Afghanistan (2012)

Degree of reliance on imported energy: 

Imports satisfy a significant proportion of national energy consumption and this proportion is expected to grow. Power is imported via the North East Power System (NEPS) to major load centres in the country’s north-east. Power may be imported from Tajikistan once the Tajikistan–Afghanistan transmission line is completed (expected by the end of 2011). Power imports from Turkmenistan and the possibility of export to neighbouring countries such as Tajikistan and Pakistan, are being considered.

Main sources of Energy: 

Installed power generation capacity (2009): 1,028.5MW.

Indigenous hydropower currently delivers about one-third of Afghanistan's electricity supply. Isolated diesel generation has dramatically increased since 2002 and is expected to continue to play a large role in power supply. The greater Kabul region accounts for about 50% of the country’s electricity consumption and two-thirds of the installed power generation capacity.

Recent developments in the energy have been focused on:

  • the northern power line,
  • the construction and repair of regional grids, and
  • the rehabilitation of the country’s power generating facilities - mainly large hydropower plants (HPPs) and fossil-fuel based installations.

The per capita consumption of electric energy is 21kWh, amongst the lowest worldwide. It is estimated that 80% of Afghan households live in rural areas. Rural populations use local waste, solar panels, batteries, small wood, coal, kerosene supplies for basic cooking and heat. However, the most common fossil fuel energy sources are kerosene, fuel wood and crop residue. About 75% of rural energy supplies are derived from fuel wood and this has had a tremendous impact on the deforestation of watersheds and the subsequent erosion and sedimentation of rivers. Additionally, indoor use of this energy source has severe health impacts, particularly on women and children.



Extent of the network: 

Seven regional electricity grids exist with supply coming from domestic hydro and thermal generation and imported power. The country has never had high rates of electrification - less than 10% of the population have intermittent access to publicly provided power. Many load centres across the country are supplied with electricity for only two to three hours a day. In remote rural areas, off-grid and mini-grid solutions remain the only feasible solution for the provision of electricity. Renewable energy sources (RES), especially mini and micro-hydropower, are being implemented to varying degrees across the country.

Capacity concerns: 

The electricity infrastructure has suffered considerable damage due to decades of war and operational neglect. Blackouts are frequent because power plants are not fully functional and the transmission and distribution networks have been depleted. High electrical losses in distribution and transmission networks contribute to further inefficiencies in the energy supply chain. Despite Afghanistan having the lowest per capita energy consumption in the South Asia region, demand continues to outstrip supply in every fuel category.

Recent government and donor initiatives have been focused on the expansion and rehabilitation of the electricity sector in the major economic hubs of Afghanistan and the provision of basic service in rural areas. Efforts have also been made to:

  • improve the supply of natural gas,
  • increase availability of hydro-electric generation,
  • rehabilitate the electricity transmission and distribution systems,
  • develop RES in rural and remote areas,
  • increase low-cost power imports and
  • improve the capability of energy sector institutions.

Potential for Renewable Energy: 

The limited reach of regional grids mean that smaller scale off grid renewable energy (RE) technologies (such as small hydro, solar PV, solar thermal and wind) can play a significant role in the provision of energy.

Afghanistan has significant renewable resources, primarily in the form of hydropower. It is estimated that 23,000MW of hydropower resources potential are available but only 260MW have been developed thus far. In mountainous areas there is sufficient head to make even very low flow streams effective, and glacier-fed streams provide year-round minimum water flow.

Solar resources are also good given the high altitudes and approximately 300 days of sunshine a year, which provide about 6.5 kWh/m2/day. The wind power potential is high in Herat province but less strong in other regions. Geothermal resources may also be feasible in the longer term.

The use of sustainable biomass for power generation would require significant reforestation and irrigation efforts. Afghanistan now has only 3% forest or woody shrub land cover and this continues to be deforested for the illegal timber trade in Pakistan and domestic heat and cooking purposes. The biogas potential is also quite low.

