Huntsville Center utility program instrumental in developing reliable energy for Afghan security forces

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published Nov. 24, 2015

The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville’s Commercial Utilities Program (CUP) used a Multiple Award Task Order Contract to select an American company as the Power Purchase Agreement consultant to help draft the blueprint for developing a secure electrical grid and increasing capacity to supply Afghan security installations with sustainable electricity.

Enabling Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to transition from expensive, unreliable diesel-generated electricity to a more cost-effective power grid was a concept developed by the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A), which tasked the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) for support.

The five-person team of engineers and scientists ERDC put together included Bernard Givan, Huntsville Center’s CUP program manager. Givan, a public utilities specialist, said he was asked to join the team because of his expertise in utility projects.

“They (ERDC) asked me to provide contract and technical support in the development of a framework,” Givan said.  “However, the requirements for this project are different from Huntsville Center’s Power Purchase Agreement program, which is based on third-party financing of renewable energy.”

“The framework actually involved more than the typical PPA because a substantial amount of power delivery infrastructure is necessary to interconnect the new generation assets to improve and stabilize electrical power supply for ANDSF. That’s why using the consultant under the CUP MATOC was instrumental to determine how the framework would shape up.”

Givan said the framework covered terms and conditions, contingencies for various scenarios, legal protections for the parties involved and methods for resolving disputes or modifying the agreement. CSTC-A then used the framework to insert specific agreement terms that were decided by the pertinent parties in theater.

As the utility consultant provided the research for the framework, other ERDC team members detailed the potential risks caused by political, economic, natural and potential enemy factors, as well as the capability and willingness of the parties to maintain the agreement.

This analysis enabled leaders to identify the various stressors that could contribute to failure of the agreement. The process gave CSTC-A the flexibility to change the agreement as the involved parties continued to negotiate while maintaining the legal framework.

Givan said the result of the framework was a comprehensive agreement known as a Power Delivery Power Purchase Agreement (PDPPA) between the Afghanistan Ministry of Interior and Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) – the main power utility licensed to purchase, transmit, distribute and supply electricity in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

It also reduced the number of man hours CSTC-A needed to dedicate toward this agreement, allowing them to maintain the aggressive timelines of other projects critical to ANDSF success. 

In September, NATO nations Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands contributed $200 million to back the PDPPA. The Asian Development Bank will manage the $200 million contribution and DABS will add the ANDSF facilities to the electric grid over the next five years according to a planned schedule.

The U.S has already contributed more than $100 million to the northern parts of the national transmission grid in Afghanistan.

More than 90 percent of ANDSF facilities rely on diesel generators at an annual cost of more than $300 million. The increased capacity provided by the PDPPA will allow many of these facilities to transition to a power grid potentially slashing the power budget in half, from 53 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to 22 cents per kWh.

The investment is also aiming at doubling the capacity of the existing electric grid through the construction of a 500 kilovolts transmission line from Turkmenistan to Kabul.

Thirteen years ago, only 6 percent of Afghan citizens had electricity – today 30 percent of the nation has power.