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Wind power at the core of Ukraine’s post-war recovery

There is a broad consensus that Ukraine will continue to be an attractive country for green energy investors. Before Russia’s military invasion at the beginning of the year, Ukraine was confidently moving on a path of green transition to catch up with global trends. The country’s energy strategy had set a goal to source 25 per cent of the total energy mix from renewables by 2035. And Mykola Kolisnyk, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Energy had no doubts that they would have achieved it, as the prerequisites were already there: by the beginning of 2022, Ukraine’s total renewables capacity reached 9.5 gigawatts (GW) and investment in green energy was estimated to be around 12 billion US dollars.

However, by early November, up to 40 per cent of Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure had been damaged or destroyed by Russian airstrikes.

The share of renewables could have been higher…

While speaking at the Budapest Climate Summit, the Deputy Minister noted that Ukraine was able to increase the share of renewable energy sources in its energy mix to almost 14 per cent by 2021, from about 4 per cent ten years before.

“This indicator could be even higher if it were not for the war,” he said.

In particular, according to the Ukrainian Wind Energy Association’s (UWEA) forecast made at the end of 2021, in 2022 Ukraine assumed at least 1,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity.

“But the war unleashed by Russian aggressor put the majority of wind projects that were already in the development and construction phase on hold,” Andriy Konechenkov, Chairman of the UWEA Board tells CEENERGYNEWS. “Moreover, wind farms located in the territories being temporarily occupied by Russian troops had to be stopped from operating. Thus, about 1,315 MW out of 1,703 MW of wind power capacity (77 per cent of total installed wind capacity) do not operate. We know about 7 wind turbines being struck in the course of the war, but the real number could be higher. Right now, the wind farm operators have no access to the sites in the areas controlled by Russian forces.”

…but new construction and commissioning are already underway

In the Deputy Minister’s words, the energy transition became another hostage of Russian aggression. But that is not the future envisioned by businesses, investors, international organisations and Ukrainian citizens. The future is green and wind will play a major role in it.

“Despite the regular shelling of the entire territory of Ukraine, the construction of modern wind farms keeps going in Mykolaiv, Odesa and Lviv regions,” continues Mr Konechenkov. “Thus, around 71 MW have already been commissioned in the country this year and we expect additionally around 40 MW wind capacity to be constructed by the end of the year, with their further commissioning in the first quarter of 2023. The construction and commissioning of new wind power capacities during these challenging times is vivid proof of the viability of wind energy technologies.”

Ukraine

Another proof was the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation, at the beginning of December, between the UWEA and the Latvian Wind Energy Association (LWEA).

“Cooperation between two wind energy associations will provide an opportunity for knowledge and experience exchange on wind energy development to contribute to setting up new energy structures of our countries without Russian gas,” says Andriy Konechenkov. “It’s crucial for our country’s efforts towards energy independence, decarbonisation and peace. As a first step, we are planning to hold meetings between our associations’ members already next winter.”

Minds from the wind industry think alike

“The members of the wind industry are a like-minded community that clearly sees the existing challenges and is actively working on them,” adds Gatis Galviņš, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board at LWEA. “In today’s world, no one thought that a brutal war allowed by a sick society, which is taking place in Ukraine at the given moment, was possible. Of course, the first thing we want to provide purely humanely is moral support.”

Secondly, according to him, the war will end one day and a huge effort will be required to restore civilised living conditions.

“Thirdly, it is clear that Ukraine and hopefully also old Europe will finally understand the eternal concerns of the Baltic states about the inadequacy of existing Russia and will shape their energy policies much more sensibly,” he says. “Therefore, the experience of the Ukrainian wind industry is serious enough to draw significant conclusions even with such a scenario in mind.”

And having been in the industry for over 10 years, Mr Galviņš believes that there is also a lot to learn from their mistakes.

“From Latvia’s experience, we see that the society is now paying for the mistakes done by the politicians in the past,” he tells CEENERGYNEWS. “The energy crisis has had a terrible impact on the economy as a whole. And we have to ask ourselves – are we learning from the horrific lesson in Ukraine? Are we going to act here and now? It’s clear to me and many other energy experts in Latvia that the very basics of energy policy-making must be separated from the historically state-owned dominant players, this certainly does not help.”

