After worries about surviving the harsh winter months, Ukraine’s energy industry has made it through to the other side. And, contrary to expectations, there is some optimism around the future of Ukrainian energy. In May, the country announced it was bringing new wind capacity online, a first for a conflict zone. And so far, its nuclear power plants have been able to maintain their output.
On 7th April this year, Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy approved the export of electricity once again, demonstrating a small victory in the war against Russia. Ukraine initially stopped electricity exports in October 2022 in response to Russian airstrikes targeting civilian infrastructure. However, Ukraine is now seeing a surplus of power, following attacks that previously left millions of Ukrainians without power for several months.
In the second half of 2022, Russia directly targeted Ukraine’s power and heating infrastructure with rockets, missiles, and drones. This led to the widespread destruction of infrastructure across the country. All of Ukraine’s thermal power plants have experienced damage, as well as most of its hydroelectric facilities and much of its grid system – including transformers and transmission lines - being affected. This has affected around 60 percent of the country’s electricity generation. Around 21 GW was offline by March 2023, leading to much of the population facing regular blackouts throughout the harsh winter months. This led Ukraine to depend on neighbouring countries, Slovakia, Poland, and Moldova, for emergency electricity imports.
In March, the United Nations Development Program assessed the damage from the war, estimating that the country’s power sector had suffered around $6.5 billion in damages. In addition, 12 million Ukrainians had no power, water, or heating. Yet, somehow, Ukraine has managed to get its energy back on track, no longer facing a deficit and even reporting a surplus of electricity in the spring. This is mainly thanks to a decrease in domestic consumption by around 30 to 35 percent from before the war.
Ukraine is now exporting around 400 MW of electricity as the power sector workers continue to support output. For example, Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s electricity transmission system operator, continues to have around 1,500 employees working in the field, despite the ongoing conflict.
And since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has continued to develop its wind energy capacity, installing more onshore wind turbines than the U.K. since the invasion. DTEK, a private Ukrainian energy firm, announced the opening of phase one of its new Tyligulska wind power plant – the first to be built in a conflict zone – in May this year. The facility has a current capacity of 114 MW, with a projected capacity of 500 MW once fully completed. The plant is around 100 km from the frontline of the Russian invasion. DTEK invested $200 million in the first phase of the project, which consists of 19 wind turbines. It is expected to provide enough electricity to power around 200,000 homes during this phase.
It is said to be one of the first projects to use Danish firm Ventas’s 6 MW Enventus turbines. The second phase of the project will see the installation of 64 more wind turbines as output increases to 500 MW. DTEK expects to spend a total of $430 million on the plant and hopes it will support its net-zero emissions goal for 2040. The facility, which has been being developed over the last three years, will provide electricity for homes and businesses across the south of the country. It will also support Ukraine’s aim of becoming a clean energy exporter to the EU.
However, the war is not over, and Ukraine continues to face challenges in its nuclear power sector. In March, Russia launched an attack that knocked out power across several areas of Ukraine, including the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station. It was quickly reconnected to the grid, but this is a problem that’s likely to keep occurring. At this point, there had been six emergency shutdowns at Zaporizhzhia, with worries of a nuclear catastrophe.
The nuclear plant is Europe’s largest, providing 6,000 MW of electricity at full capacity. Russian forces captured the plant in March 2022, but it continues to be staffed by Ukrainians. It has been repeatedly damaged by shelling, leading to four high-voltage power lines that connect Zaporizhzhia to Ukraine's energy grid being cut off. These lines are vital to the plant's safety and cooling systems and the longer the plant goes without power, the higher the chance of a possible nuclear meltdown. While there is still optimism around the future of Ukraine’s energy sector, it will depend heavily on the attacks on the country’s infrastructure and Russia’s decisions about Zaporizhzhia.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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