Central Asia’s Growing Energy Needs and Alternative Methods

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In the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine War, energy has become one of the most talked about issues in the world. As a result of the Western sanctions imposed on Russia, energy trade between the two sides has been reduced to minimum. The European Union (EU) has decided to impose a price cap on Russian oil as part of the sanctions. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a resolution banning the sale of oil and petroleum products to countries that would implement the EU decision.

As competition between the parties intensified, the EU turned to various alternatives. In this context, the Union has signed agreements with some countries, stopped shutting down its nuclear power plants and focused on renewable energy. One of the regions where Europe has developed such relations is Central Asia. Because there are important energy resources in Central Asia. According to data published by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2022, the energy reserves and renewable energy potential in Central Asia are as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Hydrocarbon Reserves and Potential Renewable Energy Sources in Central Asia

Oil30 billion barrels5 million barrels600 million barrels12 million barrels600 million barrels
Gas2.7 trillion cubic meters6 billion cubic meters1.2 trillion cubic meters5.663 billion cubic meters19.5 trillion cubic meters
Coal25.6 billion tons13 billion tons1,375 billion tons4.5 billion tons
Hydroelectric potential199 TWs/year [Terawatt Hour=Billion kWh (Kilowatt hour)]163 TWs/year88.5 TWs/year527 TWs/year24 TWs/year
Solar energy potential3760 GW (Gigawatt= Million Kilowatts)267 GW593 GW195 GW655 GW
Wind energy potential354 GW1.5 GW1.6 GW2 GW10 GW

Source: Ivo Walinga-Farkhod Aminjonov, “Advancing Energy Security in Central Asia”, OSCE 2022,, (Date of Accession: 30.12.2022), p. 6.

The Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are rich in oil, natural gas and coal reserves. For example, Turkmenistan is the fourth richest country in the world in terms of natural gas. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have rich hydroelectric potential. The diversity of energy resources in the region offers a significant opportunity for energy security. However, water and energy resources in some regions are unstable and regular access is limited. Moreover, potentials cannot be used at the desired level. In addition, systems and infrastructures in the region are quite old. For this reason, the region may experience energy shortages, especially in the winter months.[1]

Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan stand out among the countries experiencing various energy problems. These states follow three basic strategies in international, regional and national scope to overcome the energy problem. In December 2022, Kyrgyzstan signed an agreement with Japan to build a hydroelectric power plant in the Karakol region.[2] Tajikistan is inviting Germany to invest in hydropower in the country.[3] Uzbekistan has also agreed with France, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China to build solar power plants in various parts of the country.[4]

On a regional scale, in a joint statement by the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Energy and Industry of Kyrgyzstan, it was announced that Uzbekistan, which produces electricity with Turkmen gas, will send some of it to Kyrgyzstan.[5] On the other hand, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan agreed to trade 300,000 tons of oil and oil products in 2023.[6] These agreements and trades show that countries play a complementary role in meeting their energy needs.

Last of all, an important part of the Central Asian states are energy exporting countries. At present time, it is known that projects such as TAPI, TAP, and CASA 1000 are being developed, and Kazakhstan is exporting energy to Europe while Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are exporting energy to China. However, these exports are constrained by rising domestic demand. On a national level, Uzbekistan even relies on energy imports to meet domestic demand, summarizing the situation by saying, “In the winter we import natural gas to meet our domestic needs, and in the summer we export the gas we buy to return it.”[7] It is also known that Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are trying to solve the energy problem to a large extent by building nuclear power plants.

As a result, Central Asia, despite being an important energy hub, can face a number of problems, especially during the winter months. The employment of systems and technology left over from the Soviet Union, the fact that infrastructure is being renewed, and the region’s ever-increasing population and production capacity are the primary reasons behind this. At this point, Central Asian states are trying to solve energy crises and meet the needs of their people through international, regional and national decisions. One of the main details about energy in the region is that Central Asian states are turning to renewable energy more and more every day. In this way, states are trying to increase their revenues, ensure the transition to a green economy and make energy a product that can be exported continuously.

[1] “Central Asia Energy-Water Development Program”, The World Bank,, (Date of Accession: 30.12.2022).

[2] “Японская компания намерена строить малые ГЭС в Кыргызстане”, 24 KG,, (Date of Accession: 30.12.2022).

[3] “Tajikistan Calls on Germany to Strengthen Partnerships in Hydropower Industry”, Cenrtal,, (Date of Accession: 30.12.2022).

[4] “Amid Uzbekistan’s Energy Crunch, China Enters Growing Solar Sector”, Eurasianet,, (Date of Accession: 30.12.2022).

[5] “Uzbekistan to Supply Electric Energy to Kyrgyzstan from Turkmen Gas”, AKI Press,, (Date of Accession: 30.12.2022).

[6] “Uzbekistan to Increase Oil Imports from Kazakhstan”, The Tashkent Times,, (Date of Accession: 30.12.2022).

[7] Navbahor Imamova, “Central Asia Balances Domestic Demand with Foreign Exports”, VoA,, (Date of Accession: 30.12.2022).

Dr. Emrah KAYA
Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.