Since September in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 334 critical pieces of energy infrastructure used for the supply of heat have been damaged or destroyed in Ukraine: 322 steam plants (310 damaged and 12 destroyed) as well as 12 thermal power plants.
After the massive attacks on October 10th and 11th, a third of the country's critical energy infrastructure has been destroyed. Export of electricity has been suspended entirely.
"The next winter will be the most difficult since Ukraine gained its independence," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said back in June. The government says the country’s storages are full with gas and coal.
The head of the Odesa Military’s local government life support system management, Vladimir Karpych, told Katapult-Ukraine that about 15 billion cubic meters of gas have already been pumped into Ukrainian storage facilities - this amount of fuel will be sufficient to get through the heating season.
The government of Ukraine plans to pump another 4 billion cubic meters of liquid fuel into it - the so-called "untouchable reserve" - to have in the event of an extreme emergency.
More than 2,2 million tons of coal have been amassed in the country’s warehouses, and there are plans to buy an additional 0.3 million tons by the beginning of the heating season. According to the Ukrainian prime minister, Denis Shmyhal, this sets the record for the largest amount of coal stored for the winter season.
According to Vladimir Karpych, this year all commercial and residential heat suppliers have received orders to reduce gas consumption by 10% in order to conserve the supply and save money. This means that Ukrainian homes could be seeing drops of indoor temperatures by several degrees. Problems presented by the coming heating season
1. Power grid overload
In every Ukrainian town and city there is a central heating system that is powered by coal and gas. It is expected that this year the system will not be able to generate enough heat to keep all people warm so Ukrainians are going to make more use of electric heaters to compensate for it. That will create additional pressure on the Ukrainian power grid.
"Now, all electrical grids in the country must be checked so they would be able to function in this circumstance," said Vladimir Karpych.
2. Mobile boilers and generators
Russia will continue to attack the infrastructure of Ukraine, the head of the life support system department of the Odessa military local government believes. The official said that in the event of attacks on heat and power facilities, the Ukrainian government will use special mobile boilers, power generators, pumps, and water purifiers to ensure the provision of necessary survival services during the winter.
1.4 billion UAH (38 million USD) has been allocated for this. About 80 mobile boilers will be purchased, which will be at the disposal of the State Emergency Service. In the event of an attack on a heat supply company, rescuers will deliver and install these heating stations within 5-6 hours.
Heat will be supplied in a sufficient volume to ensure that people do not freeze. Boilers can be connected in series, with their capacity ranging from 1 MW to 6 MW. If a large boiler house is damaged, the plan is to have enough in supply to quickly replace it.
Plans have also been developed for evacuation of the population in the event of an emergency in which sufficient essential services cannot be rendered quickly enough.
“The Russian army is not fighting with the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They are at war with the Ukrainian people. They do not care that children, the disabled, and the elderly might freeze. They are ready to obliterate people just because they are Ukrainians. This is the philosophy of the new fascism. They are trying to destroy one of the most peaceful nationalities in the world just because they want to,” says Vladimir Karpich.
3. Destroyed or captured heat and electricity enterprises
Since February 24, Russia has seized and occupied the territories where 35% of Ukraine’s electricity is generated.
For instance the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, which is located in occupied Energodar, is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and the ninth largest in the world. Its capacity is more than 6 GW. Before the war, it provided almost a quarter of the country’s electricity. Now it is disconnected from Ukraine’s energy grid and not contributing to the energy supply, but also has not been transferred to the Russian energy network.
The Luhansk TPP was completely destroyed. Even if the Luhansk region were to be quickly de-occupied, there would still be no heating season this winter due to the fact that the Russian army has completely destroyed the plant’s critical infrastructure.
In the temporarily occupied territories, in addition to ZNPP and TPP, there are up to 30% of Ukraine’s solar power plants and about 80% of its wind farms. Most of the "green" power plants are concentrated in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. According to the Deputy Minister of Energy, Yuriy Vlasenko, all wind turbines in the occupied areas have been stopped.
The Ukrainians have already begun to prepare for the heating season well in advance. For example, the demand for oil electric heaters had increased by 47 times over the summer. A significant increase in demand is also observed for all categories of electric heaters: electric convectors, thermal panels, infrared heaters, fan heaters, and other home heating appliances.
Sales of wood stoves and solid fuel equipment have more than tripled. In addition to heaters, Ukrainians have also been buying generators and other alternative power sources to protect themselves from possible power outages.