Growing older Grid and Shady Offers Undermine Uzbekistan’s Photo voltaic Ambitions

Growing older Grid and Shady Offers Undermine Uzbekistan’s Photo voltaic Ambitions

RFE/RL staff

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By RFE/RL staff – Jun 10, 2024, 4:00 PM CDT

  • An investigation uncovers questionable subcontracting practices and potential corruption in Uzbekistan’s photo voltaic vitality sector.
  • Regardless of receiving billions in worldwide funding, many photo voltaic vegetation are stricken by technical points and low productiveness.
  • Uzbekistan’s getting older electrical grid and more and more frequent mud storms additional hinder the nation’s renewable vitality targets.
Solar Panel

Uzbekistan’s gaping energy deficits and the federal government’s determined makes an attempt to plug them are hardly a secret nowadays.

Solely final week, President Shavkat Mirziyoev welcomed Russian chief Vladimir Putin to Tashkent for a two-day journey that was three days of talks, with Moscow’s vitality help to its Central Asian ally topping the invoice.

Alongside affirmation that Moscow’s nuclear vitality large Rosatom will construct a small energy plant within the nation, the journey introduced a pledge from Putin to just about quadruple pipeline capability subsequent 12 months, doubtlessly upping Gazprom’s annual pure fuel exports to the nation to 11 billion cubic meters.

Only a few years in the past, Uzbekistan was a web vitality exporter.

However given a quickly rising inhabitants of round 35 million and a rising economic system, Tashkent’s dependency on imports — and Russia — seems to be set to deepen.

One technique to offset that dependence considerably could be to make good on a said ambition to broaden the share of renewable vitality to 40 p.c of Uzbekistan’s complete by 2030.

And officers have actually been speaking sport relating to inexperienced vitality — not least to institutional companions who’ve lent billions of {dollars} to fund the hassle.

However the findings of a recent investigation by RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service into the nation’s ostensibly booming solar energy sector increase questions on how this marketing campaign is being executed — with weak infrastructure and the acquainted allegations of corruption seemingly bogging down the federal government’s lofty ambitions.

The Photo voltaic Energy Challenge And Its Secretive Subcontractors

Uzbekistan presently has a minimum of $13 billion of renewable vitality initiatives on the go.

The Sherabad Photo voltaic PV Park in Surxondaryo Province, presently being constructed with cash from the Asian Growth Financial institution, is one in every of many being funded with institutional debt.

The principal contractor for the $260 million, 457-megawatt (MW) undertaking is Masdar, an organization from the United Arab Emirates that focuses on renewables.

The settlement for the Sherabad photo voltaic undertaking was struck in 2021, turning into Masdar’s fifth undertaking within the nation on the time and second solely behind the five hundred MW wind farm in Zarafshan by way of producing capability.

Mirziyoev personally visited the positioning to kick-start development on June 1 of that 12 months.

However past Masdar and the roughly 94,000 properties that the corporate expects the plant to energy, there are a minimum of two different beneficiaries of the undertaking — subcontractors Hex Photo voltaic and Osmon-Vitality.

The engagement of those two firms on the Sherabad undertaking will not be talked about in publicly out there paperwork.

However RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service obtained copies of paperwork that seem to verify that Hex Photo voltaic is the primary subcontractor to construct the power.

Public information present Hex Photo voltaic was registered on January 1, 2020, at 863 Nukus Avenue in Tashkent.

An RFE/RL reporter who travelled to that tackle was unable to seek out the corporate’s workplace, nonetheless.

A LinkedIn profile of an organization with the identical title offers one other tackle — in Russia’s southwestern Astrakhan area.

LinkedIn customers who listed Hex Photo voltaic as a administrative center, comparable to engineer Baxtiyar Kasimov, point out ongoing duties at “Nur Sherbad Photo voltaic PV 500 MW.”

A second doc seen by RFE/RL attests to a subcontracting settlement reached between Hex Photo voltaic and Osmon-Vitality.

That doc states that Osmon-Vitality has “expertise within the required discipline of labor and has accomplished work of the identical sort and stage or above the required stage.”

But Osmon-Vitality was integrated much more just lately than Hex Photo voltaic — simply two days after development started on the undertaking slated for completion in 2026.

Within the subcontracting settlement from that month seen by RFE/RL, the sum transferrable to Osmon-Vitality for its work is 45.8 billion soms ($3.6 million) — fairly a windfall for a days-old agency.

An RFE/RL reporter who visited the Tashkent tackle for Osmon-Vitality listed within the settlement was unable to seek out any hint of the agency.

However a supply employed by the corporate confirmed its existence and claimed Osmon-Vitality was making very wholesome earnings from the Sherabad Photo voltaic PV Park subcontract.

