Due to its geography, Tajikistan possesses vast and unique reserves of hydropower resources. It is estimated that Tajikistan’s potential hydropower resources are the 8th highest in the world and it owns about four percent of the world’s cost-effective hydro-potential. Tajikistan also occupies first place for per capita hydro resources (both per person and per territorial unit). Estimates of the country’s technically feasible total potential hydropower capacity put the figure at some 320 billion kWh, which is approximately the total consumption of hydro generated electricity in the European Union.

Tajikistan now relies on hydro-electric power generation for 98 percent of its 4,750 MW of installed capacity. During summer months, electricity supply exceeds domestic demand, and is exported to neighboring states, predominantly to Afghanistan. Since 2009, electricity trade volumes have fallen from 4,000 GWh for both imports and exports, to imports of less than 100 GWh and exports of 200 GWh in 2011. Tajikistan’s power generation is in the order of 46 GWh per day, with peak production in the summer (average 52 GWh/day) and declines to about 38 GWh/day during the first quarter of the year, which is the low water flow period.

The Nurek hydropower plant is the cornerstone of Tajikistan’s power system. At 3,000 MW, it represents more than 60 percent of the country’s total installed capacity. The dam is 300 meters tall, making it the tallest earth fill dam in the world. The reservoir is 70 km in length and covers 98 km2. The original primary purpose of the reservoir was to accommodate downstream irrigation needs, with energy generation as a by-product.

The type of energy used for heating differs highly between locations, but does not differ much between wealth groups within a location with the exception of urban areas outside Dushanbe, where the poorer households use relatively more wood and the wealthier ones rely relatively more on electricity for heating (Figure A second panel). Urban apartment dwellers rely almost exclusively on electricity for heating their homes, while urban house residents use electricity, wood, and coal with almost equal intensity. In rural areas, wood and coal are the main heating sources used (Figure A third panel). Yet rural households also use electricity intensively, including for heating, when it is available.

Figure A. Major heating source by wealth groups and by location (proportion of households)

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Source: World Bank staff, based on data from the Central Asia Longitudinal Inclusive Society Survey (CALISS), 2013

Energy deprivation and affordability especially affect poor rural households who spend a large share of their total consumption expenditure on energy. This share is higher than for households in urban areas. During the heating season, the poorest quintile in rural areas spends almost 25 percent of their monthly consumption expenditure on energy. The poorest quintile in urban areas outside Dushanbe spends approximately 15 percent of their consumption on energy during winter while in Dushanbe this figure is 14 percent. On an annual basis these figures are 14, 10 and 9 percent respectively – among the highest in Europe and Central Asia. Rural households also have fewer available coping strategies than urban ones and are negatively affected by the limited supply of electricity in the winter for lighting and other basic needs.