08/10/2023, 19.40
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Uzbek authorities impose poor quality solar panels on people, businesses, government bodies

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Ordinary Uzbeks and businesses complain that they have been forced to pay for a top-down scheme. Some see it as “yet another propaganda initiative” by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Incapable of overcoming the country’s energy shortages, he is just helping his cronies.

Tashkent (AsiaNews) – Uzbek authorities have launched a plan to fast-track the installation of solar panels on all public buildings, hospitals, schools, and even private businesses.

This has led many businesses to complain that municipal and regional administrators (khokimy) are being heavy-handed, acting without consultations, prior consent, and cost estimates.

While panels installed on government buildings are paid with public funds, businesses are being forced to pay out of their own pockets.

Grocery stores that refuse to install solar panels have been cut off from the power grid, shutting down their cold storage facilities with inevitable wastage of fresh products and losses that exceed the cost of the solar panels.

Solar panel installers sign contracts only with businesses recommended by government administrators, while ordinary citizens are worried that Chinese-made panels will not last long.

Barely concealing their bitterness, many observers view this plan as “yet another propaganda initiative” by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has been unable to find a solution to the country’s energy shortages, while coming up with new ways to favour "some cronies close to the government", said a local entrepreneur who withheld his name, speaking to Radio Ozodlik.

Uzbekistan's current energy initiatives are based on a presidential decree signed last 16 February, “On measures to accelerate the introduction of renewable energy sources and energy-saving technologies in 2023.”

Billions of sums have been spent to carry out the order, with poor results. In some cases, people cannot even plug in their fridge after they were forced to install the faulty solar panel.

A businessman in Fergana said he tried to delay the installation as much as, but then the installers showed up without calling ahead. “I asked for some time to figure out the costs.” They did not listen and cut off the power. The products in the freezer melted and spoiled.

This happened three or four more times. In the end, the businessman agreed to the installation; however, his new panel generates 1 kWh of energy at a cost of 15 million sums (around US$ 1,250), which he had to finance with a bank loan at 24 per cent interest.

“The administration told us they knew a good company to install the panels, but they asked too much and so we found other technicians who did the job quickly. They put a battery that lasts only an hour and a half, and at most can keep a light bulb on.”

Even the municipal employees are unhappy with the "top-down" initiative, but they cannot oppose government orders.

For most people, the state-imposed panels are very inefficient. To fix the equipment and generate enough power would require bigger investments, both in public and private buildings, in order to produce at least 5 kWh needed by a medium-sized business.

American-made hybrid inverters cost more than US$ 1,000 each, and each panel costs US0-700, plus other expenses.

In the back of the mind of many people, the president’s cronies have bought huge quantities of poor quality panels that they now have to dump in some way.

Installers work for the companies that imported the panels, and are not qualified; this has resulted in poorly installed panels that do not last without any possibility for redress.

Solar panels were poorly installed even in some kindergartens in Kashkadary. Teachers and school staff were forced to install panels in their own homes provided by the same firm sent by the administration, which openly said: “Here we do not need competition”.

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