Exactly one year ago, on March 16, 2022, the Ukrainian and European energy systems were synchronized. The United Energy System of Ukraine has physically joined the energy system of the ENTSO-E continental network. This allowed the export and import of electricity. Synchronization was an important contribution to the stabilization of the economy and infrastructure in wartime.
The beginning of integration
For five years, Ukrenergo and the energy industry as a whole have been gearing up to join ENTSO-E and had set 2023 as the target year for synchronization. However, it was the three weeks of operation of the Ukrainian energy system in isolated mode that proved to be the most critical in demonstrating its stability and dependable operation, despite the ongoing hostilities, destruction, and seizure of energy facilities.
On February 24, 2022, Ukrenergo successfully disconnected the Ukrainian energy system from the Russian and Belarusian networks, which lasted more than a day. This enabled the system to operate in autonomous mode, which was the final test that Ukraine had to pass before the unification of the Ukrainian and European energy systems.
Despite ongoing hostilities, physical integration occurred after three weeks. From March 16, 2023, the Ukrainian energy system became a part of the European energy space, replacing two eastern neighbors with collaboration with the energy systems of 35 countries. Notably, the unified energy system with EU countries is four times more powerful than those of Russia and Belarus.
ENTSO-E welcomed Ukrenergo as an observer member on April 26. The synchronization of energy systems has paved the way for equal access to the European electricity market for all Ukrainian energy companies. This has provided Ukraine with the opportunity to earn money and prepare for what has been touted as the most challenging winter in history.
Furthermore, Ukraine has received technical support from the extensive European energy system, which is now considered a guarantee of its energy security.
Export to Eastern Europe
ENTSO-E moved at unprecedented speed to open up the possibility of exporting electricity to Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia after the synchronization of the energy systems. The allowed export volume was gradually expanded to ensure the safe synchronous operation of the two large energy systems of Ukraine and the EU, eventually reaching 400 MW.
Since March, Ukraine has been exporting electricity to Poland, and on June 30, it sold its first 100 MW to Romania. Additionally, commercial electricity exchange between Ukraine/Moldova and other countries commenced on the same day.
On September 2, the transmission system operators (TSOs) in continental Europe agreed to increase trade capacity with Ukraine/Moldova to 300 MW during the day, further enhancing export capacity.
In total, Ukraine exported 2 billion kWh of electricity to Romania, Slovakia, and Poland within seven months. Ukrenergo, as the energy system operator, earned UAH 5 billion in revenue from the sale of access to interstate interconnectors. These funds were utilized to maintain the liquidity of the electricity market and were paid to energy companies. The export revenue, coupled with these funds, provided Ukraine with the opportunity to prepare adequately for the winter season.
Work despite shelling
The massive missile attacks on the energy system, which began in October, unfortunately, led to shortages within the country and hindered the export of electricity. Following the first wave of these attacks, the Ministry of Energy suspended the export of electricity from October 11.
Throughout this period, energy workers displayed immense courage and continued to repair the destroyed networks and generation facilities, often at the risk of their lives. Ukrenergo, which comprised of 70 mobile repair teams and 1,500 specialists, repaired more than 10,000 kilometers of lines during the entire period of attacks. To put this into perspective, the length of the equator is 40,000 kilometers. Despite constant shelling and mining of the territory, along with adverse weather conditions such as snow, wind, frost, and rain, 70% of the 43% of damaged objects were partially restored and returned to work.
The professionalism and bravery of the Ukrainian energy workers were instrumental in the restoration of power plants and infrastructure.
Imports to overcome the deficit
The European Union has begun exporting electricity to Ukraine, with an initial permitted volume of 700 MW to Ukraine and Moldova. At present, Ukraine is importing electricity from Slovakia, but Ukrenergo and ENTSO-E are collaborating to expand the volume of commercial electricity exchanges.
Despite the imports, the current volumes are inadequate to fully address the capacity deficit during the evening peak period. However, the incorporation of imports has substantially decreased the volume of imbalance.
Conclusions: Reliable, Sustainable, Connected
Reliable, Sustainable, Connected - these are the words of the motto of ENTSO-E, which reflect the mission of uniting the energy system operators of European countries.
The synchronization of Ukraine's energy system with Europe has considerably enhanced the reliability of the former, as it can receive prompt assistance from Europe during emergency shutdowns of power plants. The incorporation of European electricity and a decline in the number of disconnected consumers has also played a role.
Furthermore, if Ukraine has surplus generating capacity, it can provide emergency assistance to European energy systems and export electricity. This enabled Ukraine to endure missile strikes from Russia during the winter and maintain a balanced system. As a result, Ukraine now has opportunities to become a significant player on the European energy market.
So, the results of the year of integration
1.9 billion kWh - export to Europe
213 million kWh - import from Europe
UAH 5 billion (over $130 million) - income from auctions for the sale of access to interstate interconnectors.
Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy: "Over the past year, Ukraine's energy sector and civil infrastructure have been subjected to deliberate and targeted attacks by Russia. But Ukraine has persevered and is recovering. Thanks to the joint work on the synchronization of the power grids of Ukraine and Moldova, in a record short time, Ukraine avoided long-term power outages and aggravation of the already critical conditions faced by millions of citizens. The synchronization process, in which ENTSO-E played a crucial role, is a demonstration of true European unity in action."
Stability and reliability in the world of energy are parameters that are not a given. This is the result of long, painstaking daily work, professionalism and courage of energy workers, who for years persistently pursued this goal - the integration of the energy systems of Ukraine and the EU. And unity with the large European energy system made it possible to avoid numerous large-scale system accidents, which the Russians tried with all their might to create during this heating season.