A giant and disused electric transformer that was built in 1980 in the present-day Ukraine, has been reconstructed in Lithuania and is now ready for shipping. The transformer will be shipped by sea from Ukraine to Romania, and possibly back to Ukraine in the next few weeks.
Rokas Masiulis (head of Lithuania’s electricity grid) said that his company was looking for any other items Ukraine may need in order to fix the damage caused by repeated Russian missile strikes to its electricity network.
He told Reuters that the Ukrainians said they were fine with receiving anything as long as it is not broken or in working order and they have the ability to fix it themselves.
The West is rushing to replace Kyiv’s arms and ammunition stocks, but Europe and other countries are racing to provide transformers, switches, cables, and diesel generators that will heat and light the country during winter.
Ukraine shared with European countries a list of approximately 10,000 things it needs urgently to keep power.
Ex-members of the Soviet Union, the ex-Communist bloc play an important role due to their close proximity. Some grids in this region have still hardware compatible with Ukraine.
Masiulis stated that the most urgent need for automobile-transformers was the one for Ukraine. It is worth approximately 2 million euros (2.13 million USD). The vehicle weighs in at nearly 200 tons and required two weeks for removal of all removable parts.
He said, “We are updating our grid and all that we take down will be sent to Ukraine.”
Latvia, Lithuania’s northern neighbor and once part of Soviet Union, announced that it would send five large transformers (two of which are ready to move quickly) to Ukraine.
Russian forces attacked Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in October. This has caused blackouts that have forced millions to live with sub-zero temperatures and little heating.
Moscow claims that the strike is part of a “special military operation” designed to weaken Ukrainian forces. The West and Kyiv see the barrage to be a deliberate attack on civilians in order to weaken their spirit.
Numerous pieces of equipment have been sent to Ukraine by European countries, including France, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as individual companies.
Yaroslav Demchenkov (Ukraine’s deputy energy minister) stated in December that “we are looking all over the globe for replacements of equipment destroyed during the attack.”
He said that Ukraine was able to prevent a “total breakdown” of its power distribution system. However, disruptions can be severe. After Russian drone and missile attacks, around 80% of Kyiv was without power for two days.
It is difficult to estimate the value of all the support given the scattered and urgent nature of the responses. However, transformers and generators valued at tens or hundreds of millions have been shipped.
Finding the correct hardware for Ukraine is a challenge. It is a former Soviet Union member, so its power system may not be compatible with others, even neighbours to north.
Officials from the company stated that generator supply cannot meet demand. This is especially true considering some critical deliveries may take several months.
On Wednesday, Oleksandr Kharchenko (director at Energy Industry Research Center in Kyiv) stated that “Unfortunately high-voltage Transformers which are most needed by us” was the reason.
Although he said that there was a small number of them in the world, he didn’t expect them to be shipping before February.
Lithuania’s transmission grid operator sent thousands of transformers to reduce voltage travel from power station to end user. It also supplied parts to Ukraine with its gas grid.
Last week, Tauron, the Polish state-controlled utility, said it had shipped 21 km (13 miles), of wire and nine drums with 129 insulators. Lukasz Zimnoch, its spokesperson, described these items as gifts.
While some deliveries may be made in response to Ukrainian needs, private companies order other supplies to maintain their businesses.
Jerzy Kowalik is the commercial director at Polish generator manufacturer EPS System. He said that the company received many orders for large power generators from Ukraine.
Kowalik stated that there is a shortage of engines in his company, despite a worldwide boom for generators caused by the energy crisis. The firm, which employs around 100 people, cannot keep up with demand. It is also turning down requests from Ukraine.
Volodymyr Kudrystski is chairman of Ukrenergo’s management board. He stated that sourcing transformers for urgent needs was difficult because Ukraine has standard power transmission lines at 750 kilovolts and 335 kV. They are, however, 400 kV or 220 kV in Poland.
Circuit breakers, switches, and disconnectors are essential as 70 Ukrenergo crew members, which is about 1000 people, are available to repair power outages and hire subcontractors.
During peak hour, Ukraine uses 16 Gigawatts (or 16.3 Gigawatts) of electricity. Although it can import as much as 10% from its neighbouring systems (lines linking to Poland and Romania were destroyed in attacks recent years, they have been restored. Romania has only marginal resources.
This means that Ukraine has access to its equipment reserves, which were built in anticipation of an invasion and sent from overseas.
Denys Shmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine, stated this month that while 500,000 small generators were imported from Ukrainian companies by Denys Shmyhal, the country still needs 17,000 industrial or large generating units for the winter.
These were especially important for vital infrastructure like hospitals and water pumps stations.
The Energy Community Secretariat is one of the organizations that oversees energy support in Europe. It was established by the European Union, eight EU member countries and eight aspiring EU members.
Artur Lorkowski (director) said that more than 60 companies from Europe and 20 countries had been involved. 800 tonnes of equipment has already been sent, while dozens more are planned.
Lorkowski predicted that the private sector would become increasingly important as Ukraine struggles to meet its energy infrastructure requirements, as European state-owned power grids are reducing in number.
He said that talks are ongoing through the G7 in order to tap businesses in Japan, Canada, and the United States.
Lorkowski stated to Reuters that this would allow Lorkowski and his team the ability to make a significant impact in Ukraine.
Officials said that $13 million worth of U.S. equipment has already been delivered to Ukraine. Two more planeloads are expected to depart soon. Japan has been also in contact with Ukraine.
Lorkowski and other officials anticipated that hardware might need to be built and designed from scratch. However, such a change would take time and money.
Ukrainian officials want Ukraine to be integrated with Western Europe’s economy. However, they are looking at a massive overhaul of its energy sector. For now however, patching up the existing network remains a priority.
A lot of imported equipment was donated. International lending agencies and countries also offer loans and grants to assist Kyiv with repairs.
Olena Olmolovska (director of the reform support group at Ukraine’s energy ministry) stated that it would take tens to billions of dollars in order to restore full energy systems.