Major blackout in Central Asia

On January 25, at noon local time (9:00 am – UTC+3), millions of people across Central Asia, in much of southern Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, suffered electrical power outages after a major power line in Kazakhstan was disconnected. The three nations have been fully interconnected since 1997 by an electricity ring called the Central Asia Power System (CAPS).

Northern areas of Kazakhstan were not affected as they are linked to the Russian power grid: the blackout did not affect the synchronization with the United Power System of Russia. Power imbalances detected in Russia were compensated accordingly, and the synchronous operation with Kazakhstan remained stable. The rapid increase in exports from Kazakhstan to Russia caused by the overload of the North-East-South 500 kV line in Kazakhstan, and quick redirection of the surplus (750 MW) from Kazakhstan to Russia led to no consequences for the Russian consumers.

Operations at airports and metro systems in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were suspended for several hours after power was lost. Customers of major mobile phone service providers in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan reported a loss of connections. Hospitals had to fall back on generators to keep essential equipment running and traffic lights shut off.

Electricity was restored within 5 hours. According to KEGOC, the System Operator of Kazakhstan, a significant emergency imbalance in the Central Asian power system (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan) led to a power surge in the North-East-South 500 kV power transmission line in Kazakhstan. As a result, the North-East-South line was disconnected due to the fault, cutting power supply to a significant part of consumers in southern Kazakhstan. The amount of load shedding is about 1,500 MW.

Kazakhstan’s North-South power line, which connects to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, was disconnected due to “emergency imbalances” in the Central Asian Power System (CAPS). The cause has not been reported yet.

Central Asian countries have seen their grids burdened by a summer drought that affected hydropower capacity in Kyrgyzstan and by a boom in cryptocurrency mining in the region, especially in Kazakhstan. However, Kazakhstan cut off companies mining cryptocurrencies from the electricity supply the day before, from January 24 to January 31.