UK helps Ukraine with coal phase-out, green transition

Aura Sabadus

09-Nov-2021

LONDON (ICIS)–Ukraine is working with the UK on projects that are critical to reducing its dependence on coal and supporting the efficient transition to a green economy of scale.

Speaking to ICIS, Peter Wickenden, first secretary, energy policy, at the British embassy in Kiev, said UK companies were taking an active interest in sharing know-how and in investing in key renewable projects in Ukraine.

One project is carried out by UK-based consultancy ERM following a request from the Ukrainian energy ministry to share the UK’s experience in closing down mines and funding new sustainable forms of economy activity.

Ukraine has a strong coal reliance as 22GW or 40% of its installed electricity capacity is coal-based. Not all of it is used and the country intends to phase out 10GW within the upcoming decade.

However, phasing out coal will involve the closure of supplying coal mines, which could have a significant social and economic impact.

The project which will run through to the middle of 2022 will focus on several pilot areas, probably in the far west of Ukraine. It will start off by surveying the chosen sites’ existing characteristics before developing a master vision for the region and its economic repurposing.

If the model proves successful it can be deployed across the country, where there are over 30 state-owned mines earmarked for closure.

“In England and Wales we have done a range of different things in different areas, from new, modern types of industry such as manufacturing and services, to tourism, leisure, heritage/museum centres, new national parks/nature reserves. One former mine site is now a horse-racing course, then there is the Eden Project in Cornwall, for example,” he said.

The heat from closed coal mines could also be used to heat homes or produce and store energy, he added.

LONG-TERM STRATEGY

In parallel, UK specialists are working with Ukrainian policy-makers to draft the country’s long-term energy strategy to 2050.

The project should be delivered by early next year and is made up of five phases including analysis of political, social and economic contexts, the development of a methodology for energy balance forecast, the approval of this methodology, outlining the principles of the strategy or engaging various stakeholders.

It will work alongside Ukraine’s key goals including energy security and energy independence, decarbonisation, improving energy efficiency and the shift to clean energy.

Ukraine has been actively looking to develop its renewable sector, with wind and solar plants currently covering around 14% of the total installed capacity. Many UK companies have entered the sector and more are likely to invest further as the country will be looking to scale up the production of green gases.

“As far as I’m aware, UK-based financial investors are amongst the biggest foreign investors in renewables in Ukraine. For example, Elementum Energy, which is owned by VR Capital, has invested in nearly 30 solar and wind farms around the country.”

Wickenden said Ukrainian companies looking to invest in nuclear or renewable projects could tap finance via the UK Export Finance, a UK-government export finance agency.

HYDROGEN AND BIOMETHANE

Meanwhile, Ukrainian public and private sector representatives have been working with UK companies focusing on the development of hydrogen production facilities.

The UK has been at the forefront of hydrogen development and is one of the largest manufacturers of electrolysers, which are essential in the production of green hydrogen from renewables.

Ukraine’s offshore wind potential is estimated at 100GW, which represents a fifth of Europe’s aggregated offshore wind potential.

However, the development of the Ukrainian hydrogen sector will largely depend on the ability of its infrastructure to carry the gas. Sources in the distribution and transmission sectors insist the transmission network could ship only 20% hydrogen blends. This means that the remaining 80% of the gas in the infrastructure would have to be natural gas or biomethane, whose molecule is identical to that of natural gas.

“Given the huge scale of agricultural production in Ukraine and the consequent availability of prodigious quantities of material for potential conversion to biomethane, and the scale of biomethane production already going on in the UK – there are nearly 600 operational plants in the UK, I am sure there is great scope for the UK and Ukraine to work together in this sector,” Wickenden said.

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