In Ukraine, wind turbines against Russian missiles

In Ukraine, wind turbines against Russian missiles

A destroyed power pole in eastern Ukraine. Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP

Despite the constant destruction, the Ukrainians are presenting their power grid of the future in Davos.

While war has been raging in their country for almost eleven months, the Ukrainians are already building the power grid of the future with a spirit of resistance that is respected around the world. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ukrainian politicians and business leaders share their plans with partners and allies.

“Victory will lead us to rebuilding a green, zero-carbon country,” says Oleksiy Chernisov in his perfect English. The former Minister for Territorial Development, who exposed the destruction of infrastructure to Le Figaro at the beginning of the war, has just been appointed head of the Naftogaz gas company. Of course, he concedes, our immediate goal is to survive and win the war. Since October, the Russian military has intensified shelling of energy infrastructure. The damage is considerable. Rostyslav Shurma, adviser to President Zelenskyy, does not want to make detailed figures public. Around 70% of the population currently has electricity. That leaves almost a third of them without, children have to do their homework by candlelight, as Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska, said in Davos on Tuesday.

Wind turbines in Russian hands

Oleksiy Chernisov has set a goal to stop importing gas and produce more in the country. His colleague Maxim Timchenko, head of the private energy company DTek, is betting on wind energy. At present, 90% of the wind capacity in the occupied East Sea of ‚Äč‚ÄčAzov region is in Russian hands, he explains. DTek is in the process of installing 6 megawatt (6 MW) turbines in the southwest of the country. Existing wind turbines provide targets for Russian artillery less convenient than massive thermal power plants. “It’s more decentralized, harder to attack,” agrees Republican MP Darrell Issa of California, a strong supporter of Ukrainians who is meeting with them in Davos.

DTek receives support from Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas. His boss Henrik Andersen considers DTek’s Maxim Timchenko his “friend” whom he will not forget after a year 2022. “Wind power brings independence, it works and it’s feasible in Ukraine,” says Andersen. He is convinced that in a few years Ukraine could provide 30 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power, i.e. the power of around thirty Fessenheim-type nuclear reactors. Rostyslav Shurma believes his country can grow from a current renewable capacity of 3 GW to 10 GW within two years. “We can buy agricultural land very quickly, speed up the connection to the network and make all processes transparent,” the consultant continues.

SEE ALSO – War in Ukraine: EU will support Kyiv “as long as necessary”.

“Most of the money comes at the end of the war”

The latter dreams of his country as an “energy hub” that can export electricity and hydrogen to Europe. Since being connected to the European electricity grid, Ukraine has happened to be exporting electricity in the middle of the war. In order to modernize its infrastructure, the country needs investments of 40 billion euros. The presidential adviser knows full well that “most of the money won’t come before the end of the war.” She expects the private sector to contribute up to 90%. It will be necessary to reduce corruption, which will persist even after it has been reduced, the American representative acknowledges. He is ready to support Ukraine for as long as necessary. “But, he warns, we must not put the cart before the horse: as long as the infrastructure can be destroyed, private investors will not come.” While waiting to become a zero-carbon energy hub, Ukraine must win the war.