Kazakhstan unveils Vast New Electricity Grid

    Kazakhstan inaugurated a vast electricity grid Thursday that authorities hope will end chronic power shortages that have blighted the former Soviet nation's industrial southern regions.
    President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who presided at the unveiling of the 500-megawatt transmission line, said the project will allow Kazakhstan to become self-sufficient for electricity by drawing on excess power produced in the north.
    "The southern regions in particular, which depended on supplies from our neighbors, will now be provided with our own electricity," Nazarbayev was quoted as saying by the Kazakhstan Today news agency.
    The north-south power grid, which stretches 1,100-kilometers across the Central Asian nation's expansive steppes, cost around $290 million to build and was completed a year before schedule.
    The line will complement an existing 600-megawatt line.
    Kanat Bozumbayev, head of the state-owned Kazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company, said the line could also help revive Kazakhstan's economy, which has struggled amid reduced global demand for its oil exports.
    The second transmission route will provide the energy needed for the implementation of the anti-crisis program in the southern regions of the country," Bozumbayev said.
    Existing electricity infrastructure has failed to keep up with the pace of economic and industrial development in the south, leaving the commercial capital of Almaty particularly prone to power outages. Demand is expected to soar again in coming years, as the country recovers from the economic stagnation of the last two years.
    Kazakhstan's unreliable electricity grid and low tariffs have deterred foreign investment, but authorities hope the north-south grid could boost interest in the power sector.
    Since Soviet times, Kazakhstan has partly compensated for its electricity deficit by importing supplies from neighboring Kyrgyzstan, which produces hydropower by releasing water for irrigation from its Toktogul reservoir.
    Funding for the new line was provided by the Kazakh government and loans from the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, according to Forbes.