Interstate Source of Water Resources” after their independence but it would appear that other states could not provide energy delivery of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan the way it used to be (Libert, et al., 2008). Another multilateral agreement was signed in 1998 by the countries in Syr Darya Basin; Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan on water and energy relations in the region. In short, downstream countries guaranteed to pay for electricity which produced from the Toktagul Dam in the irrigation season in return Kyrgyzstan particularly spend that money to get energy delivery from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In fact, the agreement in 1998 might be accepted as successful in the years 1998 to 2001 but currently non-collaborative attitude of Uzbekistan hinders to reach a mid-point on the issue of water sharing. Therefore, these two countries started to depend on “their only readily available” source of energy: hydropower (Libert, et al., 2008).

Kyrgyzstan’s Energy Security

Kyrgyzstan is holding a huge hydropower potential which is over 160 billion kWh per year into its hands even today it has used only 10 percent of the total. In fact, Kyrgyz Republic produced its 80 percent of energy by hydro-power plants and the rest of them derive from the thermo-electric plants fueled by hydro carbon fuels (Juraev, 2009). But it does not necessarily mean that Kyrgyz Republic secures its energy need for present and the future. The year of 2008 proved it in some sense because water level in the biggest dam in the country Toktagul Dam decides power blackouts, people’s behavior toward taking advantage of electricity which was preferred rather than oil and gas because of lower prices, changing tariffs that implemented by the government and restrictions on energy consumption etc. According to experts, the reason of acute water shortage in the reservoirs and afterward electricity in Kyrgyzstan are “abnormally cold” winter of 2007-2008 and the series of dry years (Juraev, 2009).

Kyrgyzstan has notable energy loss; technical and economic total loss is 35 percent which proves inefficient use of water and energy is one of the major problems of the country (Libert, et al., 2008). Also the percentage of energy sector in effect to the GDP of the country is very low and it’s on the way of decreasing from 4.9% in 2002 to 3.9% in 2006 (Izmailov, 2007). Low GDP percentage would be explained by loss of electricity which takes its roots from the reasons such as “poor quality transmission and distribution lines” and “stolen electricity” which is one consumed but not paid (Juraev, 2009).Energy saving technologies and investments into energy infrastructures takes very vital part in fighting against energy loss on account of according to Prime Minister Chudinov, the loss of power ranged 33 percent of total produced electricity (Juraev, 2009). On the other hand, Kyrgyz Republic signed many agreements and letter of intent on building cooperation with developed nations to bring energy efficiency technologies, to organize some trainings and seminars on the topic like the example pf cooperation with the Ministry of Energy and Industry of the Kyrgyz Republic and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) for the introducing of Japanese technology and acknowledgement about solving the issue (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, 2012).

Also it is another challenge that lack of pursuing effective management and policies toward energy sector generates monopoly, mismanagement and corruption in the sector.  As the president Kurmanbek Bakiyev said over and over, one of the main problems of the energy sector in Kyrgyzstan is poor governance. What the country actually needs are transparent, accountable and more efficient governance in energy sector and thusly to battle against corruption and other some undemocratic practices (Juraev, 2009). Moreover, in order to diminish the dependence to downstream neighbors, Kyrgyzstan aims to finish construction of the Kambarata 1 and 2 power plants on the Naryn River, above the water reservoir of Toktagul. Because of dissolution of the USSR, its construction could not be completed since 1980 to even today. While Kambarata 1 is a hydropower plant HPP which has 1900 MW and 5.1 billion kWh electricity capacity yearly (Juraev, 2009).

On the other hand, if Kyrgyz Republic can realize the other projects which is planned on the Naryn River to supply all its energy demand and lesser dependence to import energy from outside, Increase in reliance of hydropower will give rise to dependence to climate, problem of energy security, some environmental problems with lower water release to the Aral Sea, wider negative impacts on directly economy and food production of its neighbors and finally having a strategic game between USA and Russia toward its energy issues.

First of all, the energy and water shortage in 2008 winter well demonstrated that dependence to climate should be diminished to ensure energy security of Kyrgyz Republic for long term. Indeed, diversification of energy resources takes an important place to provide safety of the country on the energy issues so, Kyrgyz Republic should branch out its source of energy and it should shift to clean renewable energy in the process of time. Increase the percentage of the thermo electric stations in Osh and Bishkek after 2008 power-cuts because of water shortage in the same year (Juraev, 2009) is not enough to provide diversification and to save the ecology of Aral Basin. Because, Aral Lake has been without water more and more as a consequence of keeping water in the huge reservoirs in upstream and wrong irrigation technics in agriculture in downstream. According to Khankhasayev and Leitman, “Aral Sea environmental disaster (already) reputed to be one of the biggest man-made ecological disasters in the region and perhaps in the world (Rosario, 2009).” Herein promote use of renewable energy sources, deserves attention in the sense of reaching energy security and clean energy in the country. To illustrate, Kyrgyz Republic and the UNDP have some round table discussions regarding “Development Prospects of Small Energy and Renewable Energy Sources” on October 16, 2008 and the project on “Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources in Remote Regions of Kyrgyzstan” to help in setting some handbooks, in specifically on bio-installations (Energy Charter Protocol on Energy Efficiency and Related Environmental Aspects (PEEREA), 2011). Recently, the Japan-fund project is started to be implemented in the three pilot installations in the region of the Tchuja (Energy Charter Protocol on Energy Efficiency and Related Environmental Aspects (PEEREA), 2011).

