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Daniel Sosa

Critical energy aid needed for Ukraine to get through this winter

Amidst the Russia’s war of aggression, the Ukrainian energy system has persistently been damaged and occupied. During the first winter of the war, Russia occupied thermal power plants and the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Moreover, it mainly attacked the transmission and distribution networks, leading to recurrent power outages. Over the past months, however, a change in the Russian strategy has been seen.

  • Ukraine
NL 188 | June 2024
Energy and Climate

The attacks have concentrated on the Ukrainian power generation assets. With the supply-demand mismatch and severely damaged district heating systems, the danger of a humanitarian crisis being unleashed during the winter is rapidly growing. To dampen the effects of these attacks, international aid directed to the protection, decentralisation, and reconstruction generation capacities is paramount.


Most of generation capacity in Ukraine is centralized in big nuclear, fossil and hydroelectrical power plants. However, in recent years decentralized renewable energy sources have been flourishing and made up for 17% of total 58.92 GW (including active and mothballed) generation capacity in 2021.
In 2022, Ukraine synchronized its electricity grid with the continental European one, and Ukrenergo, the Ukrainian transmission system operator, later became a full member of the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E). However, constraints in domestic interconnectivity prevent imported power from being consumed in central or eastern regions.
Similarly to power generation, heating supply is centralized in some Ukrainian cities. There, district heating systems supply the population with both, space and water heating, and power various industrial processes.      In 2014 the first Russian-caused disruptions to power generation occurred in the context of the partial occupation of Eastern Ukraine. The conflict yielded a disruption in coal production that, in turn, resulted in fuel shortages for coal-fired power plants.

Russian attacks to energy installations in Ukraine

With the full-scale invasion in 2022, Russia started to target energy infrastructure. Generation facilities were occupied, and transmission and distribution networks were attacked and shelled, leading to severe power outages. In March 2024, Russia changed the strategy. Power generation facilities became increasingly the target of attacks. Generators and turbines were irreconcilably damaged, district heating facilities were attacked, and the gas infrastructure was struck.

Due to these attacks, generation capacity has significantly decreased. Given the current state of the generation fleet, Ukrenergo forecasts power generation to reach only 14.6 GW next winter in hours of peak demand leaving a 4.4 GW supply-demand mismatch.

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Centralized district heating generation coming from heat plants and combined heat and power (CHP) plants has also been targeted. The situation is especially dire in Kharkiv, the second most populous city in Ukraine, where more than 50% in district heating capacity has been lost. Heating systems in cities like Odessa and Sumy have also been substantially under attack.

Economic and social impacts

Russian attacks have had a strong effect on power consumption in Ukraine. Due to the gap between demand and supply, DTEK, Ukraine’s largest energy company, sees a worst-case-scenario of facing up to 20 hours a day without power supply if action fails to be taken. Damages in district heating, especially in Kharkiv, add further layers of complexity where 1.3 million people would face limitations in the heating system.

This has already left traces on the macroeconomic level.

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The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has adjusted its GDP forecasting downward as result of the energy deficit. GDP is projected to grow only by 3.0% (down from 3.6%) in 2024 and 5.3% (down from 5.8%) in 2025.


Ukraine’s partners dispose over a number of tools to dampen the effects of these challenges.

Protecting the standing energy infrastructure. Ukrenergo’s top priority is securing resources to protect and restore energy facilities. They are seeking additional air defense systems and support for constructing protection for electricity, gas and industrial facilities. Additional aid can be provided in several forms, including financial aid and equipment for Ukrainian energy companies and the state budget.

Rollout of decentralised energy supply. To stabilise its power system for the coming winter and to close the gap of 4.4 GW, decentralised energy supply is key.

For example, Ukraine is targeting to install ca. 1.4 GW of highly flexible power plants and 1.1 GW of biofuel combined heat and power (CHP). According to Ukrenergo, there is a total of 70 high-manoeuvrability power plants and 55 biofuel generators required to meet to restore system stability and meet power demands. The estimated cost for these investments would be USD 5.4 bn. The new generation capacity will be deployed using small generators and turbines ranging from 1-5 MW in cities to up to 100 MW in industrial facilities. According to USAID, small gas turbines, typically used in the aviation industry, can be procured within weeks. While generators might take a few months to deliver and install, they offer efficiency and can be placed underground, and can run on various fuels. Moreover, they can be adapted for combined heat and power generation, which could replace district heating in regions such as Kharkiv and Dnipro.

Solar PVs installation will also continue to play a key role.

Storage capacity. Additionally, preparing for the recovery of power demand, Ukrenergo is targeting a short- to medium-term rollout of 8.3 GW of RES and 1.8 GW of storage capacity. Support can be provided in kind, financially and as capacity building. Several experienced German companies in distributed energy generation are well-positioned to supply this equipment.

Increase power imports. Increasing imports from the EU is possible without expanding transmission infrastructure. However, the impact on grid stability must be assessed. If ENTSO-E approves, transmission capacity could technically be increased by 2.2 GW. However, due to limitations in domestic transmission infrastructure, the benefits would primarily be seen in western regions.

Provision of spare parts for rebuilding coal, gas, and hydropower plants is fundamental. This includes turbines, generators, and transformers. In this instance, used equipment from closed German coal plants may help. Ukrhydroenergo is already seeking international aid for hydropower restoration, with ongoing EBRD-funded projects.

Outlook and conclusions

Following the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, an investment guide for energy infrastructure was launched, but did not address the immediate need for decentralized, flexible generation. In response, the G7+ Energy Coordination Group announced over USD 1 bn in additional support for energy infrastructure, focusing on decentralized generation. Despite this, support is still short of the USD 5.4 billion Ukraine needs.

Overall, urgent action is required to address the 4.4 GW supply-demand gap and restore basic energy services. This can be achieved by installing flexible power plants and CHP systems, and importing generators, turbines, and electricity. For this, swift international assistance is key. Failure to act will impede economic recovery and worsen the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine – the clock is ticking.

Daniel Sosa is Analyst at the Low Carbon Ukraine Project. This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. The project is implemented by BE Berlin Economics GmbH.

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