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Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com

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Ukraine Energy System Avoids Total Collapse for Now

  • The latest string of Russian attacks targeting the Ukrainian grid resulted in damages to five of the six power generation plants that Ukraine's largest private power utility DTEK operates.
  • One power plant with 10 generation units was completely destroyed, according to another power utility, Centrenergo.
  • Despite the repeated Russian strikes on the grid and the extensive damage suffered by DTEK's power plants, Ukrenergo believes the country is not even near collapsing.
Ukraine Missile strike

Ukraine's electricity system has been the target of repeated attacks by Russian forces, resulting in blackouts for about a million people. Yet the system is far from total collapse, according to the head of the country's grid operator.

"Their (the Russians') goal is to impose blackouts in some major Ukrainian cities, and our goal is to prevent it," Volodymyr Kudritsky told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

"The biggest concern now is the state of electricity production, the part of it that balances the system - hydro and thermal generation. The scale of damage DTEK refers to is obviously a global (large-scale) level of damage," Kydritsky added.

The latest string of Russian attacks targeting the Ukrainian grid resulted in damages to five of the six power generation plants that Ukraine's largest private power utility DTEK operates, per the company itself. DTEK said it had lost 80% of its generation capacity.

One power plant with 10 generation units was completely destroyed, according to another power utility, Centrenergo. "The consequences were destructive, the station is destroyed," Andriy Hota, chairman of Centrenergo's supervisory board, told media about the Zmiivska power plant in northeastern Ukraine. Related: SLB Announces $8-Billion Deal as Mergers Extend to Oilfield Sector

Per government sources, the Russian attacks targeted both power generation capacity and the distribution network, causing significant damage to both. As a result, Ukrenergo had to implement rolling blackouts in three regions, including Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, and Kirovohrad.

According to an Al Jazeera report, the attacks are in response to the series of drone attacks carried out by Ukraine on Russian refineries, which have resulted in damage that has taken 14% of the country's total refining capacity offline. The percentage is equal to around 900,000 bpd per day.

Despite the repeated Russian strikes on the grid and the extensive damage suffered by DTEK's power plants, Ukrenergo's Kudritsky believes the country is not even near collapsing: "We are definitely not one step away from collapse. A collapse is an uncontrolled shutdown of most or the entire power system. This has not happened and will not happen, this scenario we consider as unlikely," he told Reuters.

"First of all, we need to think about our generation mix and we need to think about how to protect our generation assets from (air) strikes," the executive said.

This would mean replacing the massive old-style power generation plants with smaller facilities that may be more difficult to target with missiles, but this is not really a task that would only take a week or two, especially in a wartime situation.

An alternative path would be decentralized power. Earlier this month, Radio Free Europe reported that the Russian strikes on power plants had spurred greater adoption of solar power, in places where there are enough people to put up the panels.

Ukraine was already building some wind and solar capacity before the war began, but in an ironic twist, the biggest share of this capacity is now in territories under Russian control. Wind projects sit unfinished because of the fighting, and solar growth is problematic because of the lack of skilled workers to install the systems.

Power utility DTEK warned in a recent statement that the Russian forces' attacks were becoming more "accurate and concentrated." This would likely mean more generating capacity going offline, squeezing the options of DTEK, Ukrenergo, and the rest of the industry. Unfortunately, there is no quick solution to this problem.

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The construction of new generation—and distribution—capacity takes a long time, even in the best of circumstances, and this is not what Ukraine currently has. As for alternative energy sources, rooftop solar is certainly quick to install and could provide some relief during extended blackouts if equipped with battery backup. Wind capacity would take much longer to build and would immediately become a target for attacks. It seems even alternative energy is not perfect for reliable electricity supply.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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  • George Doolittle on April 02 2024 said:
    Don't need an electrical grid to fight a War and in many ways it is a hindrance actually. Do need power however and hence the need for main battle Tanks, warships even better. Air attacks can only do so much as Ukraine is truly massive still even today. Might start to see a population surge upon into Ukraine as well as war fighters start emerging there to fight en masse as the entire Russian Military appears to be in the open and exposed.

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