We Built a $335 Million Power Plant in Afghanistan that Can Barely Turn on Lightbulb

We Built a $335 Million Power Plant in Afghanistan that Can Barely Turn on Lightbulb

Ohm! What a Good Idea!
REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
By Millie Dent

USAID is denying that a $335 million “vital component” of their mission to aid the massive energy deficit in Kabul, Afghanistan is an utter failure, but a new report contradicts that claim.

A power plant built by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is extremely underused and in danger of being wasted, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). USAID attempted to defend itself by saying the plant was only built to provide occasional backup and insurance for Kabul’s electrical grid, not for electrical power on a continuous basis. SIGAR’s report provides evidence that the plant was built for regular usage.

Related: U.S. Military Builds a $15 Million Warehouse That Nobody Wants 

First, the basis of design was for a base load plant, built to operate 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Also, the plant hasn’t made any impact on reducing Kabul’s massive energy deficit that USAID says is one of the plant’s main priorities. Not only is it not being used regularly, but it’s not even contributing additional electricity to increase the overall power supply in Kabul. 

The Tarakhil Power Plant was built in July 2007 on the outskirts of Kabul, with the intention of supplying 18 diesel engines worth of operating power. Since Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) – Afghanistan’s national power utility – assumed responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the facility in 2010, the plant has only performed at a shred of its total capability. Between July 2010 and December 2013, the USAID IG found that the plant performed at a mere 2.2 percent of its potential. 

Since the Tarakhil Power Plant was used incorrectly and only on an intermittent basis, the plant has suffered premature wear and tear on its engine and electrical components. The damage is expected to raise already steep operation and maintenance costs. 

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