Vilnius/Warsaw (Reuters) – A giant transformer built in Ukraine in the 1980s and now disused is being dusted off and ready to go here in Lithuania. He will probably go to Romania in the next few weeks and from there go home to Ukraine.
What else is needed to restore Ukraine’s energy system, which has been damaged by Russia’s repeated missile attacks, according to Lokas Matsiuris, chief executive of Litogrid, which manages Lithuania’s power grid. there are some left.
“The Ukrainian side is telling us that it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work or if it’s broken, because we can fix it,” Matthew Liss told Reuters.
While Western countries scramble to supply the Ukrainian army with weapons and ammunition, European and other regional nations are rushing to supply transformers, switchboards, cables and even diesel fuel to bring lighting and heating to Ukraine during the ‘winter.
Ukraine has presented European countries with a list of some 10,000 urgently needed items to maintain electricity supplies.
The main aid actors are the countries of the former Soviet bloc and the former communist countries. It is geographically close and the power grid in the region still has equipment compatible with the Ukrainian side.
Matthew Liss says the most needed are autotransformers like the one they are shipping to Ukraine. It costs about 2 million euros (about 280 million yen) and weighs almost 200 tons. It takes two weeks to remove the detachable parts and drain the oil for transportation.
“We are renewing our electricity grid. Anything we dismantle will be sent to Ukraine,” said Matthew Liss.
Latvia, which borders Lithuania to the north, was once part of the former Soviet bloc. The country also plans to ship five large transformers to Ukraine, two of which will soon be ready for shipment.
Since early October, Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have caused power outages, leaving millions of residents enduring freezing temperatures with little or no heating.
Moscow says the attacks are justified as part of a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine. Ukraine and the West see it as a ruthless and indiscriminate attack aimed at civilians to demoralize and weaken the other side.
European organizations, countries such as Azerbaijan, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and even individual companies have already sent large numbers of devices to Ukraine.
“We are asking for help from around the world to replace the equipment destroyed by the Russian attack,” said Yaroslav Demchenkov, Ukraine’s deputy energy minister.
Demchenkov said that while Ukraine managed to avoid a “total collapse” of its transmission and distribution system, the disruption was huge. Nearly 80 percent of the Kyiv region lost power for two days this week after a Russian missile and drone strike.
Given the urgency and severity of the response, it is impossible to estimate the total amount of aid from each country. But tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars worth of transformers and generators have already been shipped to Ukraine.
One of the challenges is finding the right equipment to meet Ukraine’s needs. As a member of the former Soviet bloc, Ukraine’s power system is not always compatible with the standards of other countries, especially its northern neighbors.
Company officials say the supply of generators is not keeping pace with demand. It can take months to deliver the most needed equipment.
“Unfortunately, the much-needed high-voltage transformers have not arrived yet,” Oleksandr Kharchenko, head of the Kyiv Energy Industry Research Center, told Ukrainian state television on Thursday.
Harchenko says there are some units available to ship worldwide, but they’ll arrive before February.
Lithuanian grid operators have already shipped hundreds of small transformers to Ukraine. It is a device that steps down the voltage during the transmission of energy from the power plant to the end user. Gas suppliers also send spare parts to Ukraine.
Poland’s state-owned energy company Tauron said last week it had sent 21 kilometers of cables, nine drums, 129 insulators, 39 transformers and 11 surge circuit breakers to Ukraine. Spokesman Lukas Zimnok described it as a “gift”.
Some of this assistance was in response to Ukrainian requests, but private Ukrainian companies have ordered replacement equipment to keep their businesses running.
Zheltsy Kovalik, sales manager at generator maker EPS Systems, said the company has received many orders from Ukraine, some of them for dozens of large machines at once.
“As demand for generators increases globally due to the energy crisis, it is becoming difficult to protect the motors used in our generators,” Kowalik says. EPS Systems, which employs around 100 people, has been unable to keep up with demand and has rejected some orders from Ukraine.
Volodymyr Kudritsky, chairman of the board of Ukrainian power transmission and distribution company Uklenergo, said differences in standards were making it difficult to procure urgently needed transformers. Typical power lines in Ukraine have voltages of 750 and 330 kV, while in neighboring Poland, for example, they are 400 and 220 kV.
Switches, circuit breakers and circuit breakers are also indispensable. Ukrenergo employs around 70 restoration teams, totaling around 1,000 people, who work around the clock to restore power, as well as using subcontractors.
Electricity consumption in Ukraine is around 16 gigawatts at its peak. Up to 10% can be imported from neighboring countries’ energy systems, but so far the supply from Romania has been negligible, with Poland’s interconnections damaged in recent attacks only to be restored.
Ukraine’s main assets, therefore, are reserves of equipment in anticipation of a possible invasion and assistance from other countries.
Prime Minister Denis Shmyhali said earlier this month that 500,000 small generators had already been imported by Ukrainian companies, but 17,000 large generators were needed for industrial use to survive the winter.
Such generators are especially important in critical infrastructure such as hospitals and water pumping stations.
One of the bodies that oversees energy assistance to Ukraine from European countries is the Secretariat of the European Energy Community. It is an international organization established by the European Union and includes eight countries that wish to join the EU.
More than 60 private companies in 20 European countries have joined the support, according to director general Arthur Lorkowski, with more than 800 tons of equipment already shipped to Ukraine and dozens more shipments planned. .
With stocks of equipment in Europe’s national electricity grids running low, Lorkowski expects the private sector to become even more important in meeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure demand.
Talks are also underway at the top levels of the Group of Seven (G7) to see if companies in the United States, Canada and Japan can also get help, he said.
“Then it will be on a scale that will allow us to proceed effectively with Ukraine’s recovery,” Lorkowski told Reuters.
Officials said the first US shipment of electrical equipment worth $13 million had left for Ukraine to help rebuild the infrastructure. Two more flights will be leaving shortly. Ukraine is also in talks with Japan.
Lorkowski and other officials predict that the hardware may have to be designed and manufactured from scratch, and any such changes would take time and money.
Ukrainian officials, who want to integrate the Ukrainian economy with the Western one, are considering a complete overhaul of the energy sector, but for now their top priority is to repair the current electricity grid.
Some of the imported equipment is said to be a gift, but other countries and international financial institutions are also providing loans and grants to help the Ukrainian government restore infrastructure.
Olena Osmolovska, director of the reform assistance team at Ukraine’s Energy Ministry, said that fully restoring the energy system would cost tens of billions of dollars.