By Rostyslav Averchuk
Lviv,Ukraine, Jan 10 (EFE).- Temperatures in Ukraine have fallen below zero after several days of unusually warm weather, triggering power outages as the country’s energy infrastructure – severely damaged by repeated waves of Russian missile strikes – struggles to keep up with surging demand.
Although it will take months to repair the damage, Volodymyr Omelchenko, director of energy programs at Razumkov Centre think-tank, says that while the situation is complicated, Russia’s attempt to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure appears to have failed.
“Before the New Year, the damage to Ukraine’s energy system was growing faster than it could be repaired. Now, the situation has reversed,” Omelchenko tells Efe in an interview.
The main reason behind this recovery has been Ukraine’s improved air defense systems which have been strengthened thanks to much needed deliveries of weapons from its Western partners.
Thanks to those modern weapons, Ukrainian forces can now shoot down enemy most missiles and drones before they inflict major damage.
Other key factors have been the financial support and equipment (such as electricity transformers) that have been provided by international organizations, such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and states like France and Japan.
“Ukraine’s energy system is also being managed proactively,” says Omelchenko, adding that measures are taken before each wave of Russian attacks to minimize the damage and avoid the system collapsing.
Omelchenko believes the latter is what Russia has been hoping to achieve by primarily targeting the most vulnerable parts of electricity transmission links: to prevent power generated in one of the seven electricity generation regions from being transferred to another part of the national grid.
Ukraine’s strikes against military bases in Russia and its depleting stock of long-range missiles are also contributing to Moscow’s dwindling ability to maintain the frequency and scale of the attacks targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
“The Russians won’t be able to destroy our system”, says Omelchenko, adding that further Russian attacks would only lead to an even quicker depletion of their missile stock.
But he warned that more attacks cannot be ruled out, since Russia’s actions in Ukraine have not always been what a rational observer would expect.
Omelchenko believes the gap between demand and supply of electricity will remain at 25-30% until the end of the winter.
He predicts it will likely take up to a year to restore the system that saw over 45% of its generating capacity and more than 50% of high-voltage lines significantly damaged by Russian attacks.
“A long list of equipment with more than 100 positions on it is needed by Ukraine, with some of them to be produced in Ukraine and others to be delivered from abroad”, tells Omelchenko.
Some equipment will be very difficult to replace, he warns, as the old, Soviet-era electrical grid in Ukraine means that some of the items can only be procured in a handful of countries.
According to Omelchenko, “Ukraine will eventually have to reconstruct its system according to European standards, which would enable the use of more modern equipment, but it will take 5 to 10 years,” adding that that seems impossible as long as the war is still raging.
Widespread, targeted power cuts are being implemented across Ukraine, with most consumers spending between 8 and 14 hours a day without electricity in their homes, to cope with surging demand driven by the sudden drop in temperatures. EFE