September 18, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

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Ukraine’s largest private energy company is preparing for winter, anticipating that Russia will attack the country’s energy infrastructure as power needs spike during extremely difficult cold weather, its CEO said Monday.

Ukrainian military intelligence has indicated Russia is preparing for winter attacks on energy infrastructure again, DTEK CEO Maxim Timchenko.

“They are stockpiling missiles for it,” he told CNN on his visit to New York ahead of this week’s UN General Assembly session.

To prepare for these anticipated attacks, Ukraine needs air defense to protect all power stations, Timchenko said. Without it, all infrastructure restoration and protection in place will be of no use.

He acknowledged that while a Patriot Missile System at every power station was the ideal, it was unlikely to happen. So he hopes that Ukraine can have these air defense systems protecting a larger area which includes the stations.

Russia has strategically shelled Ukraine’s power infrastructure, temporarily but repeatedly cutting off electricity, heat and water to millions. This campaign left Ukraine’s energy grid teetering on the brink of collapse, forcing constant repair work which involved scouring the world to find compatible parts.

DTEK’s infrastructure has also come under fire. Five of its thermal power turbines were destroyed considerably since the war began. Two of them were restored, Timchenko told CNN, adding that two others will be restored in 2024. However, one was attacked and destroyed beyond restoration, he said.

The answer to preventing this damage, Timchenko says, lies in building renewable energy infrastructure because it’s harder to destroy.

A thermal power generation system producing 200 megawatt of power, for example, requires a big turbine and one boiler to burn coal and gas. “It’s usually the size of a room. If it’s hit by a missile, then it’s all destroyed in one moment,” he explained, adding that depending on the level of damage, it could take a month or a year to restore. “The same capacity of 300 megawatt, if it’s wind, you build 15 turbines 100 meters from each other. If you destroy one, the others still operate.”

The company is working on building a 500-megawatt wind power plant to boost the country’s energy sector following Russian air strikes.

The launch of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 had suspended the project that had been underway for seven months prior, because it was about 100 kilometers (or about 62 miles) from the front lines. But in May 2022, officials decided it was time to continue to the project despite Russian missiles flying overhead, and construction began in August 2022.

“It is a good indication of the bravery and courage of the Ukrainian people, but also that investment can be made in Ukraine even during war,” Timchenko said.

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