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The transcontinental corridor paves the way to Europe’s energy future

ASTANA – Ministries of Energy of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan signed a historic memorandum adopted on May 1 at the International Investment Forum in Tashkent, initiating cooperation on the interconnection of their energy systems and laying the foundations for a transcontinental energy corridor to Europe. The implementation of this initiative will bring these countries to important positions in the global clean energy market and strengthen their role in the European energy landscape.

Photo source: eeas.europa.eu

Regional cooperation strengthens energy integration

Ilgar Velizade, head of the Azerbaijan Club of Political Scientists in the South Caucasus, noted that the agreement was reached after months of negotiations and consultations. From the end of 2022, the parties are exploring cooperation on green energy and discussing energy transport from the Caspian and Central Asian regions to Europe.

“Discussions are also ongoing about laying a cable to transmit green energy from the Caucasus towards Romania and the Eastern Balkans through the bottom of the Black Sea,” Velizade said. “The latest decisions are part of the logic of this large-scale process, which assumes the connection of two interstate cables. These cables will connect the Caspian Sea and Central Asian regions with the Caucasus on one side and the Caucasus with Europe on the other.

In his opinion, this interaction fits into the framework of Turkish cooperation, where this issue is also of great importance. In addition to other ongoing projects, this project promises success and will bring benefits to societies and countries, strengthening cooperation and trust in the Central Asian and Caucasus regions.

The potential for clean energy production

Ilaha Mammadli, deputy editor-in-chief of Report Agency, says that through joint efforts, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan can lead Europe’s energy transition, bringing clean, reliable and cost-effective energy to the continent.

The energy ministries of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan signed a memorandum on May 1 in Tashkent. Photo source: yenisafak.com

“The Caspian Sea alone holds significant wind energy production potential, estimated at approximately 157 gigawatts (GW). This significant capability is highly desired in Azerbaijan, although it far exceeds the country’s current needs,” she said.

Mammadli outlined Azerbaijan’s significant economic potential in renewable energy (RE), spanning 27 GW, including 3,000 megawatts (MW) from wind energy and 23,000 MW from solar energy. The government of Azerbaijan aims to increase the share of renewable energy in the energy mix to 24% by 2028.

“As for Kazakhstan, its wind energy potential exceeds 1.82 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, while solar energy reaches one trillion kWh. Kazakhstan plans to increase the share of renewable energy in total electricity production to 6% by 2025 and 10% by 2030.” – Mammadli said.

Mammadli also highlighted Uzbekistan’s aspirations to increase the share of renewable energy in total electricity production to 25% by 2030. Uzbekistan boasts a wind energy potential of 520 GW and a solar energy potential of 2.058 trillion kWh.

She emphasized that this project not only diversifies European energy sources, but also fosters new opportunities for economic cooperation between the participating countries.

In her opinion, the Tashkent meeting and its results mark a significant step towards creating an integrated regional network capable of improving energy efficiency and stimulating the growth of the green economy.

Benefits and opportunities

Nigar Abbasova, an Azerbaijani oil and gas expert, shares Mammadli’s opinion.

“The signed memorandum indicates a strong willingness and interest in expanding the horizons of cooperation and entering new markets, primarily for the countries of Central Asia,” she said.

She stressed the importance of integrating the three countries’ energy systems for the supply of green energy from Central Asia to Europe through the South Caucasus, connecting Central Asia with the Caspian and Black Sea regions.

According to Abbasova, the benefits of the project are obvious for all parties involved, including the creation of new jobs, income from electricity trade, increased foreign trade turnover and overall strengthening of cooperation.

“The presence of such ready-made export infrastructure may also arouse interest in part of it from neighboring countries. The experience of the Southern Gas Corridor in this regard is quite illustrative,” she said.

According to Abbasova, if an energy cable is laid under the Caspian Sea, other Central Asian countries may express interest in supplying or receiving electricity through it in the future.

“The Kyrgyz Republic recently announced its readiness to receive electricity from Azerbaijan via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Most likely, over time, the number of people willing to act as exporters or importers may increase,” she added.

In December 2022, Azerbaijan also signed an agreement with Georgia, Romania, Hungary and then Bulgaria to lay the Black Sea Energy submarine electric cable. This 1,000 MW, 1,195 km long cable will carry green electricity generated in Azerbaijan through Georgia and the Black Sea to Romania, and then on to Hungary and other parts of Europe.

The article was originally published in Kazinform.