The Ashden Awards recognise excellence in the field of sustainable energy globally. The award, with support to scale up the utility’s work, caps Pamir Energy’s remarkable story of a private-public partnership working to improve people’s lives in the most challenging conditions.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the ensuing 5-year civil war in Tajikistan, much of the energy infrastructure in the eastern part of the country fell into disrepair.
During that period energy production and distribution plummeted with only 13% of households able to access electricity. Those who could afford it used expensive diesel generators to light and heat homes but most had to rely on wood from local trees to cook and to keep warm, especially in the winter when temperatures drop to -20 degrees Celsius. As a result, Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), in eastern Tajikistan, lost 70% of its trees during this period and the development of the region stagnated.
To address crippling energy issues, in 2002, the Government of Tajikistan, the World Bank, and the Aga Khan Development Network established Tajikistan’s first public private partnership. Under a concessionary agreement granted by the Government of Tajikistan, Pamir Energy (an AKDN project company) was established to supply power to the whole of VMKB until 2027.
During critical phases of the project, the Swiss government, through the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), and in close cooperation with the Government of Tajikistan, provided vital support through an innovative customer support scheme and the provision of technology that ensured affordable access for the poorest households in VMKB.
Since 2002, Pamir Energy has restored 11 micro hydro power plants and upgraded 4,300 km of transmission lines, as well as distribution facilities. Today, 96% of households in GBAO, some 200,000 people, have access to clean, reliable and affordable energy. In 2008, the company began exporting energy across the Panj river to communities in northern Afghanistan – some receiving electricity for the first time in their history. Currently, 35,000 Afghans receive electricity from Pamir Energy.
Access to clean, reliable and affordable energy has been life-changing for many in the region. They no longer need to burn wood or diesel to cook or keep warm, and incidences of respiratory disorders have dropped dramatically.
In most cases, household energy bills have been cut by 85%, from $98 a month to just $15 on average. Families now have more funds and lighting available to spend on education, healthcare, expanding businesses or socialising.
Schools can now use computers and have internet access. Students can study later into the evenings. Doctors can perform more sophisticated surgeries that rely on a steady supply of electricity and medication can be safely refrigerated. Commercial enterprises, such as cafes and bakeries, are flourishing also.
In the household, washing and ironing clothes is much easier, water can be boiled quickly and showers are hot.
This mountainous region is slowly reforesting with new flora helping cut the risk of landslides and avalanches.
The availability of electricity has resulted in numerous improvements to the quality of life in eastern Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan. This has ben made possible through additional support of the governments of Germany, Norway and the United States of America.
Through a set of ambitious plans, Pamir Energy plans to reach thousands more customers in Afghanistan over the coming years, catalysing the next stage of development in the region. It aims to expand its operations to Northern Pakistan by 2025.