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Cablegate: Prt/Qal-E Now: Let There Be Light

VZCZCXRO5102
PP RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #5559/01 3251205
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211205Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4197
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 5665
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 0348
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3278
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3344

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 005559

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CR, SCA/PAB, S/CT, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR KIMMETT
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76, AND POLAD
RELEASABLE TO NATO/ISAF/AUS/NZ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG PGOV SNAR AF
SUBJECT: PRT/QAL-E NOW: LET THERE BE LIGHT

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Badghis Province's Energy Department is
currently providing five hours of electricity a day to the
city center. When the Spanish-provided generator comes back
online, it will be able to power an energy grid that
encompasses 95% of the city. The system, which includes over
1,460 meters of power lines and has 840 registered users, is
a major sign of the local leadership's efforts to provide
basic services to the community. Recent problems with the
Spanish-provided generator underlined the fragility of the
system but provided members of the PRT with the opportunity
to mentor provincial leadership and improve their ability to
handle administrative problems. The head of the Energy
Department recently informed PRToff that a plan to purchase
energy from Turkmenistan had been approved and funded. The
proposed power line from Turkmenistan would plug into Qal-e
Now's existing power grid and eventually provide electricity
to 3 of the province's 7 districts. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- --
Spanish Generator Powers City's Electrical Grid
--------------------------------------------- --
2. The development of the existing power grid was made
possible by the Spanish PRT's donation of a 320 kilowatt
generator. The city's electrical system operates 5 hours a
day and consists of the Spanish generator that is currently
down for repairs, three much smaller backup generators, an
underground 10,000 liter fuel tank, 1,460 meters of power
lines, and over 840 registered users. The electrical grid is
capable of reaching 95% of the city, but without the Spanish
generator, power is limited to the city center. The
provincial head of the Energy Department, Jaji Said Abdullah,
has plans to bring power to all of the estimated 1,500 people
who have thus far requested to be hooked-up to the power
grid, but first he must grapple with infrastructure and
administrative issues that are often completely new to local
residents.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Infrastructural Problems Impede Electricity Delivery
--------------------------------------------- --------
3. (SBU) So far, Abdullah, who has worked in the Department
for 25 years, seems much more able to identify and address
infrastructural shortcomings than administrative capacity
issues. One of the system's greatest infrastructural
weaknesses is power loss. Abdullah acknowledges that due to
a lack of equipment, poor-quality power lines, and inaccurate
meter boxes his agency loses an estimated 25% of the power it
generates. He hopes to reduce this loss significantly by
replacing all the existing power lines with higher quality
lines, but stated that to date they have replaced only 130
meters of cable.

4. (U) A second infrastructural weakness inherent in the
system is its dependence on the Spanish generator, which in
turn is dependent on parts shipped from Spain. When the main
generator is off-line, the system suffers a drastic reduction
in power generating capacity. Equally important, power
generated from the backup generators can cost more than twice
as much as that generated by the Spanish equipment.
According to Abdullah, the solution to dependence on the
Spanish generator may well come from Turkmenistan.

-----------------------------------
Turkmenistan To Help Infrastructure
-----------------------------------
5. Abdullah informed PRToff that a five-man team from
Turkmenistan had recently surveyed the province to determine
the feasibility of delivering electricity to Qal-e Now. He
stated that Turkmenistan would fund the installation of the
power line to the border and that the World Bank would
provide the $10,000,000 (US) needed to install a power line
from the border to Qal-e Now. This proposal is a third of
the cost of a prior proposal, but bypasses the main

KABUL 00005559 002 OF 003


population centers of two districts. According to Abdullah,
the province will build a power transfer station near Qal-e
Now that will be capable of providing electricity to three of
the province's seven districts. A local member of the
Spanish Agency for International Development stated that his
sources had also indicated that this project was going to
happen and opined that it could be up and running in as
little as one-year. When completed, this system will plug
into the existing Qal-e Now power grid and provide power at a
much reduced rate. The Spanish generator will then serve as
a vital backup for the city.

-----------------------------------------
Confused Billing Process Impedes Payments
-----------------------------------------
6. (SBU) Administratively, the department has a way to go.
Abdullah is very proud that all of the department's
finances are in order and all payments are deposited in the
local bank by consumers. According to Abdullah, since the
start of operations in late-May, the Energy Department has
taken in 667,706 Afghanis versus 634,235 in total expense ($1
equals 49.9 AF). These numbers do not include payment for
services from August 6 to October 1, or outstanding balances
from several NGOs that have reportedly never been billed. If
these figures are accurate, the company appears to be
operating on a cost-recovery basis, notwithstanding the large
donations of diesel from the PRT. Even if the Department is
operating in the black, there is ample confusion about the
billing process, the length of the billing cycle, and the
rate charged consumers. Together these have caused some local
uproar.

7. (SBU) During an October 1 Provincial Development meeting,
several NGOs complained that, after five months of receiving
service, they had not yet received a bill. In response,
Abdullah claimed that he was some 20 days late in processing
the latest billing cycle because he did not know what to
charge customers per kilowatt/hour. On October 3, at the
request of the Governor, PRToff and the PRT S5 Officer joined
Abdullah, the head of Rural Development, and the Deputy Head
of Economy to sort out the billing problem. Abdullah
explained that the large operational cost increases
associated with the Spanish generator being out of service
had prevented him from issuing the bills. He did not want to
send out bills indicating a drastically increased rate on his
own authority, he said. After some discussion, the group
agreed upon the need to provide bills in a timely manner and
charge a more or less consistent price to improve customer
confidence. The S5 then assured the group that the generator
would be on line in a few days and that the PRT would donate
4,000 liters of diesel to offset the increased costs caused
by the breakdown. With this news the group quickly agreed to
keep the old price. The crisis was averted, but the question
remains as to why the NGOs have not received the prior bills.


8. (SBU) The Energy Department's system for billing is to
have customers come to the department's office to pickup
their bill. Abdullah explained that the police visited those
who did not pay their bills to encourage them to do so. He
stressed that the bills were paid at the bank so that none of
his staff ever handled the money. Regarding the NGOs,
Abdullah stated that he had confidence the NGOs would pay
their bills so they had never followed up with them. When
PRToff asked how people were supposed to know to come get
their bill before the ANP knocked on their door, there was no
answer. PRToff suggested that when the employee read each
meter he provide the consumer with a note indicating it was
time to come to the Energy Department to pay the bill.
Abdullah was grateful for the suggestion and promised to look
into it.

-------

KABUL 00005559 003 OF 003


Comment
-------
9. (SBU) Currently the lights are on in the center of Qal-e
Now. When the Spanish generator comes back online, the power
grid will once again extend to 95% of the city. By
continuing to offer resource support as needed and advice on
administrative issues, the PRT is helping those responsible
for this service to continue to meet the expectations of the
citizens. As long as the generator continues to function,
Abdullah and his team seem able to provide power at a
consistent cost to the residents of Qal-e Now.

10. (SBU) The current system is not a viable answer to the
city's long-term energy needs, but it is providing a vital
symbol of progress to the populace until the Turkmenistan
power project is completed. When the new power system comes
online the members of the Energy Department will hopefully
have developed the experience needed to handle the technical
and administrative challenges that extending the power grid
to three districts will present. However, the meeting with
Abdullah indicated that his focus was more on creating a
billing system that insulated himself and his department from
accusations of malfeasance than one that functioned smoothly.
By working closely with Abdullah and his staff, the PRT can
assist the local administration to develop not only a working
electrical system, but a functioning local government as
well. END COMMENT.
NEUMANN

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