Potential for Energy Efficiency: 



The electricity market was previously dominated by the vertically-integrated state utility, Da Afghanistan Breshna Moassesa. However, since 2003, the electricity sector has undergone considerable technical, commercial and institutional reform. These reforms are designed to support market-oriented operations that are cost-recoverable, to protect consumers and to develop sustainable power. The Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) was created in 2008 as part of a strategy to commercialise the power sector and build a new electricity market structure. Asset transfer from the DABM to the DABS is ongoing but discussions between the Ministry of Finance and the DABMS about transfer of the liabilities of the DABM are still taking place.

Structure / extent of competition: 

The state utility, DABM, is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the country's generation, transmission and distribution assets as well as for the sale of electricity it produces.

Greater private sector participation in the sector is not currently feasible given the DABM’s poor organisational and technical capacity and the political and security risks. Further, a legal framework for private sector involvement would have to be designed, developed and implemented.

Existence of an energy framework and programmes to promote sustainable energy: 

In 2006, the Government and the international community produced an interim version of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) and Afghanistan Compact that include provisions for developing the energy sector. A significant proportion of the population relies primarily on electricity produced by costly diesel generators as opposed to lower cost options such as imported power or domestic energy sources such as natural gas, hydro, solar, and wind.

A broad goal of the ANDS is the development of an energy sector energy sector that provides reliable, affordable energy increasingly based on market-based private sector investment and public sector oversight. Target goals include:

  • reaching at least 65% of households in major urban areas,
  • reaching 90% of non-residential establishments in major urban areas,
  • reaching 25% of households in rural areas, and
  • covering at least 75% of total operating costs through user fees by the end of 2010.

At present, there is no clear institutional framework or policy for rural electrification nor a clear division of responsibility amongst the ministries involved in the sector. There is a need to develop a robust enabling environment (such as through the articulation of a rural electrification policy) that encourages community buy-in, and emphasises the roles of Community Development Councils (CDCs), and the private sector in advancing rural electrification.


Current energy debates or legislation: 

Power outages hamper Afghanistan’s economic development – there have been reports of the resultant reduction in factory production. Public health and environmental officials have warned that the electricity shortages lead to a rise in the incidence of disease among children. Also, residents are angered that the massive amounts of aid money injected into Afghanistan have failed to improve electricity supplies.

Major energy studies: 

National Risk Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA)
A key constraint on the planning of energy interventions in Afghanistan is the lack of data at the provincial and district levels. Such data granularity would allow unbiased assessments of need and the fair distribution of funds. The main stakeholder providing and generating data about the energy sector is the Afghan Energy Information Centre (AEIC) which usually provides information at the macro (national) level.

The most complete and updated information on electricity coverage at the provincial level is contained in the National Risk Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA) from 2005. This assessment report disaggregates, by province, rural households with access to any type of electricity at some time of the year.

Role of government: 

The Ministry of Energy and Water, the Ministry of Mines, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, and the Ministry of Commerce and Industries are involved in the country’s energy sector:

  • the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW) is in charge of electricity generation, imports, transmission, distribution and tariff-setting,
  • the Ministry of Mines is in charge of oil, gas, and coal,
  • the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) sponsors numerous energy projects in rural areas, and
  • the Ministry of Commerce and Industries is in charge of liquid fuels.

In addition, the Ministries of Urban Development, Finance, and Economy also contribute to the development of the sector.

Government agencies in sustainable energy: 

Rural development projects are implemented primarily through the National Solidarity Programme under the auspices of the MRRD. This is a community-based development program to help communities identify, plan, manage, and monitor their own projects.  As of early 2009, 5,704 energy-related projects were executed under this programme.

Energy planning procedures: 

GTZ Energy Programme Afghanistan. Renewable Energy Supply for Rural Areas (ESRA)
The objective of this programme is to strengthen state-owned and private-sector capacity to supply electricity in rural areas.
Mini-hydroelectric power plants at three sites supplying electricity to some 35,300 citizens have been constructed under this programme. The expected benefits include the improvement in living standards and the economic development of the host regions.

Afghan Clean Energy Project (ACEP) 2009-2011
This USAID-funded programme aims to foster energy independence and development through the increased use of RE, increased energy efficiency and the establishment of a local RE equipment and service industry. More than 300 communities will benefit from the use of RES (such as hydro, solar and wind) to power homes, schools, and businesses. Technical assistance will also be provided to the Ministry of Energy and Water for reform of key areas of the power sector.

