Wartime heating season. Interview

September 15, 2022

With autumn at the door, the issue of heating for households becomes critical not only in Ukraine but also in Europe. Russia continues its gas blackmail and cut fuel supplies to the EU countries. The Kremlin is confident that the fear of a cold winter will make Europeans less supportive of Ukraine. But so far, the blackmail has not worked, even despite the rallies that took place in some EU countries, demanding immediate negotiations with Moscow on restoration of gas deliveries. Europe is sure that these protests were organised by pro-Russian forces.

Ukraine also thinks how to survive the coming winter, especially after the events of September 11, when the Russians fired missiles at infrastructure facilities, leaving 6 regions partially or completely without electricity and water. Obviously, this will not be the last shelling of critical infrastructure.

KyivPost spoke with Volodymyr Omelchenko, Razumkov Centre energy programmes director, about the 2022–23 heating season, and how Ukrainians should get ready for it. 

What does the Zaporizhia NPP shutdown mean for Ukraine? What adverse effects may it have?

This nuclear power plant has been working almost at the minimum of its capacity recently. Only the sixth unit worked to meet the needs of the station — cooling of nuclear fuel in the holding zones, the active zone, and other equipment.

Before the war, all the six units were operational. ZNPP accounts for 45% of the total capacity of Ukrainian NPPs and 20% of the total available power generation in Ukraine.

Nuclear power generation covered more than 50% of the balance structure before the war, and now, about 70%. Given all this, as well as the fact that the ZNPP is the largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine and Europe, its shutdown has certainly compromised the stability and reliability of our energy system and may also compromise Ukraine’s ability to export electricity in the autumn and winter period. 

It should be emphasised however that in the conditions of the Russian nuclear blackmail, cold shutdown of ZNPP is the safest mode of the reactors’ operation, keeping in mind the violation of its physical integrity.

The unification of our energy system with the European one, which took place last March, will not help much, since it can substitute only 300 MW, and the European electricity is much more expensive than ours.

All Ukrainians wonder if our energy sector will be able to heat the Ukrainian homes in winter

Today, our gas storages have about 13.5 BCM of natural gas, plus about 2 million tons of coal, and by the beginning of the heating season on October 15, we will reach normal indicators for both gas and coal, so there are no big problems here.

The biggest problem lies in the damaged energy facilities, along with those located in the zone of occupation or hostilities. We cannot use up to 50% of these capacities. At the same time, electricity consumption fell by 30-35% due to military operations, which significantly offsets a large part of the lost capacities.

Heat supply will be different in different regions. The greatest risks exist for the frontline regions: the east, the south, since a lot of infrastructure has been destroyed — about 300 boiler houses, many power grids, substations, generating capacities.

On Sunday, September 11, a Russian missile strike caused a blackout in some regions. Do you think that this is not the last such case, and Russia will continue to attack critical infrastructure? How should Ukraine get ready for that? 

Little depends on residents here. All pin hope to the authorities, to provide efficient air defence, as well as repair crews, which must be well funded, equipped and provided with all they need — the staff, equipment, spare parts — so that they can immediately repair power lines, substations, etc. In addition, diesel generators and mobile boiler houses are being procured all over Ukraine.

I think that this year, provision of thermal energy will present a more serious problem than electricity.

Will the prices of electricity and gas rise for Ukrainians in winter?

For households, gas and electricity prices will not rise this winter, because the government has made a decision to this end, that these prices will not rise during the war.

From the market viewpoint, this is wrong, prices should not be set administratively, but in this situation — under martial law — it is a forced political decision. Even the EU is now thinking about the introduction of price caps during this major energy crisis. They also allocate hundreds of billions euros in subsidies to both households and businesses in connection with the Russian energy blackmail.

Hence, until the war is over, liberalisation of the gas and electricity markets in Ukraine is out of the question.

What will happen to our gas transportation system, given that the EU has already partially refused from Russian gas?

Ukraine should get ready for a zero gas transit via our territory. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on the domestic market, in the first place. We should use our underground gas storage facilities more efficiently, including for European companies, because we have a great potential here. Our gas storages are only 50% full.

Is it necessary to develop "green" energy in Ukraine, to feel protected against energy problems?

It is necessary to put an end to the financing deficit, because at the moment, our whole renewable energy sector is bankrupt, that is why investors are fleeing Ukraine.

Therefore, it is necessary to comply with the provisions of the Law of Ukraine "On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Improving the Conditions for Promotion of Electricity Generation from Alternative Energy Sources" and repay the investors' debts, so that the advance of "green energy" is not stopped entirely.

However, in wartime, "green" energy will not help much. The main thing is simply to maintain the investors’ confidence, so that they wish to invest after the war. This is important, because after the war, we will diversify energy sources, reduce coal consumption, meet our commitments to the EU regarding the energy sector decarbonisation and climate change management.

Do you predict a cold, that is, unheated winter in Europe? How can Europe defend itself?

There will be some shortage of fuel, primarily natural gas, approximately 20–25 BCM. However, they are diversifying their gas supplies: from Qatar, the USA, Azerbaijan, Norway, and Algeria.

European gas storages are 83% full, and by November 1, this figure will exceed 90%. Therefore, for the EU, the problem will lie not in the shortage of gas but in its high price. For Europeans, this is more of a psychological problem.

The former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson blamed his predecessors for abandoning nuclear energy. Germany followed suit under Chancellor Angela Merkel. Does Ukraine need nuclear energy, in your opinion?

Ukraine cannot provide itself with electricity without nuclear energy. Of course, we do need it, but using new technologies, such as small nuclear plants. Indeed, it is better to have nuclear plants than to use coal. 

Say, Holtec plans to build small modular nuclear reactors with a nominal capacity of up to 200 MW in Ukraine. However, so far this issue is only under consideration. This is a really promising direction, as is the use of fast neutron reactors.



Volodymyr Omelchenko

Director, Energy Programmes

Born in 1967 in Kyiv

Education: Kyiv Politechnic Institute, Department of Chemical Engineering (1992)

Author of over 50 scientific works and op-ed publications. Took part in development and implementation of international energy projects and scientific research in international energy policy


1992 – 1996 — worked in different positions in the mechanical engineering industry

1997 – 1998 — Head Expert of the Division of Oil, Gas and Petroleum Refining Industry of the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine

1998 – 2003 — Naftohaz Ukrayiny National Joint-Stock Company, in Charge of Oil Transportation Section

2004 – 2007 — Chief Consultant at the National Institute of International Security Problems of Ukraine’s NSDC

since February, 2007 — Leading Expert, Razumkov Centre. Director of Energy Programmes since 2013

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