Keeping the lights on in Kandahar

Local electrical power technicians receive training from soldiers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan. The U.S. government does not have a clear plan for powering the country’s second-largest city, according to SIGAR. Photo by: USACE / CC BY

What’s next for power generation in Kandahar?

A report released on Tuesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction alleges that the U.S. government has no clear plan for powering Afghanistan’s second-largest city once the current diesel generation scheme winds down.

But the U.S. Agency for International Development’s top Afghanistan official told Devex reconstruction planners “never intended diesel generators to be a permanent solution for Kandahar's power needs.”

“The long term plan is for the Afghan power utility DABS to provide Afghanistan with the power it needs from less expensive sources and for the users to pay for it,” Larry Sampler, USAID’s assistant to the administrator in the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, told Devex in a written statement.

SIGAR’s report warns that the U.S. government’s plan to gradually curtail diesel supplies to the city has so far failed to include an interim solution for power generation to “bridge the gap” until the long-sought Kajaki Dam hydro station goes online.

“It appears that the U.S. still has no realistic plan for helping the Afghan government develop a sustainable source of electricity for the period between the end of the Kandahar Bridging Solution in September 2015 and when a stable source of power generation is projected to come online, at least three years later,” Sopko wrote in a letter sent to U.S. officials at the end of July.

Sopko goes on to describe USAID’s plan to conduct a feasibility study around the power issue as, “overly vague.”

Sampler disagreed, and said the agency “has helped DABS to acquire the technology, the training, and the capacity needed to provide reliable and affordable electricity to the people of Afghanistan.”

In Kandahar, he explained, “USAID has worked with DABS to prepare users to pay for the power generated with diesel until DABS completes work on a new turbine at Kajaki and on the power transmission line connecting Kandahar to the grid.”

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.