After the Russian shelling of Ukrainian critical infrastructure, the world has been focused on the issue of the future of Ukraine's energy system. Statements were made, both domestically and internationally, asserting that the development of renewable energy production would become a priority of post-war reconstruction. Will Ukraine really be able to switch to green energy after the war, and what is needed for this? Ukrainian experts discussed this on Tuesday, January 24, during an online discussion organized by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Main principles of energy security
Back in 2021, before the full-scale Russian invasion, the Ukrainian government had been drafting a new energy strategy for Ukraine. The war interrupted the development of the document but hasn’t diminished the importance of the issue. Hennadii Riabtsev, director for special projects at the Psyche Scientific and Technical Center, believes that Ukraine should be guided by the following principles to build a secure energy system:
- The failure of individual elements of the system should not stop the power supply.
- Many small power generation sources instead of a few large centers.
- Consumers not only produce energy for their own needs but can also supply it to others.
- A large number of power distribution nodes.
- All technologies have a high conversion factor and are not only environmentally friendly, but also economically feasible.
- Each consumer is protected from the pressure of monopolists and has the opportunity to choose the supplier and type of energy.
Renewable energy sources for the consumer
According to Stepan Kushnir, the head of the Khmelnytskyi energy cluster, even if the war had not destroyed a significant part of the Ukrainian energy infrastructure, the energy system should have been relaunched a long time ago.
"The government should change its policy on renewable energy sources. Before the war, we had a few super-large facilities in the South and none at all in other regions. When Russia destroyed these facilities, it actually completely destroyed renewable energy in Ukraine," Kushnir said.
Hennadii Riabtsev added that Ukraine's main mistake in the development of renewable energy sources was focusing on the producer, not the consumer.
"Instead of many small-capacity plants in those places where the consumer needs them, we obtained large plants in the places where the manufacturer was comfortable building them. But today, RES technologies are not able to produce enough energy to meet most of Ukraine’s needs. This will become possible in 20–30 years, but today, the main advantage of RESs is that they can meet the needs of local consumers," says Riabtsev.
Drivers of the green transition
According to Oleh Savytskyi, an expert with the "Energy Transition" coalition, the Ukrainian energy industry can only be remodeled in conjunction with other industries. Thus, the introduction of a new industrial strategy will create a powerful driver of the green transition.
"Industry, as a large market for energy, should also be reoriented towards the green course. In addition, there is a huge potential in the production of technical equipment for renewable energy sources," said Savytskyi.
He added that the foundations for these changes must be laid today. First of all, conditions should be created to attract private investors to Ukraine as well as facilitate cooperation with the world's largest manufacturers of technologies for green energy.
Hennadii Riabtsev also stated that Ukraine will be able to balance the restored energy system through the use of small modular reactors, but not before 5 years.