Asian Development Bank approves grants to help improve Afghanistan's energy sector. The Taliban in November offered to protect some of the nation's planned energy projects. File photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- More than $400 million in grants will help Afghanistan increase access to reliable sources of energy, the Asian Development Bank said.
Afghan energy demand has outpaced economic growth by a factor of nearly 2-to-1 since 2015 and the war-torn country relies on its neighbors for about 80 percent of its energy supplies. Its national grid, meanwhile, is barely connected and synchronized with border countries.
The Asian Development Bank said it approved $415 million in grants to help address that problem.
"Insufficient energy supplies constrain growth and income opportunities that can fuel ethnic and regional tensions, as well as insecurity," Asad Aleem, an energy specialist with the ADB, said in a statement.
ADB financing aims to install new power lines to help Afghanistan draw more electricity from its neighbors. One power line is expected to stretch from neighboring Turkmenistan all the way to the capital city, Kabul.
The regional lender is supporting Afghanistan's target of increasing the electrification rate from 30 percent to just over 80 percent, while boosting the share of domestic energy generation from 20 percent to nearly 70 percent by 2030.
The grant comes less than a week after the Afghan Taliban, a main driver of the insurgent campaign over the last 15 years, said it was directing its supporters to help advance national infrastructure projects like a natural gas pipeline planned from Turkmenistan.
The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, dubbed by New Delhi as a new "Silk Road," will transport natural gas from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad gas field. The Taliban vowed to protect such projects provided they are in "the higher interest of Islam and the country."
A study supported in part by the U.S. Defense Department estimated in 2010 that there could be as much as $1 trillion worth of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium in Afghanistan.
Critics note that Afghanistan doesn't have the infrastructure needed to host the pipeline and security in the country is a major concern.