Offshore wind: the potential of the Black Sea

Latvia is not the only country Ukraine is cooperating with. At the end of October, wind energy associations from Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Georgia initiated the creation of the Black Sea Offshore Wind Energy Federation (BASOFWED).

“The Recovery Plan of Ukraine until 2032 does not set specific goals for the development of offshore wind energy,” underlines UWEA’s Chairman of the Board. “At the same time, it should be noted that according to the World Bank estimates, Ukraine has one of the best technical potentials for the development of offshore wind energy in the Black Sea among all countries in the Black Sea region. The theoretical technical potential of offshore wind energy in the Black Sea and shallow waters of Ukraine is as much as 250 GW.”

He mentions that Ukraine’s Black Sea territorial waters have significant potential for the country’s energy system decarbonisation, renewable hydrogen production and economic development of local communities.

“According to the researchers conducted by the Renewable Energy Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, with average annual electricity generation of offshore wind amounting to 984 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), Ukraine could provide an average annual production of 19.5 million tons of green hydrogen by electrolysis,” Mr Konechenkov explains.

A post-war reconstruction built on wind power

The REPowerEU targets call for increasing the total wind capacity from the current 190 GW of wind energy to 510 GW by 2030. So, what can we concretely expect from wind power in the post-war recovery of Ukraine?

“Ukraine, as part of the European energy system, has to the scale-up deployment of wind power in line with European energy trends. We have no other options,” says Mr Konechenkov. “The rapid expansion of wind and solar is key to increasing Ukraine’s energy security.”

As the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed once, “Ukraine is capable of becoming a key partner of the European Union for the purposes of decarbonisation. We will become one of the main suppliers of green hydrogen and green electricity in the EU.”

Andriy Konechenkov recalls that the Ukraine Recovery Plan by 2032 presented by the Ukrainian government provides for the construction of 5 to 7 GW of wind and solar and an additional 30 GW of green energy capacity for renewable hydrogen production by 2032.

Ukraine: a green electricity exporter

And there is another important role for Ukraine to play: not only as a producer but as an exporter of renewable electricity. Still, many barriers need to be overcome.

“The Fourth energy package of the EU Clean Energy for all Europeans should become our guide in reconstructing and reforming the Ukrainian energy system,” believes Mr Konechenkov. “Work on its implementation in Ukraine should begin now. We should create a legislative framework for RES producers to sell electricity under corporate PPAs (direct sale of electricity from the producer to the consumer) and export it independently. We also need Guarantees of Origin legislation to be introduced in the country. Since 2019, the year when the law on RES auctions passed Ukraine’s Parliament, the RES market has been waiting for RES auctions to be conducted. Our government should finally resolve the financial crisis artificially created in the RES market and settle the payments with RES producers.”

Also, LWEA’s Mr Galviņš admits to having been a fan of Ukraine for over 20 years.

“We can see that Ukraine has a huge wind energy potential,” he says. “Whether it will become an energy exporting country, will depend on policymakers and the goals they set. Would it be theoretically possible? I think for sure. The barriers seem to have been slowly reduced, even though the same bans on land lease contracts with a maximum term of 5 years were already abolished. Finding a balance between the need to install new capacities and the values of nature could certainly become a problem. Insufficient network capacity, etc. other typical industry problems. But surely they will be solved and if our help is needed, we will certainly provide it.”

Russia’s invasion has highlighted the urgent need for the whole of Europe to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Building back better has been the motto of the EU for a while now and it is even more true for Ukraine.

“We should take this calamitous opportunity for transition to green, homegrown sustainable energy from renewables,” Mr Konechenkov concludes. “We should restore the Ukrainian energy system with two main goals in mind: energy independence of the country and decarbonisation. The post-war recovery of Ukraine should be based on renewables with wind power at its core. It is important to concentrate on building an entirely new structure of the Ukrainian post-war energy system rather than trying to rebuild the destroyed one.”

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