Russia’s continued attacks on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine, which are especially focused on disabling heat generation, have reportedly begun to diminish the country’s power supply, often causing blackouts in most Ukrainian cities. According to reports from Ukraine’s Energy Ministry, 30% of the power industry has been destroyed.
Russian strikes have damaged or destroyed many of Ukraine’s transformers, circuit breakers and power lines, including new attacks as October turned to November. In those strikes, Russia fired more missiles and drones at critical civilian infrastructure in Kyiv, Kharkiv Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and other cities, causing massive power outages.
In an interview with Economichna Pravda, the CEO of the largest private investor in Ukraine’s energy industry DTEK, Maxim Timchenko, said these strikes are not aimed at generating facilities, but at connection systems tied to Ukraine’s energy system.
“They hit open switchgears, transformers, switches to knock out a station that can produce electricity; meaning it can’t be connected to the unified power system … The key targets are Ukrenergo (the sole operator of the country’s high-voltage transmission lines) transformer substations and power distribution equipment at thermal power plants.”
The Russian military command is likely consulting with the Kremlin’s power engineers to develop attack plans that will cause the most damage to the energy system in the hope that it’ll freeze the civilian population as daily temperatures drop. This strategy is a blatant attempt to break the Ukrainians’ morale during the colder months, and a move that the Russians hope will cut of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ equipment supply.
“Without electricity, everything stops,” said Timchenko.
“When they hit the Dnepropetrovsk region, where our mines are located, they destroy the substation. Mines stop working without electricity, meaning they don’t produce coal; they have nothing to run thermal power plants. They (the Russians) destroy infrastructure so the rear can’t function, which means it also affects the front line,” Timchenko.
For the time being, the main concern is the Russian military’s seizure of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, where 6,000 megawatts are no longer available to Ukraine’s 45 million people.
Ukraine’s energy woes heading into the autumn and winter months are further compounded by the fact that it still does not control the Uglegorsk, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia thermal power plants, which is next to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. All remain in the temporarily occupied territories and cannot produce electricity for Ukraine.
Secondly, regarding the power output, the Ladyzhinskaya station in the Vinnytsia region, which was also recently hit by Russian ballistic missiles and Iranian-made drones, is currently out of operation.
Russian forces have destroyed a third of Ukraine’s power stations in repeated attacks, but there is enough capacity within the country to get through the winter under normal operational conditions. There are, however, concerns that the Russians have may have fundamentally destroyed the power delivery infrastructure, but the chance of total blackouts for long periods remains low.
“We need to actively look for used equipment at coal-fired thermal power plants in Europe that we can remove and transport here. You can add some temporary schemes, but they cannot work on a permanent basis,” said Timchenko.
Operated by Ukrhydroenergo, hydroelectric power plays an important balancing role. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the West to warn Russia not to blow up a dam that would flood a large area of southern Ukraine, as his forces prepared to push Moscow’s troops from the occupied Black Sea city of Kherson.
“We are not stopping our battery storage installation project. I spoke about this – we still plan to bring and install 20 megawatts of storage capacity. This battery storage will also play an important role in balancing the situatiom. It may not be a large volume, but in this situation, it is important,” Timchenko said.
While the European institutions continue to lag behind individual countries in their on-the-ground response to Putin’s invasion, at a meeting of energy ministers in Luxembourg, the European Union’s Energy Commissioner, Kadri Simson, asked the 27 members of the bloc to donate more money and equipment to support Ukraine’s energy sector.
Creating a ‘green hub’ in Ukraine
Reconstructing Ukraine’s energy sector, according to the Ukrainian government, will include reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and advancing green energy with the help of international investors.
Despite Putin’s bloody invasion of Ukraine, green power generation remains a priority for the Ukrainian government, and Kyiv continues to view this as a priority.
Zelensky’s believes it is necessary to create a “green hub” in Ukraine to supply electricity to Europe and help it move away from the Russian energy yoke that it still finds itself under. Zelensky noted that Ukraine has grid access, favorable topography, wind, sun and experience to attract international investments to construct a network of wind and solar power stations, including energy storage systems.