Afghanistan heavily relies on imported power from the neighbouring countries of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran (Image courtesy: DABS)
Staring at a countrywide winter blackout owing to unpaid debts of over $60 million to electricity exporters from neighbouring Central Asian countries, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan could soon implement an innovative idea to squeeze some money out of the dwindling pot.
In order to pay its foreign suppliers, the new management of Afghanistan's national power company Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) has gone on a domestic revenue collection overdrive to recover money from the debtors.
It also includes a decision to sell the property of those who owe large debts to the company.
Afghanistan heavily relies on imported power from the neighbouring countries of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran with its imported energy contributing as much as 81 per cent to the country's energy mix.
After having not been paid since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, there is now a serious threat of these nations cutting off the power supply just before the harsh winter season sets in.
On Thursday, Maulvi Abdul Rahman Zahid, Commercial Director of Breshna, held a meeting with the managers of Kabul junctions, instructing them that all debts should be recovered from people and stressing that the negligence of the customers in repayment of loans has caused a massive problem for DABS.
Safiaullah Ahmadzai, the head of Breshna's operations department, was earlier quoted by the local media as saying that the company "will sell its debtors' assets" to settle its offshore debts.
The already crippling power situation in Afghanistan has plunged further into darkness due to non-collection of electricity bills and collapse of the banking system in the country after August 15, the day Taliban entered Kabul.
Speaking to Sputnik Afghanistan, Safiaullah Ahmadzai said that many businessmen, former government officials and powerful people left the country without paying their electricity bills. These people, he said, "owe more than others" - about $500 million.
"Afghanistan buys $20 million to $25 million a month in electricity from neighbouring countries and spends more than $270 million a year on electricity. So about $62 million is just Afghanistan's two-month debt. The amount will reach $85 million and will exceed $95 million by the end of the month," he was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency.
A Breshna meeting in progress in Kabul on Thursday (Image courtesy: Twitter/@DABS_Official)
The official said that Breshna has also asked the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to provide $90 million assistance to those who are unable to pay for their electricity bills.
"If UNAMA refuses to pay, they will have to send letters to the four countries asking them not to cut off electricity to Afghanistan until the debts are paid," he said.
The power sector of Afghanistan was being driven fundamentally by the Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) as its core responsibility. However, DABS is responsible for the operation and management of the electric power generation, import, transmission, local power distribution and billing throughout Afghanistan on a commercial basis since it was established in 2008.
Only 28 per cent of the Afghan household are connected to the power supply systems, the vast majority of them in capital Kabul. According to DABS' estimate, the actual present demand of Afghanistan, including served and unserved demand, is 5000 MW whereas installed capacity (domestic and import) is nearly 1500 MW. The Power Sector Master Plan (PSMP) estimates that the net demand is expected to increase to 15,909 GWh in 2032.
In spite of strained relations with the Taliban, Dushanbe has said that it will continue to provide electricity to Afghanistan.
However, the future remains uncertain - especially the fate of power projects like the Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) which would have provided electricity to Afghanistan from the hydropower plants in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.