Can Russia completely supply Crimea with power? Four facts to make your own conclusions

Shops without electricity in Simferopol, occupied Crimea. Photo: RFERL

Shops without electricity in Simferopol, occupied Crimea. Photo: RFERL 

2015/11/28 • Crimea

Article by: Olena Makarenko

Power lines blasts in Ukraine resulted in a blackout in Crimean peninsula which is into its sixth day. While Ukrainian society and media are discussing whether it is worth applying such measures as an energy blockade towards Crimea, Russia is working on building a facade that very soon the peninsula will be able to exist without Ukrainian power. So which mountains of gold have been already promised and is it really so easy to present them?

The last events around Crime have shown that the the energy blockade of the peninsula is far from over. On Thursday, 26 November, employees of the Ukrainian state energy company Ukrenergo stopped works on repairing one of the destroyed power pillars in Kherson Oblast. According to the head of Ukrenergo Information Policy Department Zinovy Butso, this happened “on the demand of the energy blockade participants.”

The day before, Mustafa Dzhemilev, Ukrainian MP and leader of Crimea Tatars, stated that the activists of the energy blockade are not going to restore electricity supply to the peninsula yet. Also Dzhemilev pointed out that the main condition under which energy supply can be renewed is freedom for the Ukrainian political prisoners in Crimea.

“They have to make some moves towards us. I believe that first they must release Akhtem Chiygoz, other significant figures. But they do nothing of it. Now that we have this pressure from society, why the hell should we turn them the light back on,” said Dzhemilev.

1. How much Crimea needs

According to the State Unitary Enterprise of the Republic of Crimea Krymenergo, until recent days Ukraine supplied the peninsula with 1,210 MW. The average power consumption in Crimea amounted to 1,100 MW.  This means that Ukraine has even been backing up the occupied peninsula.

Ukrenergo’s temporary acting director, Vsevolod Kovalchuk, told journalists that Crimea can provide itself with 30% of needed electricity:

“Crimea partly has its own generation, it meets 30% of the demand. During the day, if there is good weather, a large portion can be produced by solar power plants, which were built previously.”

However, the Russian website peretok.ru, which focuses on power engineering in Russia and the world, has measured the amount of Crimea’s energy self-reliance at 20% (the below infographic is an English translation of the infographic at peretok.ru, which we have expanded to include the pylons damaged at Chaplynka on 22 November and to the east of Chaplynka two days earlier, and the power bridge under construction at Kerch):

crimea_energy3

2. What Russia promised

Three days after the beginning of the blackout Russian President Vladimir Putin finally reacted saying that by December 20 the first line of energy bridge from Russia to Crimea will be constructed and in the summer of 2016 the second line will be built.

Russia has been espousing the idea of an energy bridge since the beginning of Crimea’s occupation in March 2014. However, tracking the real steps towards its construction proves to be difficult.

According to The Center of Investigative Journalism which has been following the statements of Russians authorities on the topic, in May 2015 Russian Deputy Minister of Energy said that by the end of this year a 300 MW capacity line will be laid, and in general Russia will provide electrical power generation of about 850 MW. In June 2015, the Russian Minister for Crimea Oleg Savelyev has said that there is no cable for the project. Later the so-called head of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov told that the cable will be optimized for 200MW, not 300. Kerch outlets reported that construction works on the bridge have begun, and that there are plans to construct four lines with a total capacity of 1,7 GW, which is significantly more than it is needed.

A 13 bn ruble tender was conducted for the construction of the cable transition through the Kerch Strait. Neither of the four lines were mentioned there. The contract includes the construction of a line of 220 kW. So probably this construction work is one of the cases of dividing money that will never be shown on public.

3. Crimea’s internal production

A mobile gas-turbine power plant outside Simferopol

In June 2014, the center of Investigative Journalism found that the mobile gas-turbine power plants (MGTPP), which were being put into use in Crimea that time, were not able to cover even a third of the electricity needs of the peninsula. The MGTPP’s were initially created to smooth out peak loads on Moscow’s electrical grid. They were also utilized during the Sochi Olympic Games. But they can’t be a primary energy source, as recognized by Savelyev himself. Energy production turns out to be way too expensive. Nevertheless, MGTPP’s were deployed to Crimea and in total have cost more than 6 bn rubles. Still, they need to be supplied with Ukrainian energy to function.

