Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Loads Left In The Darkish After Large Uzbek Solar Power Offers


TASHKENT — Uzbekistan’s gaping electrical energy deficit and the federal government’s determined try and plug it are hardly a secret today.

Last week, President Shavkat Mirziyoev welcomed Russian chief Vladimir Putin to Tashkent for a two-day journey that became three days of talks, with Moscow’s power assist to the Central ally Asia topping the invoice.

Along with affirmation that Moscow’s nuclear power large Rosatom will construct a small energy plant within the nation, the journey introduced a pledge from Putin to almost quadruple the pipeline’s capability subsequent yr, which might will enhance Gazprom’s annual pure fuel exports to the nation by 11 billion cubic meters.

Just a number of years in the past, Uzbekistan was a web power exporter.

But with a quickly rising inhabitants of practically 35 million and a rising financial system, Tashkent’s reliance on imports — and Russia — appears to be like set to deepen.

One method to regain that confidence is to make good on a acknowledged ambition to develop the share of renewable power to 40 p.c of Uzbekistan’s complete by 2030.

And officers definitely speak a superb sport in relation to inexperienced power — particularly with the institutional companions who’re lending billions of {dollars} to fund the hassle.

But the findings of a latest investigation by RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service into the nation’s seemingly burgeoning solar energy sector raises questions on how this marketing campaign is being applied — with weak infrastructure and the acquainted allegations of corruption that appear to be holding again the excessive stakes. authorities ambitions.

The Solar Power Project And The Secret Subcontractors

Uzbekistan at the moment has not less than $13 billion in renewable power tasks underneath method.

The Sherabad Solar PV Park in Surxondaryo Province, which is at the moment being constructed with cash from the Asian Development Bank, is likely one of the many funded. with institutional debt.

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

Uzbek state media commonly broadcasts stories on the nation’s renewable power improvement, however hardly ever covers the issues going through the sector.

The deal for the Sherabad photo voltaic mission was struck in 2021, making it Masdar’s fifth mission within the nation on the time and second solely to the five hundred MW Zarafshan wind farm when it comes to producing capability.

Mirziyoev personally visited the location to start building on June 1 of that yr.

But past Masdar and the roughly 94,000 properties the corporate expects the plant to energy, there are not less than two different beneficiaries of the mission — subcontractors Hex Solar and Osmon-Energy.

The involvement of those two firms within the Sherabad mission isn’t talked about within the publicly out there paperwork.

But RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service has obtained copies of paperwork that seem to show that Hex Solar is the primary subcontractor for the development of the power.

Public information present that Hex Solar was registered on January 1, 2020, at 863 Nukus Street in Tashkent.

An RFE/RL reporter who traveled to that handle was unable to find the corporate’s workplace, nevertheless.

A big solar-energy station within the southern area of Surxonaryo

A LinkedIn profile of an organization with the identical identify provides a unique handle — in Russia’s southwestern Astrakhan area.

LinkedIn customers who checklist Hex Solar as a workplace, corresponding to engineer Bakhtiyar Kasimov, present ongoing duties at ‘Nur Sherbad Solar PV 500 MW.’

A second doc seen by RFE/RL confirms a subcontracting settlement reached between Hex Solar and Osmon-Energy.

That doc states that Osmon-Energy has ‘expertise within the required subject of labor and has accomplished work of the identical sort and stage or above the required stage.’

However, Osmon-Energy was included far more not too long ago than Hex Solar – simply two days after building started on the mission scheduled for completion in 2026.

In a subcontracting settlement from that month seen by RFE/RL, the quantity transferred to Osmon-Energy for its work was 45.8 billion soms ($3.6 million) — a windfall for the one-day firm.

An RFE/RL reporter who visited the Tashkent handle for Osmon-Energy listed within the settlement discovered no hint of the corporate.

But a supply utilized by the corporate confirmed its existence and claimed that Osmon-Energy is making an excellent revenue from the Sherabad Solar PV Park subcontract.

‘Employees are paid in money. It facilitates the seizure of cash,’ the supply, who requested to not be recognized, informed RFE/RL. ‘And they’re paid at a really low fee. So, as an example [Osmon-Energy] pays greater than $700,000 for each 10 megawatts put in — they solely pay staff $18,000 [from that].’

