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Energy Security Forum: post-war recovery of Ukraine’s energy landscape

Despite power shortages due to the ongoing war, the 2022 edition of the three-day Energy Security Forum, organised by the Ukrainian Energy Club – is now officially in the books after a series of expert discussions on Ukraine’s energy policy.

Day 1 of the Forum kicked off with a debate on the security and stability of Ukraine’s energy sector during the war and its post-war recovery.

Rebuilding Ukraine’s power system leadership

Yuriy Bondarenko, the Vice President of the National Committee of the International Council on Large Electric Power Systems, CIGRE-Ukraine, provided insights into Ukraine’s pre-war leadership in having one of the biggest power systems in Europe, developed throughout the last 100 years – with over 56 gigawatts (GW) of overall installed capacity and 8.7 GW of renewable energy.

Mr Bondarenko emphasised the scale of destruction of the pre-war power system infrastructure and offered his insights into rebuilding the country’s power system. According to him, this ought to be predicated on electrification and minimising gas usage, international electrical standards (IEC), innovative technologies (for example, smart grids, renewables, small modular reactors, battery storage, hydrogen), the development of the country’s power industry, protection of Intellectual Property and training of a new generation of electrical engineers using “new electrotechnical vocabulary”.

In terms of Ukraine’s distribution network, Mr Bondarenko said that Ukraine currently needs transformers, module-type substations, cables and wires and support for distribution system operators – particularly in post-occupation cities such as Kherson and Kharkiv. In the future, a smart grid, a 20-kilovolt distribution network and connecting distributed energy generation (solar, wind) are among the areas expected to be in high demand.

Moreover, Mr Bondarenko estimated that in terms of re-building the transmission and generation system, more than 40 per cent of substations and high-voltage lines need repairing, around 100 power transformers require replacement and new high-voltage lines towards ENTSO-E should be built. Among the areas requiring action, reconstructing the country’s thermal power plants using hydrogen technology is also mentioned, however, Mr Bondarenko points out that this is not certain as a lot depends on future developments in the hydrogen industry.

What can we expect from Ukraine’s future energy landscape?

Konrad Swirski, President of Transition Technologies and Professor at Warsaw University of Technology considered whether Ukraine will be an exporter or importer after the war. Indeed, this is particularly important for countries like Moldova which is facing severe challenges with energy imports.

In terms of Ukraine’s green transition, Mr Swirski highlighted that in the current situation, it is difficult to discuss decarbonisation and smart grids due to the dire power supply situation in the country. However, from a long-term perspective, Mr Swirski estimates that it may take around a decade to modernise Ukraine’s energy sector, accordingly to the EU’s standards (following the Fit for 55, the European Green Deal and so on). As part of this transformation, we may see the modernisation of Ukraine’s nuclear sector and greater reliance on renewables, with Ukraine back as a major energy exporter to Europe.

Lastly, Oleksiy Orzhel, Minister of Energy and Environmental Protection of Ukraine in 2019 and 2020, shared his views on the future energy shape of Ukraine’s energy system in the context of security. In particular, the former Minister believed that in a scenario in which a long-term peace agreement with Russia is not reached, Ukraine will have to develop a power system that can adapt to a volatile security environment. As Mr Orzhel said, such a system has to be de-centralised and protected, referencing Israel, as a country that offers a similar example to the proposed “logic of development”. Mr Orzhel added that Ukraine’s power system has traditionally been centralised.

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