Wind and solar plants exist (including the largest solar station in Europe in Perovo with a production capacity of 107 MW), but in total they add up to roughly 307 MW at the best days.

4. Legal issues

There need not be additional mentions that Russian actions towards Crimea have been illegal. But some international companies support Russia’s violation of international law. In October 11, 2015 the China’s cable laying vessel JIAN JI 3001 arrived to one of the occupied ports of Kerch.

After the occupation and annexation of Crimea, this port had been expropriated by the so-called government of Crimea, and then all the ports of Kerch were merged into one company, which is included in the EU sanctions lists, as well as the recently updated US Treasury sanctions list. So the owner of the company is not only violated the sanctions of Ukraine, EU and the others. Now it is followed also by The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US.

JIAN JI near Kerch

In the morning of November 22 , after a long delay the ship JIANGONG 1 moved to resume construction of the power bridge. Its navigation equipment was turned on almost immediately mainland Ukraine stopped supplying electricity. The last official report on the work of laying the cable along the bottom of the Kerch Strait is dated by October 18.

According to BlackSeaNews, the owner and operator of the vessel is The Shanghai Foundation Engineering Group Co, Ltd which specializes in the construction of bridges, tunnels, railways and is a part of the construction company Shanghai Construction Group. 

The prosecutors office of the Republic of Crimea (Ukraine) initiated proceedings against the Chinese company.

Previously, Russian outlets reported that the German multinational technology giant Siemens entered into a contract to supply modern gas turbine-powered electricity generating plants for Sevastopol and Simferopol in Crimea in violation of Western sanctions. However, Siemens refuted the information and there had been no confirmation of the delivery. 

The possibility that Russia can provide all needed energy to Crimea exists at some theoretical level. All ways of doing it are enormously expensive and need many preparations. Knowing the style of doing business in Russia it is easy to predict that even if money for Crimean energy is allocated, a significant part of it will dive into the deep pockets of corrupted structures.

Why didn’t Russia find an energy solution over 20 months of annexation?

According to the Swiss outlet nzz.ch, Russia wasn’t able to begin construction of needed power generators after annexing Crimea because it would be more expensive to equip Crimea with Russian-produced generators have a smaller capacity than with those produced abroad, which are prohibited by sanctions. Apparently, the Russian leadership was either searching for ways to circumvent sanctions, or waiting for them to be dropped, pursuing a cost-effective solution. 

Also, it needs to be mentioned that Krasnodar Krai, the nearest Russian region to Crimea, experiences a power shortage itself. According to Russian media, the deficit was 2 GW and to cover it Russia will need 45 bn rubles. In general, Krasnodar Krai has 650 feeding centers, of which 400 are closed, meaning it is impossible to connect to them. So it seems that the Russian conversations about Crimea’s energy independence is to the large extent is a media campaign focused on building the image of a great and all-powerful Federation. 

Crimea is also dependent on Ukrainian food and water

As a subsidized region, Crimea also needs water. “The amount of water that exists on the peninsula is enough for living, but not enough for agriculture, resorts and production,” wrote Alexandr Liev the ex-Minister of Resorts and Tourism of Crimea, advisor to the Ministry of Agricultural Policy on management of state-owned enterprises located in the temporarily occupied territory. According to him, neither can Crimea survive without food.

Prior to the energy blockade, Ukrainian activists initiated a food blockade of Crimea on 20 September 2015, which lasts today. During the first eight days of blockade, vans which queued, waiting to enter Crimea, turned back and returned to the territory of Ukraine. Since that time, they had not appeared at the checkpoints.  

Edited by: Alya Shandra

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  • laker48

    Krym nash! Good riddance, Dwarfstan! Corralling Crimea is an excellent means of draining RuSSia financially.

