Unprecedented Failure: What Caused Massive Blackouts in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan?
11:20 GMT 25.01.2022 (Updated: 11:29 GMT 25.01.2022)
Numerous cities in southern Kazakhstan and throughout Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan experienced “blackouts” today, bringing airports to a standstill and affecting everything from water supplies to city traffic. The power supply is being gradually resumed, as probes are launched into the causes of the outage.
As the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan suffered major power outages on Tuesday, all three offered their own explanations for the "blackout", which wreaked wide-scale disruption.
Kazakhstan Electricity Grid operating Company (KEGOC) summed up the power outage that struck at 11.59 (05:59 GMT) as being caused by a significant “emergency imbalance” in the Central Asian energy system. The latter had triggered an "emergency separation of the 500 kV “North-East-South of Kazakhstan” electricity transit, affecting “a significant part of consumers in the southern zone of Kazakhstan", with the volume of restrictions estimated at about 1,500 megawatts, according to KEGOC.
In Kazakhstan, where power outages swept across the southern areas, affecting the Almaty, Shymkent, Taras and Turkestan regions, the operation of transit power transmission lines between the regions has been restored, according to the press service of KEGOC.
"All transmission lines of transit 500 kV 'North-East-South of Kazakhstan' have been switched on," the operator said in a statement.
The company also informed that at 13.39 (07:39 GMT), the Almaty energy centre had been synchronised with the unified energy system "with the complete removal of consumer restrictions".
Electricity supply to Almaty has been fully restored, said the energy transmission company Alatau Zharyk Company JSC.
"Alatau Zharyk Company JSC has fully restored the power supply to consumers in the city of Almaty, disconnected from electricity due to an emergency at the high-voltage power line 'North-South'. All disconnected consumers have been supplied with electricity," reads the statement.
It was noted that at the time of the accident, more than 92 thousand consumers were left without power, of which almost 88,500 were residential buildings and apartments in the administrative districts of the capital.
The press release stated that regional power grid companies of Almaty and the Almaty region were lifting restrictions as “work to restore power supply to the southern regions continues".
Meanwhile crypto miners in Kazakhstan were warned in advance about a power outage before February due to challenges with maintaining the balance of electricity in the country's unified energy system, reported Informburo.kz portal. The blackouts suffered by southern Kazakhstan on 25 January were not the fault of the miners, at least those who work legally, added the report.
miners have been disconnected from electricity supply until the end of January, with an according warning sent out on 21 January by KEGOC.
Alan Dorjiev, President of (NABDC) National Association of Blockchain and Data Centers Industry in Kazakhstan, believes that problems with electricity are more likely to be connected with infrastructure.
“Our entire system is on the brink. Depreciation of the stations is at over 70%, with some averaging about 40 years in age,” the portal cited him as saying.
Kyrgyzstan reports cited a failure in the energy system of the Central Asian region as the reason for the incident that has now triggered the need for an interstate commission to probe the causes.
Speaking at a press conference, Kyrgyz Energy Minister, Doskul Bekmurzaev, underscored the unprecedented nature of the current massive power failure in the operation of the Central Asian energy ring. As he noted that 50% of the power supply in the country had been restored, he added it was “too early to talk about the reasons”. The minister said that “in the next hour or two, we will connect the whole country.”
The capital, Bishkek, as well as the second-largest city of Kyrgyzstan, Osh, were seriously affected by the blackouts on Tuesday.
Water supply disruptions had been reported in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, with pumping stations grinding to a halt due to the outage. Traffic lights did not work, and local operators reported that there had been no central heating in Bishkek due to the two-hour failure. Local providers said that mobile Internet was also down during the outage.
45 people had to be evacuated from the elevators of the capital, stated the press service of the Bishkek mayor's office. No one needed medical assistance, added the press service.
Kyrgyzstan’s airports have since resumed normal operation, the press service of Manas International Airport stated on Tuesday. Earlier, it was reported that airports had been forced to switch to autonomous power supply.
The incident also affected holidaying skiers, with several people finding themselves stuck on a cable car in the Chunkurchak ski complex near Bishkek. They have since all been evacuated, with the lift resuming operation due to backup generators, the 24.kg portal reported.
According to reports from Uzbekistan, the power grid of the republic was damaged on Tuesday due to an accident and a change in voltage on the lines from Kazakhstan.
Currently, the supply of electricity to residential buildings and apartments is being restored in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, after the country’s Energy Ministry reported a power outage at 06:00 GMT in a number of regions. Later, the department clarified that a phased restoration of the electricity supply had begun.
The airports of Uzbekistan have resumed their work after being suspended due to a power outage in a number of regions of the country, the press service of Uzbekistan Airports JSC reports.
"Uzbekistan's airports are open again," the Uzbekistan Airports Telegram channel said in a statement.
The blackout on Tuesday had brought to a standstill the work of the airport and metro in Tashkent, with traffic lights off, and the heating, sewer system and drinking water supply not working.
A cable car system at Amirsoy ski resort in Uzbekistan ground to a halt, with twenty skiers rescued from stranded cable cars, according to local emergency services.