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Sep 13, 2022
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This is just the beginning. What do the blows to the energy sector of Ukraine mean?

On the 200th day since the start of the special military operation, on the evening of September 11, Russia launched targeted missile strikes against Ukrainian heat and power facilities for the first time. Under the blow, judging by the reports of the Ministry of Defense, were: Kharkiv CHP-5, Zmiev CHP and Pavlograd CHP-3. The first two objects are located in the Kharkiv region, the second in the Dnepropetrovsk region. It was also reported about the impact on the Kremenchug thermal power plant in the Poltava region.

Of the heat and power facilities listed above, by the 200th day since the beginning of the NWO, the Kremenchug CHPP did not work – it suffered during the rocket attack on the Kremenchug Oil Refinery and stopped producing electricity. Zmievskaya CHPP came under shelling back in August, but on September 11, it came under heavy attack and, possibly, was destroyed. The destruction of three high-voltage substations is also reported.

In fact, the Kharkiv CHPP-5 took the brunt of the blow, which, as it should be for a thermal generation facility, smoothed out two daily peaks in electricity consumption. Even taking into account the seriously reduced consumption of electricity after the start of the NWO, the Ukrainian energy system entered an emergency mode. 40 substations turned out to be de-energized, 2 overhead lines of 750 kV (kilovolt) and 5 overhead lines of 330 kV were disconnected. There were interruptions in power supply in five regions, however, they managed to overcome them quite quickly due to the flow of electricity from the western part of the country. The next morning showed, another diurnal peak, that the Ukrainian electrical system was struggling to balance production and consumption.

The stability of the Ukrainian energy system was affected by several other factors in addition to shelling:

1. Kyiv’s loss of control over 35% of the Ukrainian power industry capacity – 15 GW of capacity – after 2014.

2. Stopping part of the power generation in the part of the Donbass controlled by Kyiv (Slavyanskaya and Uglegorskaya TPPs).

3. Shutdown of the Zaporozhye NPP and damage to the third hydraulic unit of the Kakhovskaya HPP (it will take 1.5 years to restore).

If it were not for the shutdown of the ZNPP and the loss of generating capacities in the Donbass, then Ukraine would not have experienced any special problems from such strikes. But the station was turned off on the morning of September 11th. The day before the shutdown, only one unit was operating at the station, and then at less than 15% of the installed capacity. There were no power flows to the territory of Ukraine due to damage to power lines (the Ukrainians themselves had previously done this by firing heavy artillery guns at power lines). At the same time, the system for measuring the radioactive background was switched from the systems of Energoatom to Rosatom.

Kyiv, by its systematic shelling of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, tried to get Russia to leave Energodar with its subsequent transformation into a demilitarized zone. Then he made several attempts to capture the station.

The goal is to launch all its power units, which would allow not only to pass the heating season without problems, but also to earn up to UAH 70 billion a year from electricity exports.

Russia and the liberated territories do not suffer from the shutdown of the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station and the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. The shutdown of the ZNPP was used by Russia to connect new territories to its energy system. By June 23, the power lines between Crimea and the Kherson region, which were destroyed back in 2015, were restored. And yesterday the Zaporizhia region began to receive electricity from the Crimea. In fact, now Russia can keep the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant offline for as long as it likes. And after the completion of the laying of the gas pipeline from Mariupol to Berdyansk (the work is planned to be completed in early October), nothing will threaten the heating season in the liberated south.

But Ukraine’s problems are just beginning.

First, there is a clear shortage of shunting capacity in the country. Power outages in Kharkiv at 15.00 may indicate that there is not enough energy not only to pass consumption peaks, but also in broad daylight. Therefore, you will either have to reduce consumption or run idle units at other stations. Further growth in electricity consumption due to lower temperatures and the use of electric heaters will become a serious factor that will destabilize the energy system of Ukraine.

Secondly, the export of electricity from Ukraine to the EU, primarily to Poland, is questionable. The initial calculation of Kyiv was to capture the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant and bring it to full capacity of 6000 MW. Literally on September 10, Kyiv and Warsaw agreed on the export of Ukrainian electricity to Poland from the Khmelnytsky NPP from December 10 and the supply of 100 thousand tons of coal in September. What was the calculation for when concluding such an agreement is not clear, as well as whether Kyiv was counting on the return of control over the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.

Now the EU’s use of Ukraine as a large power bank is in question. The supply of coal is also in question, which, most likely, will have to be burned in the furnaces of the surviving thermal power plants to generate electricity. There are risks that the 1.9 million tons of coal accumulated by the beginning of the heating season will begin to be consumed even before the start of frost.

Thirdly, there are risks of disruption of the heating season in Kharkiv and Kremenchug. The Kremenchug thermal power plant has not been restored even after the first blow, the Kharkov thermal power plant-5, which supplied half of the city with heat, will require urgent repairs. Whether it will be possible to carry it out is a question to which the author has no answer.

A separate aspect is the residual margin of safety of the Ukrainian energy system. There was no blackout, but for the power system, operation in such conditions is anomalous and leads to increased equipment wear.

A couple more such strikes and there is a risk of a full-fledged blackout, from which Ukraine, whose energy system is synchronized with the European one, could only get out with the help of Belarus or Russia. However, this becomes impossible for political reasons. On September 11, Ukrenergo requested an emergency flow of electricity from the European energy system operator ENTSO-E, but received no assistance.

In the event of a blackout, Europe will not be able to power such a huge country, both due to the lack of power lines sufficient for the flow of electricity, and due to the shortage of electricity, which will increase as cold weather approaches.

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