Ukraine’s energy supply: wind turbines against Russian attacks

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Written By Maya Cantina

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Many coal-fired power stations in Ukraine have been destroyed. Repair parts and electricity from the EU should help in the short term, and the energy transition should help in the long term.

A worker in front of a damaged power plant

A worker in front of a damaged Ukrainian power plant Photo: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

BERLIN taz | Will old coal-fired power stations from Germany be dismantled to provide “service” in Ukraine for the victory over Russia? “For example, we have very good contacts with RWE“, says Maxim Timchenko, CEO of DTEK, one of Ukraine’s largest energy companies.

He will travel to Berlin in June for the “URC24” reconstruction conference to investigate, together with German energy managers, which components of decommissioned coal blocks will be affected country attacked to be able to help. “I want to close as many deals as possible,” explains the DTEK manager. There is no more time for political rhetoric of support or declarations of intent.

Before the war, DTEK operated fossil fuel power plants with a capacity of 5,000 megawatts, which accounted for a quarter of Ukraine’s electricity consumption. However, since March, the Russians have been carrying out continuous attacks on Ukrainian power plants and energy infrastructure. The most recent attack was on May 8: on the very day the Ukrainians celebrated their victory over Nazi Germany, the Russian aggressor sent more. than 50 missiles and rockets There were numerous drones on the move, and the Ukrainian defenses could not shoot them all down.

“Almost 90 percent of our fossil fuel production capacity is currently destroyed,” says Maxim Timchenko. The Russians have changed their war strategy, “they are specifically trying to destroy our entire energy infrastructure.” To paralyze the economythat’s probably the calculation.

Not every power plant can be rebuilt

All 28 power plants operated by DTEK – translated as “Donbass Fuel Energy Company” – have been destroyed. “We were recently able to repair three of them and connect them to the electricity grid.” Not every power plant can be rebuilt, but Maxim Timchenko points to a concrete plan by the company to bring 3,200 megawatts of the destroyed energy back to the grid next winter. .

“We have the human and financial resources to tackle this,” said the DTEK boss, whose company is part of the empire of Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov. However, this requires certain components that are not commercially available and are therefore difficult to obtain: transformers, turbines, generators. For example, transformers must be specially ordered from manufacturers such as Siemens; delivery may take ten months.

That’s why his group sent a list of needed equipment to partners in Germany, as well as Romania and Bulgaria. Timchenko says he travels to Berlin with great hope. But reconstruction only makes sense if the Russians do not immediately succeed in causing new destruction.

Timchenko: “Destroy, rebuild, attack and destroy again – we must break this cycle!” That is why he calls for more suitable weapons to better protect Ukrainian airspace, where there are daily missile alerts. To meet current electricity needs, DTEK subsidiary D.Trading has significantly increased its purchases in European countries: 46 percent of the electricity the group supplies to its customers is currently “made in the EU”.

At least the exchange with the EU electricity grid is running smoothly, as Mariia Tsaturian, spokeswoman for the transmission system operator Ukrenergo, reports: “To compensate for fluctuations, electricity grids are never operated nationally; the Ukrainian was connected to the Russian. .”

But then came the Russian attack and all the electricity cables were cut. “Ukraine has been connected to the EU electricity grid since March 16, 2022,” although it is still in test operation, but the perspective is clear. “If we produce enough electricity, we can export 100 megawatts to the EU every hour,” Tsaturian said.

However, this will only be the case after the end of the war. In any case, this could be climate-friendly electricity, as companies like DTEK are massively expanding renewable energy sources. “A wind farm with a capacity of almost 400 megawatts is currently being built in Tyligulska in collaboration with the Danish Vestas Group,” says CEO Timchenko.

Missiles can also destroy wind turbines. The investment strategy is obvious: fossil power plants are small units with a high efficiency, while wind farms operate small units over a large area and are much more difficult to destroy.

DTEK still has two wind farms in its business plan. “An additional 2,600 megawatts should be added by the end of 2026,” says Timchenko. Currently, 50 percent of electricity produced in Ukraine comes from nuclear power plants, 35 percent from renewable sources; only the rest comes from coal.

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