Micro Hydro Power and Productive Use Promotion (GIZ ESRA Afghanistan)

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GIZ’s energy programme in entitled Afghanistan Renewable Energy Supply for Rural Areas (ESRA) promotes utilisation of renewable energy sources for rural electrification and development, mainly in the form of mini hydro power systems.

The programme comprises three components:

  1. Energy for rural development
  2. Energy planning at provincial level
  3. Policy advising at the national level.

ESRA aims to systematically stimulate economic development potentials by utilising renewable energy technologies and promoting sustainable management systems and productive uses of electricity.

Under Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH ESRA programme in Afghanistan, opportunities for productive use of electricity were identified in the vicinity of micro hydropower (MHP) installation sites by observing markets, investigating secondary sources, and conducting expert interviews with practitioners in development work as well as interviews with individual and grouped representatives and, even more importantly, with businessmen and farmers.

Potential Opportunities for Productive Energy Use

List of potential opportunities for productive energy use in the context of MHP schemes:

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  • gems cutting, faceting and polishing
  • stone quarrying, cutting and crushing
  • clay brick moulding and firing

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Agricultural Processing

  • silk cocoon spinning
  • cooking oil pressing from various kernels and seeds
  • grain threshing and winnowing
  • flour milling from various grains (barley, maize and wheat, etc.)
  • seed preserving and treatment
  • juice processing from various fruits

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Animal Husbandry

  • milk processing (dairy products),
  • poultry incubation and hatching (meat, eggs)
  • sheep wool shearing, washing, carding, spinning and weaving (garments)
  • ditto for Kashmir wool processing (garments)
  • veterinary services (refrigerators for medicine)
  • slaughter houses and meat processing
  • animal bone processing for soap making
  • hide tanning and leather making (chrome-tanned ‘wet-blue’ leather, shoes)

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  • electric welding and cutting for metal furniture, etc.
  • woodworking (benches and tools, sawmills)
  • block ice making
  • water bottling

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  • restaurant equipment (lighting, refrigerators, cooking utensils)
  • tailoring and sewing
  • car repair and spraying
  • Other services (lighting in shops, battery charging, banking).

After taking stock and listing business opportunities by sector, their importance for the area and the consistency (interconnections) of value chains can be assessed more easily. It became apparent for example that remarkable gaps in food, wool and leather value chains exist due to poor storage facilities. It was further noted that almost all gemstones were exported illegally without any local value addition or taxation.

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Combining Micro Hydropower Management and Productive Use Promotion

GIZ’s ESRA programme promotes productive use of electricity generated by off-grid micro hydropower (MHP) facilities sited in rural regions with the aim of providing complementary economic benefits for the technical and financial operation of the MHP plant. Contrary to industrialised and urban areas, peak loads in rural areas occur in the early morning and late afternoon or evening. The MHP sites supported by ESRA are sized to cover the basic demands at those peak times, while most productive loads occur during the day in between these peaks.

ESRA has developed a simple low-cost tool to address the electricity demand of the most commonly found businesses at MHP sites. It was decided to prioritise simple activities before entering into more complex productive use promotion activities.

Because economic undertakings at micro-scale are often interwoven with household activities, it makes sense to combine general awareness and capacity development geared to household electricity use with awareness raising targeting productive use. Besides technical and managerial training, the operating crew and in particular the main MHP operator received training (training of trainers) in safe and efficient electricity use in the villages. Together with a team of experienced trainers, they travelled to the villages and taught men in the morning and women and children in the afternoon. Separate training sessions for men and women were necessary due to gender roles in Afghanistan, and working first with the men helped win their trust, enabling the trainers to work later with the women. While the training for women was more focused on safety aspects, child education and practical demonstration of useful equipment, the training for men was geared more towards purchasing the right cable, fuses and equipment (i.e. understanding quality and cost of operation) and safe installation. ESRA has developed a picture book which functions as the storyboard for training. In each village, operators installed a demonstration installation in a public building (e.g. the mosque or a school). During this process, the crew of operators with the support of the project set up a permanent information centre where light bulbs, equipment, fuses, cable and other components were demonstrated. This later became the PURE promotion centre, i.e. for productive use of renewable energy.

When conducting user training sessions, initial questions about business use of electricity were already raised, and general awareness could be easily increased. In addition, the team of trainers and operators took stock of existing businesses, especially in market places and villages. Depending on the area, they were directly confronted with questions about stability of power supply, cost per kWh, and about their machinery and its compatibility with the new electricity from the grid. The first and foremost tangible need was expressed by businesses running generators, asking for a switch to electric engines. In such cases, consultancy was provided in terms of equipment, especially sizing of electric engines, quality aspects of machinery, installations in terms of foundations, power transmission between engines and machinery, and maintenance aspects. Interested persons were therefore invited into the PURE promotion centre (e.g. all carpenters and sawmill owners). Opportunities for installing three-phase motors and proper business installations were introduced at such meetings.

ESRA has developed a standard installation board for three-phase applications and is only marginally adjusting them for each business type (size of motor protection, number and type of sockets).

The team of trainers and operators was often confronted with questions like ‘Where can I buy new quality equipment?’, ‘How can I judge the quality?’, ‘What will the operating costs be?’, and ‘How do I best maintain my machinery?’. When people gain trust in the technology and see that other businesses are working successfully, they immediately want to take up productive use. ESRA also learned that the approach pursued has contributed extensively to triggering investment. The project was initially designed to replace diesel generator sets, but quickly developed into efforts to mechanise formerly manual businesses, and even created many new businesses. Once people learned that the boards were working and that the advice given was sound, available money previously held back was used to invest in machinery, provided the project assured them it would assist with installation. Through word of mouth, even people from the provincial capital travelled three hours to meet the team out in the rural area and ask for assistance.

The project now aims to open a branch office in the provincial capital where productive users can come and address their problems. The aim is to enable the electricity utilities to install proper connections, including protection systems. Downstream of the meter, however, only non-financial support will be given.

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Further Information

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  • Results from GIZ’s ESRA programme in Afghanistan