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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Thomas Schmitz

Sustainable Energy Strategies for Afghanistan

Thomas Schmitz

Sustainable Energy Strategies for Afghanistan

As a consequence of the foregoing and existing conflicts in Afghanistan, and the economic, environmental and social situation of the country, rebuilding and developing the energy sector in Afghanistan poses difficult challenges.  At present, energy infrastructure and fuel are available only to a limited extent, and consumption inefficiency leads to increasing energy costs.

Thus a new energy infrastructure is required.  In the first instance there is a pressing need to save and conserve energy by all means.  In order to create sustainable economic and social growth of society in an environmentally sensitive manner, the entire country must be inclusively addressed and all stakeholders consulted in strategies for future energy development.

The vast majority of energy consumption is met by firewood.  This results in extensive deforestation with severe consequences for environment and society.  In order to tackle this problem, it will be suggested that alternative fuels will have to be utilised.  Furthermore, limited access to electricity throughout the country undermines future development.  It will be argued that adequate energy supply is essential for the development of economy and society.

Concerning energy sources, Afghanistan has significant hydo power resources.  There exists additional potential for other sources of renewable energy.  Excessive consumption contributes to deforestation in face of shrinking biomass resources.  The gas fields in northern Afghanistan constitute the main fossil resource.  It will be argued that it is economically, socially and environmentally beneficial to develop renewable energy options for Afghanistan.

Two major policies dominate Afghanistan’s plans to develop the energy sector.  Firstly, Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy, inclusive of the Energy Sector Master Plan, follows a centralised top-down approach.  As will be argued, its main shortcomings are its failure to address local needs and its short-sighted and therefore unsustainable strategy for energy generation and consumption. Secondly the National Solidarity Program adopts a more holistic approach and aims at being anchored in principles of sustainable development.  However, as will be argued, it faces problems in practical implementation.

In order to accommodate these problems, energy efficiency must be strenuously promoted by publicity campaigning and the involvement of international organisations.  Alternative fuels should be introduced to Afghanistan via initial subsidies and renewable technologies.