National Solidarity Programme (NSP)
This World Bank-funded programme has facilitated the participation of CDCs in projects involving the improvement of energy sustainability. The activities include the implementation of over 500 micro-hydro projects, operations and maintenance activities and the establishment of viable systems of cost-recovery. Current efforts to provide and/or strengthen power availability in small towns and cities include:
The Qalat Electrification project, which established 4,300 new connections, among other improvements,
The Aybak Distribution Project,
Micro HPP projects in various parts of the country,
Limited wind energy projects, and
Installation of about 200 small biogas digesters in Kandahar.

The North East Power System (NEPS)
The primary objective of this project is to improve energy availability in urban centres. The NEPS consists of generation, transmission and distribution components to facilitate both imported power and domestically generated electricity. Transmission lines that will transport power from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan to major urban centres in the north and east are being constructed. Indigenous energy sources are being exploited in order to reduce the long-term dependence on imported power to feed into the NEPS through:
construction/rehabilitation of thermal (natural gas) plants in Sheberghan and the Northwest (diesel) plant near Kabul,
rehabilitation of HPPs in Pul-i-Chumri and Khanabad in the north and Naghlu, Surobi and Mahipar in the east,
construction of new HPPs new hydro power plants in Baghdara and a second plant in Saurobi, and extension of transmission lines from Kabul to Logar and Gardez.

Southern Power System (SEPS)
The aim of the SEPS is to improve power supply to urban centres in Helmand and Kandahar and reduce reliance on diesel-generated power by way of:
expansion of generation capacity, and
investigation into the feasibility of expanding hydro power production in Kajaki through a second dam.

The feasibility of small-scale power solutions such as decentralised systems and mini-grids will also be examined because of security concerns.

Eastern Transmission System
Its objective is to provide transmission lines from Kabul region (Naghlu) to Jalalabad and to Mehtarlam (the capital of Laghman Province).

Western Urban Energy Programme
This programme is centred on urban centres in Herat and Bagdhis that are supplied with predominantly imported energy. Short term efforts will be focused on improving the distribution and cost recovery systems while the long term efforts will be focused on developing cost-effective energy sources and creating connectivity with the NEPS.


Energy regulator Date of creation: 

The creation of a regulatory entity has been planned.

Degree of independence: 


Regulatory framework for sustainable energy: 

  • Law “for Using Electric Energy” (1986)
  • “Electricity Sector Policy” (2003)


Regulatory roles: 


Role of government department in energy regulation: 

No legal nor regulatory framework currently exists. There is a recognition that roles and responsibilities of ministries and agencies will change to focus on policy-making and regulatory functions as divestiture of state electricity assets occurs.

Regulatory barriers: 

The energy sector requires significant capital investment along with the development of a viable policy framework for the construction of the infrastructure need to exploit the energy source and transmission potential. Key areas required reform include:

  • restructure of those ministries involved in the sector,
  • regulatory reform and development of viable regulatory bodies,
  • reform of taxation regimes to encourage energy investment and renewable energy, and
  • extensive training and capacity building at the managerial and technical levels throughout the sector.


Meisen, P and Azizy, P., 2008. Rural Electrification in Afghanistan: How do we electrify the villages of Afghanistan? Available at: [Accessed 9th September 2013]

The Civil Military Fusion Centre, 2011. Toxic Air: Pollution and Health Consequences in Afghanistan. Available at: [Accessed 9th September 2013]

Asian Development Bank, 2010. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: Power Sector Master Plan. Available at: [Accessed 9th September 2013]

Department for International Development, 2009. Socio-Economic Impacts of Climate Change in Afghanistan. Available at: [Accessed 9th September 2013]

Asian Development Bank, 2010a. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: Energy Development Investment Program. Available at: [Accessed 9th September 2013]

Asian Development Bank, 2005. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board of Directors on a Proposed Loan and Asian Development Fund Grant and Technical Assistance to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for the Power Transmission and Distribution Project. Available at:[Accessed 9th September 2013]