03.06.2024 Author: Bair Danzanov

Renewables in Kyrgyzstan: the green future of Central Asia

Renewables in Kyrgyzstan

The years 2023-2024 can confidently be called a “boom” period for the development of solar and wind energy in Kyrgyzstan. One of the word’s leading countries in terms of the share of renewable energy in its energy mix, Kyrgyzstan has recently become a haven for investments in green energy from a wide variety of nations. This all ties in with the ambition of Kyrgyzstan’s government to make the Central Asian republic self-sufficient in terms of energy and then transform into an exporter of electricity.

Sun, wind and water

According to the 2023 Sustainable Development Report, Kyrgyzstan is now the leading Central Asia country in terms of its key sustainable development indicators, ranking 45th in the world. Kyrgyzstan pays due attention to the problem of climate change, which is already having a negative impact on the republic’s economy. The problem of global warming is aggravating water shortages and reducing the flow of water into strategic reservoirs in the republic, thus limiting the volumes available for hydroelectric power generation. For example, in 2023, the volume of water flowing into the Toktogul reservoir, the largest in the country, was 10 billion cubic meters, 2 billion cubic meters less than in 2022, while outflow rates remained the same.

However, in addition to water, the country has two other serious alternative energy resources that meet the requirements for “green” development and are less dependent on climatic fluctuations — wind and sun. It is these resources that Kyrgyzstan has focused on developing in 2023-2024.

Current projects

In total, as of the time of writing (May 2024), Kyrgyzstan is developing and implementing plans for the construction of 6 wind and 9 solar power plants in all regions of the country. A brief list of events, agreements and memoranda will serve to illustrate the progress Kyrgyzstan has made in this area over the past year:

In May 2023, the Republic’s Energy Minister visited China and participated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Universal Energy Co. Ltd on the construction of a wind farm. Similar documents were signed with China Energy International Group Co. and China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co. Ltd. An agreement signed during the same visit with China Power International Development Limited envisages the construction of a large-scale solar power plant with a capacity of 1,000 MW in the Issyk-Kul region. Since November 2023 negotiations have been under way with the Chinese company Goldwind Science & Technology Co. Ltd. on the establishment of a new wind farm in the Republic.

Kazakhstan has also become an active player in Kyrgyzstan’s nascent solar power industry: TGS-Energy Limited is involved in the development of a number of facilities, including the Kengi, Balkhash, Kapchagai and Kun Bulagy solar power stations, the last of which will have a capacity of 50 MW. In April 2024, it was reported that the same Kazakh company also plans to build a solar power plant with a total capacity of 50 MW in the Issyk-Kul region. The Kazakh-Kyrgyz joint projects, and also the agreement signed in September 2023 with the Armenian Tashir Group on cooperation in the field of solar power, can be seen as examples of economic cooperation between EAEU member states on high-technology projects.

Another new regional partner in Kyrgyzstan’s renewable energy sector is Uzbekistan. The parties are currently discussing joint wind and solar projects and in April this year Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan announced plans to establish a joint company to build the Kambarata hydroelectric power plant on the Naryn River. After the implementation of the project, the cost of which is estimated at $5-6 billion, the shares and assets of the plant will be transferred to Kyrgyz ownership.

In addition, Kyrgyzstan is implementing a number of major renewable energy projects jointly with the Russian Federation. Among the documents signed as a result of a Russian-Kyrgyz interregional conference held in October 2023 was an investment agreement related to the proposed construction of a 300 MW solar power plant in the Issyk-Kul region (the Kosh-Agach solar plant), as well as an agreement on the development and implementation of an investment project involving the construction of a wind power plant with a capacity of up to 100 MW in the same region.

The construction of renewable energy facilities in Kyrgyzstan was boosted by a visit by Li Qiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, in late October 2023, which resulted in the signing of a framework agreement with Molin Energy Company Limited for the construction of renewable facilities and development of 400 MW of renewable energy generation capacity.

In March 2024 it was reported that the German company W. Hass Future GmbH & Co. plans to invest up to 300 million euros in the construction of solar power plants in the country, and the relevant negotiations are already under way. Some time before that announcement, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry expressed its interest in working in the Kyrgyzstan’s renewable energy sector by promoting the export of wind turbines to Central Asia.

Unconventional ideas

Kyrgyzstan is also implementing more exotic renewable energy projects. For example December 2023 saw the completion of the country’s first floating solar power plant, located in the daily regulation basin of the Chakan hydroelectric power plant. This combination of hydroelectric and solar power will help even out the fluctuations in power generation inherent in both technologies. In addition, since floating solar power plants can be located on water supply facilities they do not occupy agricultural land. In addition, in December 2023, negotiations began with Chinese companies to establish the first solar panel manufacturing plant in the country.

Legal innovations are also being introduced in order to support the development of renewable energy. In December 2023 Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Energy proposed to provide state-owned land free of charge for the construction of solar and wind power facilities.  It has also been proposed to require construction companies to install solar panels on the roofs of the projects they build.

Why does Kyrgyzstan need wind turbines and panels?

Kyrgyzstan is prioritizing the development of solar and wind power for a number of reasons. Not only are foreign investors interested in participating in high-tech and green projects, but, as already mentioned, the potential for capacity growth in the hydro-technical sector has suffered as a result of worsening water shortages in recent years and the need to maintain water levels in major reservoirs.

Kyrgyzstan’s plans to increase coal exports can also be considered an important element of its “green” energy policies. Its decision to move away from conventional thermal power will allow it to export more coal from new deposits. Kyrgyzstan and the PRC have signed a number of agreements on the joint development of several new coal deposits — Torugart, Karakabak-Balykty and the Sulukta-11 field, and the export of the coal to China. The construction of the Balykchi-Kara-Keche railroad, which will connect the large coal mines of Kara-Keche and Min-Kush with the Central Asian railroad network, will also support Kyrgyzstan’s ambitions in this area. At present, Kyrgyzstan is even forced to import thermal coal from neighboring Kazakhstan in order to run the country’s biggest thermal power plant, in Bishkek.

In short, the development Kyrgyzstan’s solar and wind energy sector has received a considerable boost in recent years, and this will enable it to become self-sufficient in energy terms and start exporting electricity and even optimize its supplies of mineral resources to foreign purchasers.


Bair Danzanov, independent expert on Central Asia and Mongolia, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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