Ukraine power companies warn of continuing electricity outages

Ukraine’s state energy utility has said rolling blackouts will continue, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy telling citizens they are consuming more electricity than is available and the director of one domestic power company warning that outages will probably last until March.

“Ukraine’s power system still has not fully recovered from the six waves of [Russian] missile strikes and cannot operate at full capacity,” electricity group Ukrenergo wrote on Telegram late on Monday, adding there would be further blackouts on Tuesday.

In his regular night-time address, Zelenskyy appealed to regional authorities and local communities to encourage residents to reduce their energy use.

Regular barrages of Russian missile and drone attacks over the past six weeks have specifically targeted Ukraine’s power plants and other critical infrastructure, disabling around half of the country’s generation capacity as it heads into winter.

The rising concern over how to keep the country’s power grid functioning comes as EU officials warned that despite efforts to ramp up supplies of equipment, generators and other systems, the bloc is struggling to keep pace with Kyiv’s needs given Moscow’s attacks.

“We are in continuous touch with the commission and other member states to provide as much support as possible [to Kyiv],” said a senior EU diplomat involved in efforts to supply Ukraine with critical infrastructure. “But each week it gets more and more difficult to find the equipment that is needed, given the situation as it is developing.”

Serhiy Kovalenko, chief executive at Ukrainian power provider Yasno, said that “Ukrainians will most likely have to live with blackouts until at least the end of March”.

The best-case scenario, Kovalenko said, was there are no new Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and “the power deficit can be evenly distributed throughout the country.”

However, if Russia continues its missile and drone barrages on the power grid, he warned, Ukraine “will have to use not only hourly stabilisation shutdowns, but also emergency shutdowns, during which there may be no light for a very long time.”

At a summit of EU leaders in October, the bloc agreed to increase humanitarian support for Ukraine, including critical infrastructure, through the winter.

That came after Poland circulated a detailed inventory of urgently required equipment — including transformers, generators, circuit breakers and power cables — to repair infrastructure damaged by Russian missile and drone assaults.

“The continued bombardment of Ukraine’s energy sector has led to the destruction of key infrastructure,” the EU diplomat added. “We need to mobilise more member states.”

Ukrainian authorities said last week that more than 10mn people, or about a quarter of the country’s population, were without power following weeks of Russian attacks.

The number and length of power outages across the country, including in the capital, Kyiv, have increased in recent days, as temperatures plunged below zero and the first snow fell in several regions.

Source: Financial Times