How Ukraine will cope with electricity shortages this summer — analysis

A Ukrainian power plant destroyed in a Russian attack
A Ukrainian power plant destroyed in a Russian attack

Power outages will continue across Ukraine this summer due to an acute shortage of generation capacity, according to national power grid operator Ukrenergo.

On May 28, Ukrainian think tank DiXi Group presented its report Summer Outlooks: Assessing Readiness for Risks in the Electric Power and Gas Sectors.

The state of Ukraine’s energy sector, which has suffered several massive Russian air strikes this year, is of greatest concern. DiXi Group project expert Olena Lapenko, Head of the Balance Reliability Department at Ukrenergo, Roman Hrabchak, and Deputy General Director for Commercial Affairs at hydropower operator Ukrhydroenergo, Bohdan Sukhetskyi, contributed to the discussion.

NV Business has outlined key theses of the experts about the precarious state of the national grid and the severity of blackouts this summer.

Read also: Ukraine's thermal power grid suffers 85% capacity loss, recovery uncertain

Why did scheduled blackouts begin in mid-May?

In her presentation, Lapenko said that, according to DiXi Group’s estimates, Ukrainian thermal power generation has lost about 85% of its capacity.

“The timeframe of repairs are uncertain, despite some experts’ statements,” she said.

Lapenko also noted the damage during the latest attacks on at least two Ukrhydroenergo facilities.

The loss of thermal and hydroelectric power plants is a painful blow to flexible generation, which is designed to smooth out peaks in electricity consumption that take place in the morning and evening.

The available capacity won’t be enough even in the summer, and Ukrainians realize that, experts say.

Hrabchak says Ukraine has passed the seasonal minimum of electricity consumption, and the following will contribute to its further increase:

  • seasonal factors (for example, increased use of air conditioning);

  • seasonal drop in water levels at hydroelectric power plants (HPP);

  • shutdown of nuclear power plant (NPP) reactors for scheduled repairs and maintenance before the winter season;

  • shutdowns of cogeneration plants as they cannot generate electricity without also raising the temperature of central heating systems.

“We expect July to be the most difficult month,” Hrabchak said.

Russia was emboldened to attack much of Ukraine’s energy facilities this spring after the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP dam in 2023 caused no negative consequences for Moscow, Sukhetskyi believes.

“The Kakhovka HPP tragedy is a signal to the aggressor that they can go further, because there was no adequate reaction from the international community,” he said.

In the spring of 2024, during the flooding season, several HPPs, in particular the Dnipro HPP, were struck by Russian missiles.

Due to this, Ukrhydroenergo made many changes in its operations. For example, there’s no long-term planning and generation/consumption balancing being done by the company now.

“The system needs energy — let’s get to work!” Sukhetskyi describes the current attitude.

He also quoted Ukrhydroenergo CEO Ihor Syrota: “We’ve switched from a development strategy to a strategy of constant recovery.”

Read also: Blackouts impact Ukraine's defense manufacturing pace — NYT

Summer scenarios

DiXi Group believes that electricity consumption in Ukraine decreased by 25-30% in 2022-2023 compared to the period before Russia’s full-scale invasion. In particular, the industry reduced consumption by 45%, and households by 16%. At the same time, total generating capacity has decreased from 37.6 GW to 18.3 GW.

Therefore, DiXi Group believes the Ukrainian power grid will experience a shortage of electricity in the summer of 2024. The report named three potential scenarios for this period.

The first scenario can be implemented given there are no new attacks on the power grid and moderate air temperatures. In this case, the electrical shortage will be 1.3 GW during peak hours. The LOLP (loss of load probability) indicator won’t exceed 21%. This is the predicted amount of time when available generation capacity is less than expected load (consumption).

The second scenario provides for a significant increase in electricity consumption due to an increase in average daily temperatures. In this case, the electrical shortage may grow to 2.86 GW during peak hours, while the LOLP will be 28%.

The third scenario, at moderate temperatures, considers further destruction of flexible generation. In this case, the electrical shortage may stand at 2.8 GW, while the LOLP will grow to 35%.

Ukrenergo’s Hrabchak generally agreed with these assessments. In his opinion, there are several tools that can “alleviate the shortage” of flexible generation. But they cannot be completely implemented in the near future.

Possible measures include:

  • Increase in energy price caps, which would allow to increase imports from Europe;

  • Certain technical measures at cogeneration plants that will allow some of them to operate even in hot weather.

Read also: Household electricity prices to rise by up to 80%

How long rolling blackouts could last for

As for distributed generation, Hrabchak is convinced that not all equipment that can autonomously generate electricity should be included in this category. Gas piston generators, cogeneration plants, etc. must be permanently connected to the power grid so that Ukrenergo operators can take them into account when balancing the system. In addition, distributed generation is much more expensive, which may affect the competitiveness of Ukrainian industry in the long term.

Imports are also not a panacea, because our European neighbors have quotas on how much electricity they have available to export to Ukraine.

As for energy savings by consumers, experts noted that a full-throated awareness campaign in this regard will and is already giving results.

“Energy workers don’t have a magic wand,” says Sukhetskyi, suggesting that stop-gap measures and emergency repairs will not be able to fully restore Ukraine’s energy system before winter 2024.

Ukrenergo called the summer of 2024 a “dress rehearsal” for the 2024-2025 winter season, when the electrical shortages will coincide with low temperatures. Therefore, it’s necessary to demand that the local authorities install heat pumps and implement other measures to provide heating to apartment blocks and other facilities.

Restoring Ukraine’s energy system won’t be quick. Even after the war ends, foreign companies won’t be able to manufacture generation machinery in volumes required by an entire country.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine