Energy transition in Ukraine: Promises, plans, forecasts

Incredible as it may seem given Russia’s attacks in recent months on energy infrastructure, Ukraine might soon be ready to start exporting electricity.

Despite the fact that the war against Russia’s invasion continues, the Ukrainian government is planning a post-war future for the energy sector. The Ministry of Energy recently announced an Energy Strategy for 2050, which is in addition to the two existing strategies for 2030 and 2035.

In the process of recovery, Ukraine will focus on the implementation of “green” projects. The country is ready to become one of the European centres of modern “green” energy. This was stated by President Volodymyr Zelensky during his speech at the Munich Security Conference in mid-February.

According to Zelensky, in the future, Ukraine will strive for diversity in the energy sector and the construction of energy storage facilities in Ukraine. “We consider it absolutely necessary to develop the potential for the diversification of energy production and electricity storage. These are new technologies that I want to work on together with the United States and Europe,” the president of Ukraine added.

Gas generation, in addition to nuclear, should be the basis for the development of the energy system of Ukraine, because it can balance unstable renewables in the future, according to energy experts in Ukraine. Even before the war, the shortage of balancing capacities reached 2 GW, which led to the “green-coal” paradox, when in order to balance the “clean” “green” generation, power transmitter Ukrenergo was forced to shut down nuclear power plants and balance the system with “dirty” coal-fired units.

Ukraine is the centre of Europe’s ‘green’ energy

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused enormous damage to Ukraine’s green energy sector. According to the Ukrainian Wind Energy Association, the aggression stopped the construction of projects with a total capacity of about 800 MW. According to estimates of the Ukrainian Association of Renewable Energy, about 40 per cent of alternative energy facilities are in the zone of active hostilities or occupation.

However, thanks to solar generation, Ukrainian power engineers have managed to balance the energy system. “Today, the power system produces enough to cover the amount of electricity that is consumed. This is thanks primarily to solar power plants. There is a lot of sunshine now,” said former Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine Ivan Plachkov.

Plachkov noted that in total, solar and hydropower now produce more than 2 GW of electricity in the country. Not a small share of this energy segment is provided by solar power plants at home, where the main driving force is the desire of consumers to ensure a stable supply of energy. Even before the war, there were over 45,000 home solar power plants in Ukraine with installed capacity of over 1.2 GW.

Andrei Gerus, head of the Committee on Fuel and Energy in parliament, believes that green energy can help to resume current exports. Also, the plan of post-war reconstruction and development foresees the construction of more than 30 GW of “green” energy capacities.

Previously, Minister of Energy Herman Galushchenko said that the share of electricity production from carbon-free sources will increase to 90 per cent by 2050. According to the Ukrainian minister, the state plans to build the energy system in accordance with the following principles: decentralisation, resistance to military challenges, the development of “green” energy and nuclear power.

“Our vision is the gradual replacement of thermal generating capacities, which have been most affected by Russian attacks, with modern carbon-free technologies,” Galushchenko said.

Investors ask Zelensky to boost construction of wind farms

“We must develop solar and wind energy,” Sergey Makogon, head of the Ukrainian Gas Transmission System Operator, said. But the development of wind farms in the coming years is under great question, as the most attractive regions for this are either in the zone of occupation or very close to the front lines, which makes implementation of such projects problematic.

At the same time, according to the Ukrainian Wind Energy Association, power companies can complete 300 to 500 MW of “green” energy capacity in the next few months, if the state provides them with an extension of guaranteed conditions of support for one to two years so that companies have time to finish building their facilities. Recently, the largest associations in the field of renewable energy in Ukraine addressed the president in writing with a request to ensure the soonest possible adoption of the relevant law.

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What about energy storage?

In the middle of February last year, shortly before the full-scale invasion, a law on the development of energy storage systems was passed, which created prerequisites for the development of energy storage technologies in Ukraine.

The law defined the notion of “energy storage” as an activity and marked the appearance of a new participant in the electric energy market — an energy storage facility operator. The law came into force in June 2022. In July, the National Commission, which carries out state regulation in the fields of energy and utilities, introduced licensing conditions for energy storage, adopted in accordance with the requirements of EU directives.

The adoption of the law and the approval of license conditions created the necessary conditions for the implementation of projects for the construction of energy storage systems.

Despite the lack of additional incentives in the legislation for operators of storage installations, given the payback period of such projects (five-six years), market experts expect new investments in the industry.

The head of the parliamentary energy committee Andriy Gerus said that Ukraine may soon face the issue of resuming the export of electricity. According to him, there has been no shortage of electricity in the energy system for over a week: a surplus has even emerged. On his Facebook page, Gerus wrote that Ukrainian power engineers may soon face a dilemma about where to dispose of surplus electricity and suggested that the government may allow electricity exports during daytime hours while keeping imports during evening hours, when there may be a potential shortage.

According to the head of the energy committee, this situation increases the urgency of introducing storage batteries that allow electricity to be stored during the day and dispensed to the grid in the evening. “So far, such technologies are quite expensive and necessary mechanisms of incentives. The Ukrainian government is working to find solutions,” he added. An industrial lithium-ion energy storage system was in fact put into operation in May 2021 in Energodar at the site of Zaporizhzhia thermal power plant. The energy storage system, created by the commercial company DTEK of oligarch Renat Akhmetov, was certified by Ukrenergo. At the moment, however, Zaporizhzhia is occupied by enemy troops and the fate of the equipment is unknown.

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