“Workers are paid in money. This makes it straightforward to embezzle cash,” the supply, who requested anonymity, advised RFE/RL. “And they’re paid at a really low fee. So, for example [Osmon-Energy] prices greater than $700,000 for each 10 megawatts put in — they may pay staff solely $18,000 [from that].”

The supply added that Osmon-Vitality was removed from the one in a single day firm to win huge from subcontracting “round 30 main [solar power] vegetation” being in-built Uzbekistan.

Userbay Seitrzaev, one in every of three males listed as a founding father of Osmon-Vitality (Abduzhalil Baimukhamedov and Olimjon Ibragimov are the others), denied any accusation of corruption when contacted by RFE/RL, insisting that development work at Sherabad was underneath “strict management.”

Hex Photo voltaic’s founder as per official firm paperwork is a Chinese language citizen, Cui Xiao.

RFE/RL was initially unable to achieve Cui for its investigation revealed in Uzbek final month.

When contacted by RFE/RL with questions on the findings of the investigation — and about whether or not his enterprise was linked to Russia — Cui stated: “We’re making ready a lawsuit in opposition to you. We will have discussions in courtroom.”

Masdar didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon the subcontracting preparations.

New Photo voltaic Vegetation, Previous Grid

On the identical time, consultants have questioned the standard and productiveness of Uzbekistan’s new photo voltaic vitality vegetation.

In an interview with the personal media company Anhor.uz this 12 months, Ivan Butuk, director of promoting and digital transformation for the corporate Vitality Eco Sources, stated that almost all new photo voltaic stations within the nation had been put in incorrectly.

“[Some] 20-30 p.c of people who I encountered had been assembled with critical errors or had been incomplete. That’s to say that, whereas a part of the tools was lacking, they had been offered by contractors and homeowners as completed.”

Butuk stated the vegetation must be shut down and rebuilt for a number of causes.

“They need to be stopped instantly and reinstalled…. Along with being a waste of the cash invested, they’re solely 40 p.c protected, inconvenient to make use of and keep, and don’t produce sufficient vitality for his or her [installed capacity],” he advised Anhor.uz.

The Sherabad solar energy plant suffered a setback in January of this 12 months.

Pictures and movies shared on social networks confirmed photo voltaic panels apparently broken past restore by sturdy winds on January 28. Two days later, the Uzbek Vitality Ministry acknowledged that 91 panels had been destroyed, however famous that they had not been absolutely put in and had been simply replaceable.

Different consultants say that Uzbekistan’s capability to harness the ability of the solar — the nation enjoys roughly 300 sunny days per 12 months — is severely compromised by its getting older electrical grid.

Based on the latest calculations of 1 Tashkent-based analysis group, 62 p.c of Uzbekistan’s power-distribution networks, 74 p.c of its substations, and half of its transformers are some 30 years previous.

Two years in the past, a 100-MW-capacity $100 million solar energy plant constructed by Whole Eren — a daughter firm of French vitality large Whole — began work within the Tutli neighborhood of Nurobod, a district in Samarkand Province.

The plant was supposed to supply vitality to greater than 80,000 households. But residents of Tutli advised RFE/RL that they’re nonetheless struggling the identical energy outages as earlier than.

Nurobod’s district administration responded to such complaints with a press release saying the ability plant was related to the primary energy grid and that the Tutli microdistrict was not slated to obtain electrical energy from the plant straight.

One other enemy of solar energy in Uzbekistan is local weather change.

As a result of whereas Uzbekistan is edging towards a warmer, drier local weather, it’s also affected by mud storms with rising regularity.

Mud and sand can considerably cut back the output of photo voltaic services, whereas ramping up servicing prices. That is one thing Uzbek authorities can’t forestall.

As for human components, the federal government has “an opportunity to make it proper” within the phrases of Kerry Adler, CEO of SkyPower, a North American vitality firm.

Adler witnessed the very starting of the authorities’ drive for renewables in 2017, when Mirziyoev personally invited him to spend money on the nation.

In an interview with VOA in 2020, Adler defined {that a} lack of presidency ensures had prevented his firm’s slated $1.3 billion funding in a community of solar energy vegetation from ever getting off the bottom, regardless of what the businessman claimed was preliminary funding of $10 million in undertaking preparation.

“We are going to by no means take part in any corrupt actions. We is not going to pay for a contract, nor would we even give a present, nor will we make a promise,” Adler stated then, with out straight accusing anybody of requesting a bribe.

“And I feel that it is a nation, from what I perceive from individuals who have lived there and completed enterprise there, that traditionally has come from a special sort of a tradition.”

4 years after the interview, SkyPower’s undertaking has nonetheless made no progress.

By RFE/RL

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RFE/RL staff

RFE/RL workers

RFE/RL journalists report the information in 21 nations the place a free press is banned by the federal government or not absolutely established. We offer what many…

More Info

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