  • Forgotten Ghost

    It seems to me that there needs to be a more consistent dialogue between Crimeans and mainland Ukrainians, regarding humanitarian aid. While a blockade is quite useful, it is also potentially damaging to those already at risk in the occupation. Food, candles, propane cylinders, medicine and perhaps blankets should be smuggled in on a regular basis, within channels that can get them to the citizens that need them most, in a discrete manner. If the people that you are trying to free die in the process, then the entire blockade method becomes a posturing farce. While I agree with the energy blockade, the food blockade should have a secret stipulation- no food to the occupiers, but smuggled food for those compatriots riding out the occupation. Medicine is in short supply too, and let us remember that there are those requiring electricity for medical reasons. A car’s generator (alternator) can be rigged to a small windmill, and power a battery bank, which can in turn be used for many smaller devices. Since the weather is becoming colder, it may also be a good time to build some old fashioned “cold boxes”, which are designed to keep food outside just cold enough, without freezing. I wish there was more that I could do, but I’m using candles for heat myself, and living on dry beans and potatoes. Perhaps if some information on basic survival methods were able to reach Crimeans, that could help? American homesteading has been seeing a modern revival, maybe a translator could find pertinent skills and pass them on. It isn’t much, but it can make a big difference to anyone that does find use from such information.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      As I understand it, the occupying power of (part of) a country becomes FULLY responsible for EVERYTHING in the territory under his control. So it’s the demented dwarf’s responsibility to supply food, candles etc etc to the Crimea. Kyiv is under no obligation to supply the Crimea with anything at all.
      As an analogy, during WW2 the Germans, as occupying power, were fully responsible for Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands. The Norwegian, Belgian and Dutch governments in exile did not supply their countries with anything whatsoever. It was up to the Germans to ensure that the Norwegians, Belgians and Dutch were properly fed etc.

      • Forgotten Ghost

        While it may be the responsibility of Moscow to provide for Crimeans since they are occupying their land, it doesn’t look like keeping Crimeans alive and safe is on Moscow’s agenda. It’s easy to lose sight of the individual lives at stake when pondering the political spectrum, but lest we forget, if we were all dead from starvation, illness and exposure there would be no more politics, public opinion, or military strategy. The only reason that any of those things exist is because they serve a purpose for the living, breathing organisms that give them legitimacy. I’m not saying that the Ukraine government must provide for Crimea, I am just saying that if anyone on an individual basis is able to gather much needed goods and aid for Crimeans, it would be the humane thing to do, perceived responsibility be damned. Sure, it would be a great talking point against Putin if hundreds or thousands die needless deaths due to his negligence, but what about those that actually died, or love those that would die? When you’re starving, freezing or ill, you shouldn’t be denied lifesaving measures just so your death can be used as evidence against some dictator. I say that if it is possible to smuggle in some help, it should be done.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          This would rather defeat the purpose of the blockade, wouldn’t it- to force the authorities to comply with the demands of the blockaders? Furthermore, what would prevent the “Crimean self-defence” thugs from seizing any such shipment, then selling the contents at inflated prices on the black market?
          The Crimea is now ruled by criminal gangs led by Aksyonov and his cronies. There was an article on the Crimean banking system, “Krimkesh”, in “Novaya Gazeta” of June 1st- the sector’s chief purpose now is money laundering and other dubious activities.

          • Brent

            Excellent point. Zakharchenko and his wife and other Russian sponsored terrorists are now in control of Donbass food and gasoline distribution.

            http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1440447628

            http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1437044730

          • Forgotten Ghost

            Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding of what I was saying. I am saying that individuals could potentially save some lives by *smuggling* in small amounts of aid at a time, and getting them directly to those in need. I am fully aware that large shipments would just be intercepted and stolen, the same was true of regular post going through Russian postal services so it stands to reason that any large distribution of aid would be unlikely to make it. I was not discussing authorities or officials on either side of the fence, I was stating that they should be bypassed entirely, in a bid to send much needed help in any way possible. There is no need for Crimeans to die to make a point, and this blockade may not even have the intended effect. Better to not kill innocent people, while claiming to be saving them. That would play into Putin’s hands so well, should his form of assistance come about after the blockade kills some, that the UN might actually look more favorably on his position, and cost Ukraine the very leverage the “activists” claim to seek. So, without some measures to ensure that you don’t cause a slew of deaths, the whole idea of blockading is a bit risky, even if a legitimate tactic. If those stuck in Crimea die as a result, then the whole affair proves to be poorly considered and executed, while being ridiculously counter-productive. Using blame as a form of leverage only works in the public forum, and if the party using it doesn’t shift the blame onto themselves. For those hungry and sick Crimeans huddled into a corner trying to conserve heat, they just wish that someone would stop using their lives as poker chips, and do something to help them.

