Chinese Businesses Making Inroads into Kyrgyzstan’s Energy Sector

Chinese companies will repair two units of the Bishkek combined heat power plant (CHPP) and plan to invest more than $1 billion in other energy projects. Representatives of the Chinese company, TBEA visited the Bishkek CHPP, where it was decided that TBEA will send its specialists to overhaul the third and fourth power units, as well as train local specialists, the Ministry of Energy of Kyrgyzstan reported.

TBEA chairman, Zhang Xin, together with the Kyrgyz Energy Minister, Taalaibek Ibraev, visited the Bishkek CHPP the previous day. The main topic under discussion was how to increase the electricity and heat capacity of the CHPP. Bishkek CHPP provides electricity to Bishkek and its suburbs, as well as heat to most apartment complexes in the capital.

In 2017, TBEA built four new boiler units at the Bishkek CHPP with a total capacity of 300 MW. The Eximbank of China allocated a loan of $386 million back in 2013 for this purpose. After the accident at the CHPP in February this year, the Kyrgyz authorities decided to overhaul the old boilers. As a result, despite the corruption scandal in 2017, the same Chinese company will repair units three and four. Information on the reconstruction costs for the units has not yet been disclosed.

When fully operational, Bishkek CHPP has 18 boiler units with a total capacity of 812 MW. Following the accident this winter, swathes of equipment failed and the total capacity of the CHPP was decreased by a large factor.

Meanwhile, a Kyrgyz-Chinese business forum was held in Bishkek and attended by more than 60 companies, with contracts totaling $1.15 billion signed with various Chinese companies, mostly from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. According to the Kyrgyz Government, a project to build a coal logistics center with a conveyor belt on the border of the two countries has been agreed upon and signed. The Chinese company, Dachenglongyuan, will invest $440 million in the project. The same company is reportedly to invest another $700 million to build a wind farm in southern Kyrgyzstan. Contracts for coal exploration and mining were also signed. Some experts attribute the accident at the Bishkek CHPP to low-quality coal mined in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan.

One of President Japarov’s campaign promises in 2020 was to end winter power outages and ensure the country’s energy security.

Despite the great opportunities for Chinese investors, however, many economists in Kyrgyzstan have warned against Kyrgyzstan’s growing dependence on China. According to official data, as of January 1, 2024, Kyrgyzstan’s debt stood at $6.3 billion, with about 40% of that owed to China’s Eximbank.


Times of Central Asia