Speaking to Ekonomichna Pravda, CEO of Ukraine’s largest power company DTEK Maksym Timchenko said that despite repeated Russian missile strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, the scenario of a total blackout amid winter is impossible.
He explained that Russian missiles target so-called station nodes – a complex infrastructure through which generation is connected to consumers.
“[The Russians] strike not generating capacities, so Ukraine can’t produce electricity, but on systems connecting them with Ukraine’s power grid.
They strike at open switchgears, transformers, switches, so that a station that can produce electricity cannot be connected to the unified energy system. That is, the key targets are Ukrenergo’s high-voltage transformer substations and power output equipment at thermal power plants.
What is the tactic? Since Soviet times, Ukraine has a united power system: if production disappears at some point, another point picks it up. That is, everything is looped and connected in a single system,” Timchenko says, explaining that the blueprint of Ukraine’s power system was built in Soviet times and prepared for a situation of war.
“I think Russian power engineers advise the Russian military on how to cause the greatest damage to [Ukraine’s] power system,” Timchenko added, stating that recent Russian strikes hit 750-kilowatt nodal substations of Ukraine’s state energy company Ukrenergo, which connect regions generating power, the key ones being nuclear power plants, creating surpluses in some regions and deficits in others.
Russia targets Ukraine’s energy infrastructure because it is being defeated on the front
Timchenko believes Russia is striking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure because it is facing total defeats on the front.
“They are striking in the rear to create maximum problems both for the civilian population by undermining morale and for the military, in terms of supplying equipment. Without electricity, everything stops.”
Speaking about the power plants that cannot produce power now, Timchenko noted that Ukraine has lost the following generating capacities due to Russian occupation:
- Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (6,000 MW)
- Zaporizhzhia thermal power plant, located nearby the nuclear power plant (1.2 MW)
- Vuhlehirska thermal power plant (1.2 MW)
- Luhansk thermal power plant (1.2 MW)
Additionally, the Ladyzhynska thermal power plant in Vinnytsia Oblast was hit by Russian strikes. It is being repaired. All other thermal power plants are still working.
All together, Ukraine has lost roughly 10,000 MW of power generation out of the total 52,000 MW it had.
Commenting on Ukraine’s Energy Minister’s words that Russia hit 30% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Timchenko says that these words can be explained by Ukraine losing 30% of its capability to supply power to consumers due to hits on connecting nodes.
In general, Ukraine has more than enough generating capacities to get through the winter: on average, Ukraine consumes 11,000 MW, while its production is roughly 40,000 MW, when its recent losses of power generating capacities are subtracted. It is the strikes on infrastructure that allows supplying the electricity that create problems. Rolling blackouts are being introduced all over Ukraine because the power that is generated cannot be put out into the grid, Timchenko says.
Ukraine’s nuclear power plants will be able to keep working
Answering the question if nuclear power plants will be able to continue power generation if the thermal power plants are hit, Timchenko says that Ukraine’s hydropower plants can help balance Ukraine’s power capacity and that Ukraine could import power from the EU via the same power lines that are used for export. Another way to balance Ukraine’s power generation is the industrial power storage system that DTEK is building precisely for this aim.
As well, he explains that currently, protective concrete constructions that can protect transformers at DTEK thermal power plants from missile fragments are being built to protect Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. However, these cannot protect the power generators from a direct missile hit.
“I believe that Ukraine cannot have some kind of Armageddon, a situation where everything will be smashed and ]all power] will go out. … Everything is possible, but given how we have proved ourselves and how the system has proved itself in terms of resilience, I have confidence that we will cope with these challenges,” Timchenko said, adding that the company relies on the work of Ukraine’s air defense, which manages to shoot down at least 50% of Russian missiles.
DTEK seeks used equipment from EU coal-fired power plants for repairs
Timchenko says that the DTEK power company seeks to repair the stations and capacities damaged by Russian missile strikes. The key problem for repairs are autotransformers.
“We need to actively look for used equipment at coal-fired power plants in Europe, which we can remove and transport here. We can make some temporary schemes, but they cannot work on a permanent basis,” he explained.