          • Brent

            And I think you are also misunderstanding what others are trying to say. No one has claimed Ukraine should starve or see Crimeans die. You’re trying to use a scare tactic to blame Ukraine for the plight of Crimea’s residents when in fact this is the fault of Russia and Putin who claimed he was obligated to invade so that he could “protect them”.

            Putin made many promises of bridges, casinos, resorts, airports, improved infrastructure, cheaper prices and higher pensions. How many of those have materialized for Crimeans?

            By the way, the activists have agreed to allow Ukraine to fix the downed powerlines, so your blame game against Ukraine is now a moot point.

            I’m still not supplying you with gas if you steal my car.

          • Forgotten Ghost

            I’m using scare tactics to blame Ukraine? What exactly did I type that even suggests this? I haven’t blamed Ukraine one bit, and I have *explicity* stated more than once that I differentiate between the Ukrainian government, the “activists”, and the ordinary citizens that might be able to help. If you don’t like the idea that people should pull together to make riding out the Russian occupation easier, then maybe you should stick to car metaphors, because that’s about the only place that logic doesn’t sound petty and cruel.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Slightly OT, but apparently the Tatars want to extend the blockade even further by blocking Kerch, the peninsula’s sole point of entry from Dwarfstan. I don’t see how they can achieve this, however, unless they buy several old VLCCs and scuttle them in the Kerch harbour entrance. The dwarf will have no problem in turning AK-47s and machine guns on any sit-down blockade in or near Kerch.
            If they DO manage to block Kerch in some way, the dwarf will have an even bigger headache. His only alternatives would be:
            1 airlifting everything to the Crimea in a sort of second Berlin air lift. I’m not sure he could manage that, as Syria also requires huge amounts of material, especially if the rumours that the dwarf wants to send significant ground forces are true.
            2 cave in and comply with the blockaders’ demands. Highly unlikely.
            3 an offensive to “liberate” the territory between Donetsk and Kherson. The dwarf’s most likely answer to a successful blocking of Kerch, but with serious risks, and success is not at all assured. The Ukrainians would fight every inch of the way and losses would be heavy (not that the dwarf cares about others being killed or crippled).
            Furthermore, an open invasion would mean the gloves are off, and there would probably no longer be any restriction on the Ukrainians waging war on Dwarfstan’s soil by sending in small guerrilla teams to blow up bridges etc.
            Economically there would be no chance of sanctions being lifted, certainly Canada would increase sanctions and the US would probably do the same even if the EU wouldn’t.

        • Brent

          Shouldn’t the 140 million Russians shouting “Krym is Russia” be smuggling food and necessities to them? Or are they just looking for the next cheap place to vacation since Putin has stopped them from going to Egypt and now, Turkey?

          How about you make those same demands of those that stole Crimea? If you steal my car, am I still supposed to supply it with gas for you to use?

          • Forgotten Ghost

            Crimeans aren’t cars. A car can survive with little to no fuel in it’s tank, stored away. People cannot. This isn’t just about electricity, this is about food and medicine as well. So, if you notice that someone is being held captive without food and medicine, and you have the ability to smuggle in something, then yes, you certainly are supposed to assist, that is a basic human duty. To hell with authorities and organizations, I’m talking about individuals, helping other individuals in need.

  • Dagwood Bumstead

    What this article doesn’t mention is that even if the cables to Kerch are laid, the existing cables from Kerch to the rest of the peninsula probably won’t be able to handle the full power transmission. If the diagram above of the energy system is accurate, the lines from Kerch to Feodosia and from Feodosia to Dzhankoi and Simferopol will have to be increased in size as well, or extra cables plus associated switchgear installed. To put it simply, you can’t drive 10 cows through a 1-cow gate at the same time.

