President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on major business and "some media" to stop "spreading news about the lack of coal and gas" in Ukraine and threatened with severe punishment. He stated this in his video address on the evening of November 10.
Zelenskyy's words are directly related to heating tariffs in Ukraine, to electricity prices, and to the successful heating season 2021-2022.
Why Zelensky considers coal shortage artificial
According to him, there are "internal challenges" in Ukraine that "are usually created artificially." "Every year in the fall and winter, some oligarchic structures start a game called "artificial deficit." The bottom line is simple—the news about the lack of coal and gas is being spread, and the demand is growing, the price is increasing, and you and I have to pay," Zelensky believes.
The President is sure that it is better not to start "this game" this year. And he explains that "in addition to your "artificial deficit", our deficit is quite real—a deficit of patience. And when the state runs out of angelic patience, a hellish period begins for someone."
According to him, this also applies to large TV channels and some media outlets. Zelenskyy noted that energy security is no less a sensitive issue than war, and manipulation around it is no less a threat.
What statistics say about the coal shortage
According to the Ministry of Energy, as of November 10, there were no guaranteed (minimum) coal reserves at 10 TPPs:
- Rinat Akhmetov's DTEK group—six TPPs (Kurakhovska, Ladyzhynska, Dobrotvirska, Burshtynska, Zaporizka, Prydniprovska);
- state company Centrenergo—three TPPs (Zmiivska, Trypilska, Vuglegirska);
- private company Donbasenergo—one TPP (Slovianska).
Thus, the deficit is real, not imaginary. It is also difficult to understand Zelenskyy's words that "spreading information" about this shortage is driving up the demand for coal and its prices.
According to Ukrenergo, on November 9, the total coal reserves in the TPP warehouses were 447.9 thousand tons.
How does a coal shortage manifest itself
Problems with the coal reserves at Ukrainian thermal power plants became apparent in mid-July. At that time 11 power units were halted. According to Ukrenergo, on November 8, 23 power units of Ukrainian TPPs did not work due to lack of coal. 12 of them are the Centerenergo units.
Since October 26, the Ministry of Energy has stopped publishing forecasts for how many days coal will last for power plants.
Due to the shortage of coal, the Ministry of Energy plans to switch the units to work on expensive natural gas.
What is the reason for the coal shortage
Note that compliance with guaranteed coal reserves is one of the conditions for licensing activities of power generating companies. It is mandatory for every company. And industry regulators need to keep an eye on this.
The Ministry of Energy and National Energy and Utilities Regulatory Commission of Ukraine have repeatedly demanded that energy companies "resolve the issue" with coal. In response, they constantly talk about objective reasons.
We will not present the arguments of the parties now, but note that there are many reasons for the deficit, and some of them are really objective. But subjective reasons are much stronger than them and include the erroneous policy of the state in the energy sector, neglected problems in the coal industry (again, because of the state’s fault), ineffective management in state-owned companies, and the desire of private companies to get additional arguments in disputes with the state.
The problems in coal energy are complex. A political will is needed to really start solving them, and not just to urgently plug the holes once again, regardless of the costs.