Russian air strikes have severely impacted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, leading to the destruction or seizure of over half of Ukraine’s power generation capacity along with widespread blackouts and concerns about future energy supplies, Financial Times (FT) reported today.

Before the invasion, Ukraine boasted one of Europe’s largest domestic energy production capacities, generating around 55 gigawatts of electricity. However, this capacity has plummeted to below 20GW due to Russian attacks and occupation, with power plants being targeted directly.

The EU has expressed alarm over Russia’s destruction of 9.2GW of energy generation since March, prompting efforts to address Ukraine’s urgent energy needs. Recent attacks have focused on power plants and natural gas storage facilities critical for EU customers, raising fears about winter energy security.

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The initial aerial bombardment campaign by Russia during the winter of 2022-23 primarily targeted Ukraine’s electrical distribution grid, which officials and experts noted could be repaired relatively easily.

However, the latest onslaught has shifted focus to thermal and hydroelectric power plants, posing significant challenges in terms of repair, reconstruction, or replacement, as stated by officials and experts.

On April 11, the Trypillia thermal power station, Ukraine’s largest, supplying electricity to three regions, lost 100 percent of its generating capacity, following an overnight Russian air attack. Located 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Kyiv, Trypillia provided power and heat to the regions of Kyiv, neighboring Zhytomyr and Cherkasy. It provided power to 8 percent of the nation’s population.

More Than 80 Ukrainian Drones Target Russia in Nighttime Assault
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More Than 80 Ukrainian Drones Target Russia in Nighttime Assault

70 out of 80 Ukrainian drones were reportedly shot down over the Rostov region, just across the Kerch Strait from Ukraine and home to a swathe of Russian military facilities.

Another Russian attack on June 1, inflicted substantial damage on energy facilities across five regions, according to Ukraine’s energy minister Herman Halushchenko.

Two thermal power plants were damaged in the attack, a DTEK (Ukraine’s largest private energy company) operator was reported by AFP as saying. He did not specify where they were located.

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“It was another extremely difficult night for the Ukrainian energy sector. The enemy struck two of our thermal power plants. The equipment was seriously damaged,” the company said in a statement on Telegram.

It was the sixth major attack on DTEK thermal power plants since mid-March, it added.

One head of an engineering company involved in reconstruction projects in Ukraine, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Kyiv Post that if the government did not begin building new thermal power plants immediately, the country could experience massive freezing of municipal heating pipes as soon as temperatures drop in November.

When asked about the implications of the damage, one official told FT, “We should prepare for life in the cold and the dark.”

Oleksandr Lytvynenko, secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, told FT that Russia’s objective is to render life unlivable for Ukrainians. He outlined plans to establish a decentralized energy system relying on more resilient mini-power plants to mitigate vulnerability to Russian attacks.

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European countries have stepped in with 120 shipments of critical energy equipment and tools to aid in restoring and repairing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

In addition to ramping up imports of EU electricity and bringing more gas-fired energy plants online, Ukraine’s leadership faces the necessity of implementing further unpopular tariff hikes, according to Borys Dodonov, head of energy and climate studies at the Kyiv School of Economics, as cited by FT. Dodonov warned that if no measures are taken, “according to our modeling, the population will probably have only two to four hours of electricity [per day] in January.”

To fund the reconstruction effort, Ukrainian authorities have doubled energy prices starting from June, although they still fall short of market rates.

Lytvynenko mentioned Ukraine’s efforts to increase the adoption of green technology such as solar panels and wind turbines, crucial for future energy security. However, he acknowledged the challenge of securing foreign investment given the country’s risk profile.

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