Energy 22 February, 2023 9:00 am   
Editorial staff

Kudrytskyi: Ukraine restores energy system faster than Russians can damage it. It has no other choice

WhatsApp Image 2023-02-22 at 08.16.26 Volodymyr Kudrytskyi

We use the supplies from European countries, especially Poland, to continue restoration works. We restore the system quicker than Russia manages to destroy it. We had no other choice – says Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, CEO of Ukrenergo. You have a critical job to keep the electricity flowing through Ukraine. We hear about a new Russian tactics to hit not only the transmission system but also generation. How is it going?

Volodymyr Kudrytskyi: Russians started to attack the power plants since October 2022. They managed to damage virtually every thermal and hydro power plant located on controlled territory. They temporary occupying important generation facilities like Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant which is the biggest of its kind in Europe. As a result we have lost more than half of the generation fleet in the country. More than 10 GW of the installed capacity is occupied (including ZNPP). More than 40% of the transmission grid is also damaged. Along with grid destruction we have a problem with generating and transmitting energy to Europe. We have constant power cuts in the country. Since the end of October 2023 till the beginning of February 2023 there were up to 12 mln consumers without power supply every hour. The only reason to that – Russian assaults to the power grid. So it is hitting everyone in Ukraine. Every house or business is suffering.

What is the logic behind of that?

Russians are not able to win on the battlefield. They lost Kharkiv region, part of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions. They started to attack civilian infrastructure to create a long term blackout during winter time, to freeze the water and heating systems to deprive Ukrainians of critical services like electricity, water, phone system. Anything like that cannot work without electricity. The goal was to pressure Ukraine to negotiate the peace. It was an energy blackmail to make Ukraine start negotiations. We had numerous attacks using rockets and kamikaze drones – 14 waves of missiles attacks and 17th massive drones attacks. Totally more than 1200 missiles and drones were aiming specifically the power system. More than 200 of them reached the targets

What is the role of cooperation with Western countries in countering this threat, especially with Poland?

Three weeks after the invasion on 16th March 2022 we managed to synchronize our system with the European one. We have physically connected the Ukrainian power system with the European continental grid. We were working on this for five years in Ukrenergo. We were hoping to finish this connection before the end of 2022 but we managed to achieve that in emergency synchronization mode because of the invasion. Ukraine started energy exports to Poland immediately after the synchronization and it was important especially to Lublin region because of specific composition of the grid. Poland and Ukraine have equally large electricity systems. They could do more to trade energy. We had the possibility to export energy to other neighboring European countries since Summer 2022. Of course, export stopped just after the first massive attack in October. Now we are importing European electricity. It was happening since January 2023. Ukraine was using energy from Europe to stabilize the grid and partially compensate the damage to power system created by Russian massive attacks. Interconnection to Europe allows technical power flows that support Ukraine during the missile strikes at power plants.

How about the equipment supplies from Europe?

We are using European resources to stabilize our power grid at the moment of the attack. We use the equipment supplies from European countries, especially Poland, to continue restoration works. Such restorations are delivered at record speed. And here I’d like to take a moment and to thank all our partners in ENTSO-e and especially the Polish transmission system operator SA PSE for the constant support and equipment we are receiving. We decreased the time of repairs by three-four times because the war demanded from us to work quicker. We have more than 70 restoration teams with 1500 high qualified employees who works round the clock. Now we restore the system quicker than Russia manages to destroy it. We had no other choice. We have no free days, no pauses, no delays. We replace more equipment recently that in two-three years to survive this winter.

What is the present state of electricity grid of Ukraine right now?

Ukraine has stabilized the situation in electricity system with no large deficits since the half of February. Of course the situation is quite fragile, because Russians are not going to stop to assault the Ukrainian power grid. If we succeed to resist new attacks from Russia, there is a possibility to restart electricity commercial exchanges. There will be another electricity connection that is to start this year to enchance our cooperation. I believe it will be an impulse to increase our cooperation. Poland could use the surplus from Ukraine, and we could use Polish network to import electricity in times of need. This cooperation would enhance energy security in Central and Eastern Europe if we join the efforts to become energy security providers together.

How is this project going? Initially there was an information that it could be ready until the end of 2022.

It is going pretty well, in spite of massive attacks and shelling which modified the timeline, but I am sure it will be ready soon and we will have better interconnection with Poland and EU.

Is there still a risk of blackout in 2023?

There is no reasonable threat of blackout at this stage. We managed to increase the restoration speed. A new air defense system we have received at the end of 2022 is helping too. We are using equipment from Poland and other friends. I am convinced that Ukraine will secure its electricity system and will be prepared for next winter by restoring as much as possible. We will try to restore our ability to have an surplus of energy to share it with neighbors to renew our role as an energy security provider to Europe. In this area we could fruitfully cooperate with Poland. We have wonderful cooperation with PSE. I look forward to this cooperation in 2023.

Interview by Wojciech Jakóbik