The electric power industry is a major element of the fuel and energy infrastructure of Kazakhstan. The country owns an advanced network of power plants and grids. Thermal electric plants produce the dominant share of electricity and hydroelectric plants produce the remainder. The established national power industry capacity totals 18.2 thousand MW. The structure of the electric power output falls into the following elements, depending on the energy source - coal-powered plants (70.3 % of the total), gas-fuel oil-powered plants (17%), hydroelectric plants (12%), nuclear power plants (0.7%). The vast territory of Kazakhstan has determined the development and size of the electric systems. The total length of all grids equals 460 thousand km.
The highest power industry output results were recorded in 1990 - an electric power output of 85.3 billion kWh and consumption of 104.7 billion kWh. The power deficit of 18.4 billion kWh was covered through the importation of electric power from other states. Northern Kazakhstan, operating within the Common Energy System (CES) of Russia, was able to operate at peak capacity using power form Siberian hydroelectric stations, and Southern Kazakhstan operating within the Unified Energy Systems (UES) of Central Asia, was powered by hydroelectric power plants in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. After the USSR collapsed, Kazakhstan CES operated independently.
The generation of electric power in Kazakhstan reduced during this period faster than the contraction of demand. In 1993 domestic production totaled 77.44 billion kWh, while Kazakhstan needed 89.15 billion kWh of electric power - the deficit being 11.71 billion kWh. New generating units put into operation between 1993 and 1998, included the 110 MW turbine power unit in the Karaganda thermal power plant 3, the 100 MW gas turbine unit installed by Akturbo JSC and the 117 MW hydro-electric power generation unit in the Shulbinskaya hydroelectric station.
Structural changes in the consumption of various power sources have also occurred. Due to the considerable increase in oil and gas tariffs, many consumers switched to fuel oil (mazut), which was previously utilized as a reserve fuel. A certain interest also occurred in the utilization of associated gas.
The Republic of Kazakhstan had been actively implementing a program of demonopolization and privatization of the power industry. Certain guarantees for operators of power stations, the liberalization from excessive State regulating functions, investments in modernization, technical reequipment and reconstruction of generating sources and the realization of a power saving policy are some of the positive results obtained as a result of the privatization of the power industry.
Currently, the restructuring of the electric power sector has also resulted in 80% of the energy sources being privatized or transferred to the management of the National Power Grid, the creation and organization of a competitive market for electric power and development of the electric power market.
Modernization of the gas-fired turbine power plant GTS-144, to provide a reliable and independent electric power supply for the exploration and production sites of the Tengizshevroil Company, has been completed. The power station operates using associated gas from oil sites. To facilitate future development of oil production, the company is designing a new gas-turbine power station with a 480 MW capacity using the associated gas from oil sites, which has traditionally been burned off.
In 1996, The Silk Road Group, a division of AES, acquired one of the largest coal-fired stations - the Ekibastuzskaya TEZ-1 (currently AES-ST Ekibastuz). Also, the Ust'-Kamenogorskaya and Shulbinskaya hydroelectric stations were passed to new management in a 20-year concession and 4 thermal power stations (Semipalatinskaya, Sogrinskaya, Leninogorskaya and Ust'-Kamenogorskaya) halted power production. In early 1998 the total amount of investments in the Ekibastuzskaya Power Plant-1 totaled $45.37 million.
Ispat-Karmet JSC took over the running of the thermal power plant Karagandinskaya TEZ-2 and this currently ensures a stable power supply for the Karaganda based metallurgical group. The volume of investment provided to develop the Karagandinskaya TEZ-2 during the period 1997-2000 amounts to $36.5 million.
The Kazakhmys corporation, created by Zhezkazgantsvetmet JSC, currently includes the Zhezkazganskaya and Balkhashskaya thermal power stations, the Karagandinskaya GRES-2 as well as the copper smelting and coal mining companies. Kaztzink JSC includes the Tekely power complex as well as the Karaterinskaya and Bukhtarmin-skaya hydroelectric stations, 7 mines, 3 concentrating mills, 2 zinc plants, 1 lead plant, a mechanic repair plant and a shop for precious metals refining.