Home News Ukraine’s summer blackouts begin, winter worries set in

Ukraine’s summer blackouts begin, winter worries set in

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Skyscrapers experience power outages for up to 12 hours a day. Neighborhoods are filled with the roar of gas-fired generators installed in cafes and restaurants. At night, streets are plunged into darkness due to lack of lighting.

This is the new reality facing Ukraine, as the arrival of summer has not brought any respite to the country’s power grid, but has instead brought it back to the same energy crisis it experienced during the first winter of the war a year and a half ago.

In recent months, Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s power plants and substations have severely damaged the country’s energy infrastructure. To make matters worse, two nuclear power plant units are scheduled to undergo maintenance this week, and the summer heat is expected to prompt people to turn on the air conditioners.

As a result, Ukrainian authorities ordered rolling blackouts across the country this week, a more severe measure than the regional and sporadic blackouts that parts of the country experienced earlier this spring.

Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, head of Ukraine’s national electricity operator Ukrenergo Sunday said The country is facing “quite serious” power shortages this week.

Emergency power outages were imposed in seven of Ukraine’s 24 regions on Tuesday, the country’s state power company said.

While summer power shortages can leave people sweltering in dark apartments, winter power shortages pose a far more deadly danger.

Ukraine’s widespread blackouts have raised concerns that heating will add to the load on energy systems when cold weather sets in. Experts warn that damage to power plants is too severe to repair before temperatures drop below freezing around December, leaving many people in dangerously cold conditions.

“The situation is worse than last year,” Olena Lapenko, an energy security expert at the Ukrainian think tank DiXi Group, said in an interview on Monday, referring to Russia’s strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the winter of 2022-2023.

Ms. Lapenko estimates that even with mild temperatures and no new Russian attacks on the grid, Ukraine will be short 1.3 gigawatts of power during peak demand this summer. That’s about a tenth of peak energy consumption.

“Can you imagine what will happen in the winter?” Ms. Lapenko asked.

Russia has previously targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Between October 2022 and March 2023, Moscow launched missiles into Ukraine, crippling half of the country’s power grid by November 2022. Residents of the capital, Kiev, sometimes had to rely on flashlights at night and planned to evacuate the city.

Ukraine was able to avoid the attack thanks to newly delivered Western air defense systems and engineers working around the clock to repair vital equipment.

But Russia’s latest offensive against the power grid, which began in late March, has been more destructive than previous ones because Moscow has refined its tactics, launching larger and more sophisticated missile barrages. Ukraine’s limited air defenses make it difficult to intercept.

Energy experts estimate that Ukraine has lost about half of its electricity generating capacity since the war began. Most of the country’s thermal and hydroelectric power stations have been destroyed, which is a big problem because they provide the extra generation needed to meet demand during peak hours.

Olha Buslavets, former Ukrainian Energy Minister Last week, Ukraine now relies largely on nuclear power plants, which supply most of the country’s electricity but cannot meet peak demand.

DiXi Group said there was not enough time to rebuild enough power generation capacity before winter set in. Olena Pavlenko, head of the think tank, said Ukraine needed spare equipment such as transformers to rebuild substations. Ms. Pavlenko said Kiev hoped to get spare parts from decommissioned thermal power plants in Germany.

Ms Pavlenko added that one way to address the problem is for authorities to install gas turbine mobile power plants across the country. But that option could take up to a year.

Ukraine is normally a net exporter of electricity but is importing record amounts of power from neighbouring countries such as Romania, Slovakia and Poland. But the president of Ukraine’s state power company, Kudretsky, said the imports were not enough to make up for the power losses.

This has led Ukrainian authorities to implement planned blackouts across the country in an attempt to stabilize the grid. DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private power company, has issued a Online Timetable Let consumers know when power will be lost to their homes, but sometimes additional emergency outages are needed.

On Tuesday, several residents of Kyiv said the planned blackouts had forced them to reorganize their daily lives. Anna Yatsenko, a 37-year-old filmmaker and mother of four, said she would use electronic devices to cool her home, iron and do laundry once power was restored.

“My husband gets up and charges his power bank,” Ms. Yatsenko said. “There’s no way to turn on the kettle. Using a hair dryer is a luxury.”

Oleksandr Kharchenko, director of the Kyiv Energy Research Center, said at a press conference on Monday that the grid will not be fully repaired for at least two years.

“We know that we need to be prepared for daily power outages over the next two years, but it’s not a critical situation,” Kalchenko said. “To be honest, all we can do is get used to this normalcy.”

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