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Tough summer and fall scenarios: Can Ukraine save its energy sector and prevent blackout

Tough summer and fall scenarios: Can Ukraine save its energy sector and prevent blackout Power engineers must prepare Ukraine for winter in the face of a large deficit in the energy system (photo by Getty Images)

The Ukrainian power system is facing a difficult summer. Due to the shortage of generation, electricity is supplied according to the schedule and there are no prerequisites for the situation to improve soon. Read more about whether the schedules will remain in place for the whole summer and what to expect in the fall in RBC-Ukraine's article.


Power system and schedules in summer

The deficit is caused by Russian strikes on energy facilities. The next wave began on March 22, 2024, and since then, Russia has carried out six massive attacks.

The full list of destroyed facilities is not publicly available. However, it is known that the Russians targeted DniproHES, Kaniv and Dniester HPPs, Kharkiv CHPP-5, Trypillia, and Zmiiv TPPs of the state-owned Centrenergo, as well as Burshtyn, Ladyzhyn and at least one other DTEK thermal power plant.

“The scale of damage, unfortunately, is comparable, and even if we talk about generation, about power plants, it has even surpassed the scale of last year's damage,” says Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, chairman of the board of Ukrenergo.

This spring, Ukraine lost about 9 GW of generating capacity. To find the funds for the repairs, the company had to take an unpopular step and raise tariffs for households. On June 1, the price of electricity rose from UAH 2.64 to UAH 4.32 per kWh.

Deputy Energy Minister Svitlana Hrynchuk says that the summer will be difficult because it will take time to restore the power grid. Repairs are being carried out around the clock to prepare for the next fall and winter period, she adds.

Tough summer and fall scenarios: Can Ukraine save its energy sector and prevent blackoutThe aftermath of a Russian missile strike on one of DTEK's thermal power plants (photo by

Due to the deficit in the power system, Ukrainians are forced to live in the mode of hourly schedules. And the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon, as the capacity for maneuverable generation is limited.

Ukraine is heavily dependent on electricity imports and sunny weather. Today, solar generation accounts for almost 20% of the country's energy consumption. This is a problem when the availability or absence of energy is determined by the weather, explains Hennadii Riabtsev, director of special projects at Psychea Scientific and Technical Center.

In addition, nuclear power units are being taken out of service for scheduled repairs. This is happening in stages, but still affects the decrease in forecast generation. It is impossible to increase imports, as the maximum capacity of interstate crossings is already used by almost 100%.

"Therefore, we need to wait for a partial restoration of generation, completion of repairs at nuclear power plants, and so on. Until then, I do not see any prospects for reducing the duration of outages in the summer,” he tells RBC-Ukraine.

At the same time, according to Oleksandr Kharchenko, director of the Energy Research Center, it is unrealistic for Ukraine to reach a situation without summer and winter schedules in the next two years.

How to make fair schedules

Hourly schedules are used in every region, but many Ukrainians complain that they are uneven. For example, in some queues, consumers are left without power for 3-4 hours or more, while in others they manage to get by without outages.

At the end of May, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted Resolution No. 600, which is supposed to ensure more fair schedules. The new rules will come into force on June 24. According to them, the list of critical facilities should be revised locally. Ukrenergo will calculate the limits, except for such facilities, and communicate them to distribution system operators, who are obliged to ensure an even sequence of outages.

“The problem with the old methodology was that Kyiv had the most critical infrastructure compared to other regions and the longest blackouts for private consumers and businesses,” Kharchenko explains.

In other words, the current procedure does not take into account the presence of critical facilities. Many of those located in Kyiv work for the whole country, but the limits are taken away from Kyiv residents. As a result, when other regions have outages, for example, for 2 hours, the capital has outages for 4 hours or more.

According to Riabtsev, last winter, the National Security and Defense Council set many tasks that were not implemented for reasons that are not entirely clear.

"And we are now making decisions in an emergency mode and hope that they will start working immediately. Unfortunately, they won't be able to start working right away because the list of critical infrastructure needs to be revised. Currently, a large number of such facilities are questionable in terms of their critical importance. The approach should be adjusted, and I hope it will be,” the expert emphasizes.

Repairs at NPPs and whether they will be completed by fall

More than half of electricity is generated at nuclear power plants. There are 15 nuclear power units in Ukraine, six of which are seized by Russian troops at Zaporizhzhia NPP in Enerhodar. Thus, only 9 are available.

During the off-season, they are taken offline for mandatory scheduled repairs. Accordingly, generation volumes are reduced, which affects schedules. At the end of May, two power units came out of repair, one of them ahead of schedule, so there were no restrictions for several days. However, in June, the other two units were brought back for repairs, and the schedules returned.

“This (repairs - ed.) is critically necessary to ensure stable and uninterrupted operation of all 9 nuclear units during the heating season,” the Ministry of Energy notes.

