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Ukraine needs more emergency energy equipment, it’s time to show solidarity – interview with Artur Lorkowski, Director, Energy Community Secretariat

Immediately following the Russian aggression on Ukraine, the Energy Community Secretariat recognised the country’s need for repair materials and fuels, such as diesel, petrol, coal and generators, to ensure the stability of its energy system. Thus, the Secretariat decided to assist the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine in the coordination of emergency supplies and upon request by the European Commission, it set up the legal framework for the Ukraine Energy Support Fund to enable governments and international financial institutions to provide emergency financial support.

Earlier in April, the Fund received the first donation from the Government of Denmark. And, at the end of August, North Macedonia became the first Energy Community Contracting Party to donate: six electricity transformers given in-kind by the distribution system operator Elektrodistribucija DOOEL, a daughter company of EVN North Macedonia.

Still, more than 10,000 items are on the list of requested emergency energy equipment. On the sidelines of the Energy Week Western Balkans, CEENERGYNEWS spoke with Artur Lorkowski, Director of the Energy Community Secretariat about the needs of Ukraine ahead of the winter season.

So far, 500 metric tonnes of emergency equipment were delivered valued at over three million euros. For Mr Lorkowski more should be done as the needs of Ukraine are much higher.

“Currently, about 646,600 people are left without electricity and only 14,700 households have been reconnected to the grid,” he states. “This is proof that we need to provide more energy support for Ukraine’s energy sector. Winter is coming and heating businesses and households will be a challenge.”

Asked about measuring the economic value of needed equipment, Mr Lorkowski says that it is impossible to predict as the needs are changing as we speak, especially if we think about the same infrastructure that has been repaired multiple times after constant demolition by the Russians.

So, how does it work? Mr Lorkowski explains that it all starts with the list of equipment needed, compiled by the Ministry of Energy.

“Then, when we receive an offer from a company, we check if it complies with the list, which it normally does. In close contact with the European Emergency Response Coordination Centre of DG ECHO, we can begin the transportation from the warehouse of the company to hubs located in Poland, Slovakia and Romania and further on directly to the designated hub in Ukraine. From the Ukrainian side, we receive a confirmation that the item has arrived,” he states.

Of course, there is always the risk that items can get lost or damaged, a risk that the companies are well aware of and take into account. The local hub in Ukraine is located in the Western part of the country, far from the war zones, which gives some reassurance on the status of the items.

“The secretariat is offering a service for all European companies willing to donate, making them comfortable as an intermediary taking responsibility for the whole process,” highlights Artur Lorkowski. “Also the cost is undertaken by the European Commission, utilising a Fund created exactly for this reason.”

“We have managed to supply the donation from more than 20 companies and are currently in the process of preparing shipments from 30 more” shares Mr Lorkowski. “Mostly coming from EU countries, as everything is financed by the EU budget. But it is also possible for non-EU countries.”

What is needed ranges from simple cables, pipes and repair materials to generators, transformers or compressors. The Secretariat is very proactive in the process, reaching out to individual companies to make them aware that this possibility exists and that they can act as service providers for them, by simplifying the administrative procedures of the donation process.

“We also help companies that want to do bilateral donations outside of the system described,” Mr Lorkowski continues. “Indeed, some of them decide to go alone but maybe they are stuck with problems at the border, for example, with customs administrations. That’s where we come in, addressing specific problems.”

The increasing number of donations has shown a unified Europe.

“It is the principle of solidarity between industries, companies, friends. It is less on a political level because at the end of the day these are human needs,” underlines the Director of the Secretariat. “When we receive donations from a government, like the Danish one, money is disbursed to the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy which will redistribute them to the sectors and companies that are listed as priorities.”

All of this system started from scratch, as there was no precedent to use. And it is based on native Ukrainians that fled their country and are now based in Vienna, helping their fellow citizens as much as they can.

“These are motivated people, they used to work for Ukrainian companies and organizations Ministries or for administrative bodies so they know the internal procedures,” Mr Lorkowski says proudly.

“They wanted to contribute and we gave them the space to do so. So, as a side product, we are also helping people coping with the war to find jobs outside of their country.”

Furthermore, Mr Lorkowski also points out the importance to give Ukraine access to the electricity market to make money for themselves by selling their surplus of energy at a competitive price, something much needed around Europe.

“The key strategic objective of the Secretariat is not the single donation but enabling a trading opportunity for Ukraine that can also continue after the war,” he says. “The European Commission and ENTSO-E want to increase the volume of electricity trade to up to 300 megawatt-hours (MWh) which is great. And I hope this will continue after the war, once certain elements have been aligned with the EU energy system.”

“Once the war is over, the level playing between Ukraine and the EU market must be ensured,” he concludes. “That’s why it is important also to keep the decarbonisation of Ukraine going. What is important for now is to broaden the scope and the transparent capacity allocation mechanism.”

You can read more about the activities of the Energy Community Secretariat to support Ukraine here.

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