Electricity consumption in Afghanistan is currently significantly lower than the global average. In 2021, Afghans utilized only about 18 watts per person, a staggering contrast to the global mean of 412 watts per person. While low-carbon sources, such as hydropower and solar, contributed over 90% to the total electricity consumption, their combined share only amounted to about 2 watts per person. The low contribution from fossil fuels, about 0.37 watts per person, indicates the country's dependency on cleaner energy sources. However, the considerable gap between Afghanistan's total consumption and the global average partly illustrates the underdeveloped state of the country's infrastructure and the probable associated socio-economic impacts such as limited industrial growth and hampered livelihoods. Also noteworthy is the fact that electricity imports make up approximately 87% of Afghanistan's total consumption.
To enhance its low-carbon electricity generation, Afghanistan can draw insights from countries with effective strategies in this area. Countries such as Denmark, Ireland, and Portugal have greatly benefited from the generation of wind energy, producing 369, 258, and 147 watts per person, respectively. Given Afghanistan's geographical features, which include steep mountains and open plains, the country has a considerable potential for wind energy. Additionally, the country can emulate Australia and Chile, who have made significant strides in harnessing solar energy, contributing about 147 and 85 watts per person respectively. Importantly, while nuclear energy is also a promising form of low-carbon power, nations that have successfully generated electricity in this vein, such as Sweden, France, and Finland, have done so under conditions that may be challenging to replicate in Afghanistan, including technological context and political stability.
Looking back, the history of low-carbon electricity in Afghanistan has been primarily shaped by the use of hydropower. The early years of the 90s witnessed a dip in hydroelectric power, with dips of -0.1 TWh in 1991 and -0.2 TWh in 1992. Though the following years continued to see fluctuations, the beginning of the new millennium saw an upswing with a consistent increase from 2001 through 2007, despite a small dip in 2004. Unfortunately, this positive trend didn't last long, with the next decade characterized by a series of declines and plateaus, the most significant decreases recorded in 2008 and 2020, with -0.2 Twh each. While no significant advancements in nuclear energy development have been made, Afghanistan's hydropower journey underscores the potential and challenges of growing a sustainable, green energy profile.