Lights back in Kyrgyzstan after power cuts hit Central Asia

The grids of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are connected

The Uzbekistan gas-to-liquids plant in the Qashqadaryo region. Reuters
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Electricity returned to Kyrgyzstan after a massive power cut in the Central Asian nation and neighbours Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on Tuesday.

An energy ministry representative said: “Electricity supplies have been restored all over Kyrgyzstan after a large-scale power failure,” AFP reported.

The cut was triggered by an accident in Kazakhstan’s power grid, Uzbekistan’s Energy Ministry said.

The grids of the three former Soviet republics are connected, although Kazakhstan also has a connection to the Russian power grid it could use to cover unexpected shortages.

“The Uzbek power grid, which is connected to the Unified Power Grid, was damaged as a result of an accident that led to sudden changes in voltage and frequency on 530 lines from Kazakhstan,” the Uzbek ministry said.

Underground trains were left idling, flights were disrupted and people were trapped in lifts.

In Kazakhstan, power cuts were reported in its biggest city, Almaty, and several major southern cities close to the Uzbek and Kyrgyz borders.

Uzbekistan said work was being carried out to resolve “a major power cut”.

At its main airport in the capital, Tashkent, a city of more than two million people, flights were briefly interrupted due to the outage, but electricity was coming back in the afternoon.

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan said they were restarting power plants after emergency shutdowns and would initially remain disconnected from the Central Asian grid.

A spokesman for Kyrgyzstan’s Energy Ministry told AFP by telephone that power had failed “due to an accident in the regional energy grid”.

Municipal authorities in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, said they had rescued 45 people from lifts in residential buildings.

The grids of Central Asian countries have been burdened by a summer drought that affected hydropower capacity in Kyrgyzstan and by a boom in cryptocurrency mining in the region, especially in Kazakhstan.

Southern Kazakhstan, which traditionally endures energy deficits and relies on supplies from the electricity-rich north of the country, was especially affected by the influx.

“Due to a significant emergency imbalance created by the energy system of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan), there was a surge in power for the transit of electricity,” state electricity provider Kegos said.

Tashkent’s airport had stopped receiving flights, Russian news agency Ria Novosti reported. But in Almaty, the power did not affect the whole city and the airport continued operate normally.

Tashkent’s metro, the largest in the region, had ceased working, and tap water in the city was barely running, an AFP correspondent said.

Bishkek’s airport was working at reduced capacity, a local website reported.

Updated: January 25, 2022, 12:14 PM