Tough summer and fall scenarios: Can Ukraine save its energy sector and prevent blackoutPower units of nuclear power plants are taken out of service one by one for scheduled repairs (photo by Getty Images)

It is not disclosed which units are being taken out of service, when, and for how long for safety reasons. Expert Oleksandr Kharchenko is confident that the schedule is designed to get out of the summer prepared for winter.

"Nuclear generation is critically important for the Ukrainian energy system. And, of course, all power units are important. They must work like clockwork because any nuclear unit going into emergency repair in winter will be very painful,” he says.

Riabtsev believes that the repairs may be completed in September. Repair campaigns are currently being completed ahead of schedule, and this is a good sign.

Regions where the energy situation is the most difficult

The situation is difficult in Ukraine as a whole. Recently, electricity was cut off for six hours or more in Khmelnytskyi, Donetsk, and Zhytomyr regions due to exceeding the limits, and consumption is growing in Kyiv, Kirovohrad, and Kharkiv regions.

Due to the impact of Russian strikes, restrictions have been in place for industry in the Dnipropetrovsk region since March. As for industrial and household consumers, the most difficult situation is in Kyiv, Odesa, and Kharkiv. In the latter, at its peak, 200-250,000 customers were without power every hour.

“We don't have any of our generation in the city (after the spring Russian attacks - ed.), and we have to take electricity from other cities,” Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov told Estonian broadcaster ERR.

Currently, the second-largest Ukrainian city is preparing for possible blackouts. Local authorities have already reported that more than 1,000 grocery stores, 400 pharmacies, markets, supermarkets, cafes, gas stations, etc. have installed autonomous power sources.

Odesa does not have its power generation, so any damage to the high-voltage networks is critical. And Russian attacks take place here all the time, just like in Kharkiv, Kharchenko explains.

"Kyiv, on the other hand, has always been an energy-deficient region since the closure of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. There is a constant shortage of electricity in the capital, and if we add that a large amount of important infrastructure is concentrated here, it further complicates the task of powering Kyiv and providing it with electricity due to the lack of generation in the country,” the expert emphasizes.

Possible scenarios for fall

September and October (as well as April and May) are easy months in terms of the required generation, as the demand for electricity decreases during this period.

The most difficult months in summer are July and the first two decades of August, when cooling equipment operates at maximum capacity due to high temperatures, increasing consumption to almost winter levels. Then, from late November to February, consumption increases due to low temperatures.

Tough summer and fall scenarios: Can Ukraine save its energy sector and prevent blackoutExperts believe that Ukraine will not plunge into blackouts either in the fall or in the winter (photo by Vitalii Nosach/RBC-Ukraine)

Theoretically, it is possible to enter September without any schedules. Provided that energy is distributed and used rationally, the reality is that Ukrainians are not ready for this, says Hennadii Riabtsev, citing the European example.

In 2021, there was a need to limit energy consumption, and the vast majority of EU member states managed to do it quickly enough, reducing gas consumption by 15%. And without government intervention, they did so simply by responding to an information campaign.

"This is not happening here. We hear warnings, but energy consciousness does not work. This is also the reason why the Cabinet of Ministers decided to increase the tariff for households. Ukrenergo also imposes restrictions. They could have been much lower if the local authorities had used electricity rationally,” he emphasizes.

The installation of additional capacities in the form of mini-CHPs and small cogeneration units could accelerate the exit from the stabilization schedules. This requires a lot of work, and there is no particular desire on the ground, so the most likely scenario is with schedules that will continue into the fall, Riabtsev says.

The apocalyptic scenario with a plunge into a blackout has the least chance.

"I do not assume that Ukraine's power system can lose stability to the extent that it cannot recover from a failure. Blackout in the fall is a very unlikely event,” he adds.

A blackout means a cascading accident when the power system shuts down uncontrollably and takes 2 to 10 days to restart. Oleksandr Kharchenko does not expect blackouts even in winter.

"There will be restrictions. They can reach 10-12 hours, but I do not expect blackouts. I am confident in the professionalism of Energoatom's engineers, those who repair thermal and hydro generation, and Ukrenergo dispatchers. All this gives us reason to believe that despite all the difficulties, we will get through the winter without major problems for critical infrastructure, although, of course, with great discomfort for household consumers and businesses,” he says.

In his opinion, there is no reason to believe that Ukraine will go through the next two winters without any outages. The only factor that can dramatically improve the situation is the return of Zaporizhzhia NPP under Ukrainian control. There are no other tools with a comparable effect.

Right now, power engineers are doing everything they can to restore the system. We will see how successful they will be in a few months. The problem is that Russia is unlikely to abandon its terrorist tactics, and Ukrainian energy facilities will be under the threat of new attacks for a long time to come.

Sources: Representatives of Ukrenergo, the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine, Energoatom, Government Resolution No. 600, comments by Oleksandr Kharchenko, Director of the Energy Research Center, and Hennadii Riabtsev, Director of Special Projects at the Psychea Scientific and Technical Center.