The supply added that Osmon-Energy is much from an in a single day firm that has gained huge from subcontracting ‘about 30 majors. [solar power] Plants have been in-built Uzbekistan.

Userbay Seitrzaev, one of many three males listed because the founding father of Osmon-Energy (Abduzhalil Baimukhamedov and Olimjon Ibragimov are the others), denied any accusations of corruption when contacted by RFE/RL, insisting that the work of building in Sherabad underneath ‘strict management. ‘

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev (file photograph)

The founding father of Hex Solar in response to the corporate’s official paperwork is a Chinese citizen, Cui Xiao.

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

When contacted by RFE/RL with questions on the outcomes of the investigation — and about whether or not his enterprise was linked to Russia — Cui mentioned: ‘We are making ready a case towards you. We can speak in court docket.’

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

New Solar Plants, Old Grid

At the identical time, specialists query the standard and productiveness of latest photo voltaic power crops in Uzbekistan.

In an interview with the non-public media company Anhor.uz this yr, Ivan Butuk, director of selling and digital transformation for the corporate Energy Eco Sources, mentioned that many of the new photo voltaic stations within the nation are already – put in incorrectly.

‘[Some] 20-30 p.c of what I encountered was compiled with critical errors or incompleteness. In different phrases, whereas a part of the tools is lacking, contractors and homeowners current it as accomplished.’

Butuk mentioned the crops needed to be closed and rebuilt for a number of causes.

‘They ought to be stopped instantly and reinstalled…. In addition to being a waste of cash invested, they’re solely 40 p.c secure, inconvenient to make use of and keep, and don’t present sufficient power for his or her [installed capacity],’ he informed Anhor.uz.

The Sherabad solar energy plant suffered a setback in January this yr.

Photos and movies shared on social networks confirmed photo voltaic panels apparently broken past restore by robust winds on January 28. Two days later, the Uzbek Energy Ministry recognized 91 panels the damaged, however famous that it has not been absolutely put in and may simply get replaced.

Some specialists say Uzbekistan’s capability to harness solar energy — the nation enjoys roughly 300 days of sunshine every year — is severely compromised by an getting old electrical grid.

According to latest calculations by a analysis group based mostly in Tashkent, 62 p.c of Uzbekistan’s electrical energy distribution networks, 74 p.c of its substations, and half of its transformers are about 30 years outdated.

Two years in the past, a 100-MW capability $100 million solar energy plant constructed by Total Eren — a subsidiary of French power large Total — started work within the Tutli neighborhood of Nurobod, a district of Samarkand Province.

The plant is meant to supply power to greater than 80,000 households. However Tutli residents informed RFE/RL they’re nonetheless affected by the identical energy outages as earlier than.

Nurobod’s district administration responded to these complaints with an announcement saying that the facility plant is linked to the primary energy grid and that the Tutli microdistrict isn’t scheduled to obtain electrical energy from the plant.

Another enemy of solar energy in Uzbekistan is local weather change.

Because whereas Uzbekistan is transferring in direction of a warmer, drier local weather, it additionally suffers from mud storms which can be continually growing.

Dust and sand can considerably scale back the output of photo voltaic amenities, whereas growing the price of servicing. This is one thing that the Uzbek authorities can’t forestall.

Regarding human components, the federal government has ‘an opportunity to do it proper’ within the phrases of Kerry Adler, CEO of SkyPower, a North American power firm.

Adler witnessed the start of the authorities’ drive for renewables in 2017, when Mirziyoev personally invited him to put money into the nation.

In an interview with VOA in 2020, Adler defined that the dearth of presidency ensures prevented his firm’s scheduled $1.3 billion funding in a community of solar energy crops from going by, regardless of what the entrepreneur first funding of $ 10 million within the preparation of the mission.

‘We won’t ever interact in any corrupt exercise. We won’t pay for a contract, nor give a single present, nor promise,’ mentioned Adler, with out immediately accusing anybody of asking for a bribe.

‘And I feel it is a nation, from what I perceive from the individuals who dwell there and do enterprise there, that traditionally comes from a unique form of tradition.’

Four years after the interview, the SkyPower mission nonetheless hasn’t progressed.

Written by Chris Rickleton based mostly on reporting by Mehribon Bekieva of the RFE/RL Uzbek Service

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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