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Leading the way in sustainable power

Two New Zealand companies have won an $18.6 million government contract to build a sustainable electricity network for people living in the Bamyan province of Afghanistan.

Called the Bamyan Renewable Energy Project, it will be funded by the New Zealand Government’s international aid and development programme with the purpose of leaving behind the “gift” of an off-grid, sustainable power supply to serve 2,490 homes in Bamyan that are currently without electricity.

Timaru-based companies NETcon Ltd and Sustainable Energy Services International Ltd joined forces to win the contract despite strong competition from international competitors.

The Bamyan Renewable Energy Project will rely on a mix of solar power and diesel generators and, once complete, will be among the largest off-grid power systems in the world.

Winning the contract demonstrates Timaru companies can compete internationally and showcase New Zealand as a world leader in new technology, such as the supply of large scale sustainable energy projects.

This project is not just a construction project. It will leave Bamyan with a trained management, maintenance and support structure so the network can continue to survive in the long term. NETcon view the contract to be more that investing in technology. It's just as much about training and capacity building.

The main challenges are, the logistics of delivering imported materials to the site, and the challenges of liaison with the Afghan community. Afghanistan is a land-locked country so materials for the work need to be transported through countries on its border.

Arranging to get materials and equipment on site will be a major challenge which require extensive communication and consultation to ensure locals understand what is being done and resolve any issues.

Professionally it’s a win, but even better is the opportunity to bring electricity to thousands of Afghan people who currently live without it. The potential to improve their lives is huge. This will have a positive impact on the local standard of living, promote economic activity and create a model for a power utility that can be replicated elsewhere in Afghanistan.

The contract involves the installation of 1.05MW of solar PV to bring electricity to 2,490 households via new transmission and distribution networks. The project will ensure a reliable quality power supply is available 24 hours a day, with supplementary diesel generators providing certainty of supply during periods of poor weather, and the ability to meet future growth in demand.

Providing a distribution network similar to that you would see in any town in New Zealand – poles, wires, transformers and customer connections all constructed to a high standard with an expectation of quality and reliability. Financial sustainability of the project in the long-term will be achieved by using pre-pay power meters.

There is currently no electrical system in the communities where the project will take place.

The team will consist of about eight to 10 international staff, most of them New Zealanders, working with 15 trained Afghan engineers and about 30 to 40 tradesmen and labourers from surrounding Afghan villages. Various Timaru-based staff from NETcon will spend time in Afghanistan on rotation as part of the international contingent.