Access to a reliable and adequate heating supply is critical not only for people’s well-being, but for the daily functioning of essential public services. Given the cold climate and long heating seasons in the Kyrgyz Republic, access to reliable heating services is an essential need for everyday life – but it is a need that is often not met.
In the cities of Bishkek and Tokmok, for example, around 20-25 percent of the residential and public heating demand is not satisfied every year due to insufficient and unreliable heat and electricity supply in winter.
Once the principal source for heating in the largest urban areas, District Heating (DH) systems now serve only about one fifth of the urban population and are in poor condition with deteriorating service quality. The majority of the DH infrastructure was commissioned 20-50 years ago and is under-maintained due to the lack of funds. Service quality is also deteriorating; during the heating season in 2013, for instance, DH customers in Bishkek experienced more than 300 network breakdowns, which is a six fold increase compared to the early 1990s.
The main cause of the decline in the heating sector is financial. Tariffs for heat and electricity are well below cost-recovery levels. Depending on the heating source, residential tariffs are estimated to be between 13-50 percent of the cost of heat supply. The lack of sufficient funds for maintenance and investments is a key reason for the continued decay of DH assets and the deteriorating service quality. At the same time, low electricity tariffs foster the use of electric heating and provide no incentive to end-consumers to invest in energy efficiency.
Around 35 percent of households in urban areas rely on electricity for heating, which accentuates winter power shortages. The decreasing service quality and reliability of the DH supply has increased reliance on electricity as a primary heating source, or to supplement insufficient DH supply.