Demand for water, almost 90 percent of total, in Central Asia region has been used for agricultural purposes. As a matter of course, agriculture is one of the major economic employers which are also composing highest percentage of the countries’ GDP in the region. The highest percentage is the one in Uzbekistan due to the follow-up Soviet Policy in the land which Uzbekistan was decided as “cotton belt” in the Union. According to importance of agriculture in the countries’ economy, in near or mid-future reduction in the irrigated areas in the region especially in Uzbekistan does not seen as possible. In other words, water will save its crucial role in the bargains and regional politics. In return of water will be hydrocarbon or another alternative for the hydropower because self-sufficiency of Kyrgyzstan in terms of energy means limited water release from Kyrgyz reservoirs to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan also approaches the issue seriously to defend its food security particularly in southern part of the country in which people work in the agribusiness.

Actually other big actors’ intervention in to the issue makes the things more complicated and hard to solve. In that sense, it is obvious that Russian loans to Kyrgyz Republic to finish the construction of the planned new HPP and TPPs on the Naryn River will bring a good amount of economic loss for Uzbekistan. Also Russia holds the hydropower plan construction card into its hands to convince Kyrgyzstan to close the “American Military Base” in its territory. While Russia provokes Kyrgyzs to build new HPP and to use its potential hydro energy power instead of other alternative energy sources, the western countries and international organizations like the UN’s some specialized agencies, the EU and some NGOs see the solution of the water-energy problem in the region in more cooperative water-energy management between countries with more dialogue and building a balance of water-energy issues.


With the diminishing centralized water-energy management in the region in the beginning of 1990s, not long after annual bilateral agreements on water allocation started to create ineffective policies and management of the issue so, there is a strong necessity to reach a multilateral regional cooperative agreement which provides realistic solutions for urgent issues between the countries. In fact, there are some even multilateral agreements have been signed between the parts but because of the absence of central, long term and effective mechanism to implement what is written on the paper. Even if there is limited cooperation between the governments in the region, some experts gathered from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and created a regional water and energy strategy within the framework of UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) in the aim of “strengthening cooperation for rational and efficient use of water and energy resources in Central Asia” (Libert, et al., 2008). The significance of the document is that it clearly connects with water and energy issues and creates a balance in terms of interest of both upstream and downstream countries. To sum, having a long term peace and stability in the region would be conceived via growing dialogue between the part of the issue and conducting new energy-water saving technology and policies on the region. Even if the solution do not seen as possible in short or mid-term, Kyrgyzstan is pursuing energy policies which are relatively more conducted according to the international environment when it is compared to its neighbors, in particular Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. But, Kyrgyz Republic’s inability to break out its reliance on Russia in many sectors would be the main obstacle in front of the any possible cooperation between the sides concerning water-energy allocation in the region.



Antipova, E., Zyryanov, A., McKinney, D. & Savitsky, A., 2002. Optimization of Syr Darya Water and Energy Uses. International Water Resources Association, 4(27), pp. 504-516.

Blinnikov, M. S., 2010. Central Asia; the Heart of Eurasia. A Geography of Russian and Its Neighbors . New York: Guilford Publications.

Energy Charter Protocol on Energy Efficiency and Related Environmental Aspects (PEEREA), 2011. Kyrgyzstan Regular Review of Energy Efficiency Policies, s.l.: s.n.

Izmailov, K., 2007. Hydropower reform in Kyrgyzstan: Situation Assessment Directions and Conditions of Sustainable Development. Kyrgyzstan: The Soros Foundation.

Juraev, S., 2009. Energy Emergency in Kyrgyzstan: Causes and Consequences , s.l.: Center for European Policy Studies, EUCAM, FRIDE .

Libert, B., Orolbayev, E. & Steklov, Y., 2008. Water and Energy Crisis in Central Asia. China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, 3(6), pp. 9-20.

Ministry of Energy and Industry in Kyrgyz Republic, 2013. Renewable Energy Sources Development, Bangkok: s.n.

New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, 2012. Cooperation with the Ministry of Energy and Industry of the Kyrgyz Republic in the Energy Conservation Field. s.l., s.n.

Rosario, T., 2009. Risky riparianism: cooperative water governance in Central Asia. Australian Journal of International Affairs , p. 405.


Stamaliyev, A., 2010. Development of the Renewable Energy Sector in the Kyrgyz Republic, Astana: Ministry of Energy in Kyrgyz Republic.

the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Fuel Resources of Kyrgyz Republic, tarih yok KYRGYZ REPUBLIC COUNTRY PROFILE, s.l.: s.n.