Intensive attacks on Ukrainian power assets

2 April 2024

Russian armed forces carried out extensive attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure early on 22 March, using dozens of missiles and drones to inflict severe damage on power plants and grids belonging to the country’s major power company DTEK.

In one of the most difficult days for the energy sector since Russia’s full-scale invasion two years ago, two of DTEK’s power stations have been knocked out. In total, DTEK temporarily lost around half its available generation capacity.

DTEK teams are working around the clock to restore power and the company is appealing to international partners to urgently supply critical equipment such as transformers. The company estimates it will be able to restore around 50% of the lost capacity within weeks, but other repairs will take longer.

Ukraine is able to import some power from European neighbours, but the level of destruction will mean consumers will face some controlled outages.

DTEK CEO Maxim Timchenko said: “The energy infrastructure Russia attacked … are civilian facilities relied on by millions of ordinary people. This senseless destruction can never be justified. We will repair the damage and build back a stronger energy system, but Ukraine must have robust air-defence systems to blunt [Russia’s attacks].”

DTEK thermal power plants have been attacked more than 40 times this winter and more than 160 times since the start of the full-scale invasion. According to Ukrainian estimates, since the beginning of 2024 Russia has been modifying its tactics and using drones to target energy facilities more precisely, and overwhelm Ukrainian air-defences that have been depleted by a lack of ammunition supplies.

Over the long term, DTEK is investing heavily in distributed power systems such as wind turbines, which are far harder to hit with missiles and drones and which knock out far less capacity when they are hit. 

Maxim Timchenko has recently completed a week of talks in the USA, with government officials, members of Congress from both parties and corporate leaders, to make the case for greater investment in such systems, and to create new mechanisms that can unlock urgently needed capital for Ukraine’s private sector.

Image: Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant

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