    While it CAN be done, the cost will be enormous and it certainly can’t be done overnight, no matter what the demented dwarf claims. And with Dwarfstan’s treasury running on fumes by the end of next year at the latest, if he wants to achieve this reverse power feed he will have to cut other budgets. Do svidaniya, education, health care, infrastructure and other trivia, the dwarf won’t be cutting the budgets for armed forces and security services.

  • Dagwood Bumstead

    What the article doesn’t mention either is where the gas that powers the mobile gas turbine generators comes from. If it is supplied from gas that is piped from mainland Ukraine, which is most likely, the activists have another potential choke point: cut off the natural gas flow and the gennies will shut down as the gas pressure goes to zero. The demented dwarf will then have to lay a gas pipeline across Kerch Strait and hook it into the Crimean system and the Dwarfstanian system in the Kuban. More $$$ expense. Plus, as with the electrical system, the gas lines running to Kerch will probably be the thinnest of the Crimean system so to be able to cope with the total flow needed to suply the whole peninsula they will have to be increased in size as well,or parallel lines laid. Even more $$$ and time needed. Plus, any compressor stations will have to be modified for flow in the opposite direction.

    • Quartermaster

      Just remember what Adrain keeps telling us, Crimeans wanted away from civil war and the maidanuts. For some funny reason, I seriously doubt Crimeans wanted any of this. Adrian was simply our resident Russian propagandist. I’d bet a dollar to a donut that in a fair referendum, Putin would be soundly trounced.

      • Quartermaster

        And, in what way am I wrong? That Crimeans would have rejected Putin’s version of Anschluss? From my observation, they would have. But, the referendum run by the Puntinstanis didn’t tell us anything since they counted the votes and made sure that only the people they wanted to vote voted.

        As things continue to worse, the more the population of Crimea will turn against the Putinstanis. The promises Putin made aren’t being kept, and they won’t be kept because they can’t be.

        So tell me, are you a lying Russian troll like Adrian?

        • Quartermaster

          What a shame you trolls don’t have a better education on Russian History. You make fools of yourselves in trying to revise history to a lie to support your theft and parasitism.

          Crimea was taken from the Ottomans in in the 19th century. The conquest is what inspired the Crimean War. Crimea was held by Imperial Russia until the Soviet Revolution, and was transferred by Khrushchev to the Ukrainian Soviet “Republic” quite legally. He had the authority to do it, like it or not, unless you are suddenly coming around to the reasonable belief that the Soviet State was illegitimate. Ukraine was left with Crimea after independence with no argument whatsoever from Russia.

          Yanukovich was legally removed from office by the Ukrainian Parliament through Constitutional means after he fled from justice. He is still a fugitive from justice.

          Be sure to check under your bed for Neo-Nazis. There are plenty of them in Moscow since Putin and the rest of the Russian mafia have taken over.

          Why shouldn’t the Ukrainian people be anti-Russian these days? Russians have invaded their country, are illegally occupying a very large part of it and are threatening to take even more of it. Russians have proven they are criminals. Why should Ukrainians love criminals?

          You really need to pick the slack. You’re level of trollish behavior is really quite low. Learn some history.

          by the by, Russia has already said that it will be quite some time before Crimea will have anything like power security. You can lat all the lines you like across the Kerch Strait. The power simply isn’t available in Krasnodar Krai.

          Keep wailing Russian pig. People know the truth, and you don’t have it. You’re simply a liar.

  • rj

    This action is very much cutting off your nose to spite your face – you lot should have done this a year ago. How much more money is being lost by Ukraine through lost electricity transit fees and trade. The crimeans will hate you even more now.

  • Ryan Alt

    Too bad that for all of the US puppets on this site, the power system is already operational and successfully supplying more than enough power for all of Crimea. Now let us hear more rhetoric from “dumb as dirt” Ukranians about how Russia won’t be able to build the Kerch bridge.