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Ukraine looks to Europe to increase power imports this winter

Russia has destroyed 35GW of Ukraine's total 55GW of installed generating Capacity and even if the EU increases its exports of electricity to a maximum this winter that will only reduce the blackouts in the coldest months by half at best.
Russia has destroyed 35GW of Ukraine's total 55GW of installed generating Capacity and even if the EU increases its exports of electricity to a maximum this winter that will only reduce the blackouts in the coldest months by half at best.

Russia has taken out 35 GW of Ukraine’s electricity generation capability since the beginning of the war, decreasing generation from 55 GW to 20 GW. Already Ukrenergo has introduced rolling blackouts in a dozen regions as installed capacity is not enough to meet demand. And it still summer.

Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Yulia Svyrydenko appealed to European partners with a request to facilitate the increase in electricity imports to 2.3 GW from 1.7 GW today, in a speech at the Ukraine Recovery Conference on June 11.

“We need a political and technical solution to increase electricity imports to 2.3 GW,” she said at the Ukraine Recovery Conference.

In addition to import growth, three other priorities in this area are rapid recovery where physically possible, adding up to 1 GW of capacity this year and another 4 GW over the next two years, and credit facilities, she said.

“We urgently need equipment from your decommissioned power plants and direct financial support,” she said.

Fears over what will happen this winter when the heating season starts are looming large.

“The problem is that the power generation is also the source of heat,” says Professor Tom O’Donnell, a fellow with the Wilson Centre and advisor on energy to several European governments. “You take the exhaust gases from the power generation, which are hot, and use that to heat water that goes into central heating. If you have no power, you have no heat either.” Russia launched a barrage of missile strikes on Ukraine’s energy sector in January, which only intensified in March after Ukraine ran out of air defence missiles, leaving its main power generation installations defenceless. Since March 2024, Russia has destroyed 9.2 GW of electricity generation capacity.

The Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine’s largest hydropower plant, has been hit several times since March and is out of action for at least two years. The power plant that serves Kyiv, the Trypilska thermal power plant, was flattened completely in April. And the bombardment continues unabated. Some 75% of Ukraine’s thermal generating capacity is now unlikely to be available this winter. In one day on June 1 alone, Ukraine lost another 1.2 GW of generation and suffered severe damage to the gas transportation system for underground storage facilities in western Ukraine, which may affect both domestic use and exports of gas to the EU.

In the short-term the only way Ukraine can get through this coming winter is to import power from the EU. By a miracle, Ukraine was connected to the EU power system, the ENTSO-E system, which represents 35 countries, on the day before Russia’s invasion began. The two grids were synchronised in a record short time. Initially, Ukraine exported electricity to the EU, but since has become a net importer of electricity. However, the export potential of Europe to Ukraine is limited.

“Export capacities from the EU to Ukraine are currently set at 1.7 GW with a total of up to 2.4GW. There are several options to increase these capacities ahead of next winter,” says Georg Zachmann, a senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank, citing figures from Green Deal Ukraina. “A strong increase by 1 GW could substantially reduce the need for power-cuts in Ukraine.” However, to make the increases Zachmann says several things can be done in preparation. The networks in Hungary and Romania can be improved to increase export capacity to the maximum.

The ENTSO-E reserve should also be increased from 3GW to 5GW to allow for greater transfers to Ukraine and a new Mukachevo-Kapusany 400kV transmission line needs to be completed that will allow more power transfers, while the deadline for another Pivdneukransk power transmission line with Romania needs to be brought forward to 2026 from 2028.

A new substation in Hungary would increase the cross-border transmission capacity that currently has a bottleneck and install new power generation on the Polish side of the Zamosc-Dobrotvir line of the border to act as any additional reserve. There are also a substantial number of 110kV lines with Poland that could be upgraded, Bruegel suggests.

And finally, Bruegel says a new factory to produce spares and equipment should be built in the EU near to the Ukrainian border to facilitate faster repairs to Ukraine’s power infrastructure.

“Assuming an additional transmission capacity of 0.5GW from Poland, load shedding can be reduced by 800 hours, and the total number of load shedding hours comes down to 46%, compared to 55% in the “limited repairs” scenario,” Bruegel said in a report. “This amount of new capacity supports the Ukrainian system but is insufficient to fully address the deficit.” Ukraine will be able to import 12TWh in the limited repairs scenario, but Bruegel says this can be increased to a maximum of 13.8TWh if its recommendations are implemented and action taken over the summer. In this case Ukraine will be able to meet domestic demand in the hours of low demand, but in the hours of high demand imports will only partly contribute to the reduction of “load shedding”, a way to distribute demand for electrical power across multiple power sources, used to relieve stress on a primary energy source when demand for electricity is greater than the primary power source can supply.