Renewable Energy in Central Asian Economies: Role in Reducing Regional Energy Insecurity
Energy security in Central Asia is inseparable from its geopolitical context.
Ideally, to reduce energy insecurity, a nation needs to deploy a range of renewable energy (RE) sources. For Central Asian economies, renewable sources appear to be a rational choice; yet, the deployment of renewables is limited and varies substantially by country. Conventional statistics for RE in Central Asia confirm the expected: hydrocarbon-poor countries (the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan) rely on RE to a greater extent than fuel-rich economies (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan). However, this picture changes drastically once a stricter definition of RE—without the contribution of large-scale hydropower plants (LSHPPs)—is incorporated. Such treatment is appropriate due to several considerations, including sustainability, as the LSHPPs are infamous for their adverse environmental impacts; and security, as the water-energy nexus leaves national energy policy making susceptible to sometimes arduous regional consensus. The latter aspect is especially relevant in the Central Asian setting. Thus, with the strict definition of RE applied, fossil fuel-rich Central Asian countries lead in the RE segment, whereas hydrocarbon-poor economies have almost no RE facilities in place. We seek to explore such possibilities in Central Asia. Section one reviews the evolution of the energy security concept. Section two examines the regional context for energy cooperation. Section three analyzes the economic and energy profiles of Central Asian economies. Section four investigates nations’ RE policies and explores the RE potential in each economy. In section five, the common regional and specific national barriers for RE development are discussed in detail. Section five also contains our recommendations about ways to ensure energy security through regional energy cooperation, and characterizes the essential components of comprehensive national policies to enable a fuller utilization of the RE potential existing in Central Asia. Finally, section six presents our conclusions.