The U.S. State Department December 11 announced a $15 million investment in an electricity transmission project involving Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The project has the potential to create a regional energy grid that will enhance trade and economic growth in South Asia.
The Central Asia–South Asia electricity transmission project (CASA-1000) proposes the sale of unused summer generation capacity in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. A State Department document explains that the plan will generate revenue for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, boost energy availability in Afghanistan and Pakistan and help create a regional energy grid.
“There’s tremendous, tremendous benefit to the entire region to strengthen the connectivity and the grids for bringing energy-rich countries into greater connectivity with those countries that are looking for more sources of energy for their economies,” said Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal at a Washington briefing in early December.
She described CASA-1000 as another component of the Obama administration’s goal to create a “rebalance with Asia,” enhancing opportunities to create greater integration in trade and commerce across the region.
“We’re working with our partners in the region on major energy trade customs and people-to-people projects that support that connectivity,” said Biswal.
A State Department description of the newly announced U.S. investment in CASA-1000 also says the project has the potential to promote greater peace and stability in the region.
“We hope U.S. financial support for CASA-1000 will help leverage other donors to support the project and encourage the World Bank to present the project to its Board of Directors for final approval next year,” said the State Department announcement.
The Obama administration is pursuing a variety of initiatives to increase electrification in South Asia and other energy-underserved regions. Biswal cited ongoing work to create a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline to distribute Turkmen gas more widely and described the project as “ever closer to becoming a reality.”
In partnership with the World Bank, the United States is also working on a project to increase the use of solar energy in Bangladesh and expand electrification in rural areas. In the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development II program, the U.S. Agency for International Development is contributing to the installation of solar home systems, power grids and irrigation pumps.
Burma has among the lowest rates of electrification in the region, and while it has substantial natural gas resources, the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources says, it lacks regulatory and physical infrastructure to extend the power grid. To address those issues, the U.S. government, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are working to develop power sector and rural electrification investment plans, in coordination with the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
President Obama committed to help Africa make better use of energy resources when he visited the continent earlier in 2013. The United States is reaching out to African governments ready to reform energy and power sectors to attract private investment. The initiative is aimed at ensuring that energy resources are responsibly developed and effectively deployed.