Ukraine plans expansion of ENTSO-E interconnection–Ukrenergo CEO

Aura Sabadus

23-Feb-2023

LONDON (ICIS)–Ukraine is planning to build new interconnectors and reach the maximum cross-border capacity with neighbouring European countries, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the CEO of Ukrenergo, the electricity transmission system operator, said.

Speaking to ICIS a year after Ukraine disconnected from the Russian grid in preparation to synchronise with the ENTSO-E system, Kudrytskyi said Ukraine was in talks with European partners to make a decent increase in the import and export capacity in the short term.

Currently, the commercial capacity for the Ukraine and Moldova block stands at 700MW but there are plans to provide a much stronger interconnection that would deepen the two countries’ integration with the European system, Kudrytskyi said.

Ukrenergo cannot release exact figures regarding its immediate interconnection plans but sources say the maximum interconnection capacity that can be released is 2GW.

Technical details are held confidential amid ongoing fears of Russian attacks against the grid.

However, Kudrytskyi is keen to point out that Ukraine’s interconnection to ENTSO-E has been critical to the country.

This is not only because it allowed the TSO to balance the system amidst the most destructive Russian airstrikes against its infrastructure in recent months. It has also allowed Ukrainian companies to export electricity during the summer, helping them to raise much-needed cash.

Since January, Ukraine has been importing electricity from neighbouring Slovakia, which has been essential in keeping industrial production running.

The interconnection has been complementing efforts by Ukrenergo technicians and engineers to repair the infrastructure.

DARK ANNIVERSARY

Friday 24th February, is not only the day when Ukraine unplugged from the Russian grid to which it had been connected since Soviet days but also the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion which led to devastating damages to the electricity infrastructure.

“Over the last year we had 16 major airstrikes and another 16 smaller drone attacks on power plants, autotransformers, transmission lines,” Kudrytskyi said.

As a result of the attacks and Russian occupation of south-eastern territories, over 50% of Ukraine’s electricity generation has been damaged or lost.

Unofficial sources suggest that as much as 90% of its wind capacity and 50% of solar capacity has been damaged or lost.

To balance the system, Ukrenergo engineers as well as colleagues from other energy companies often risked their lives to repair the damages and ensure consumers have access to electricity.

Even so, as attacks intensified since October, Ukrenergo had to introduce rolling blackouts across the country.

Thanks to international support and donations, including via the Energy Community, Ukrenergo has been able to restore electricity fully to nearly all regions across the country in recent weeks.

“We are still looking for spare equipment and the scale of destruction is such that we require a substantial share of the world’s production of electrical equipment,” he said, adding that “we are keeping a good pace of restoration and we have been quicker in repairing than the Russians in destroying.”

DAMAGES

Kudrytskyi said the level of outright damage inflicted on the grid amounts to billions of euros but these do not include the economic losses the country has suffered because of missed opportunities.

“We were preparing to supply 30% more electricity in 2022 than in 2021 in a peacetime scenario, but that did not happen. We lost millions of euros in income because of the war,” he explained.

“This has been the biggest destruction campaign in history against a power grid. We could not plan for anything because no one has had such an experience before.”

LESSONS LEARNED

Kudrytskyi said Ukraine’s experience could help European countries to boost the security of their infrastructure.

“What we know is that if there is a war, the enemy will target and destroy the grid. The most vulnerable pieces of equipment are autotransformers and power plant turbines.

“As far as we are aware, no one has any stockpiles of autotransformers right now.

“Countries should build reserves, boost the engineering protection of infrastructure, redesign the way substations look and rethink the role of centralised grids.

“Centralised grids, unfortunately, can be vulnerable to such attacks,” he said.

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