Ukraine is trying to give hydropower facilities “maximum protection” by hiding equipment underground as it repairs an estimated $1 billion in damage from Russian air strikes, a senior industry official said.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine 13 months ago, has targeted energy infrastructure since October in waves of attacks that have at times left millions of people without power.
Ihor Syrota, head of state-run hydropower generating company Ukrhydroenergo, said four of Ukraine’s nine hydropower plants had been damaged in Russian attacks that mainly targeted electrical equipment and machine rooms at plants on the Dnipro and Dniester rivers.
He said the nine hydropower plants usually produced about 10 per cent of Ukraine’s energy and had a combined capacity of 6,300 megawatts, but that about 2,000 megawatts of that capacity had been lost because of damage to infrastructure.
Engineers had already restored 500 megawatts of capacity and planned to restore the rest as soon as possible, this time with better protection, he said.
“Everything we will be restoring and building – everything involves maximum protection. We will hide electrical equipment at existing stations,” Mr Syrota said.
“If we have a new project – we are of course reviewing it – everything that was previously supposed to be on the surface will have a different structure, we will hide it [underground].”
Mr Syrota, who did not provide further details, said that despite the war, Ukrhydroenergo remained profitable and did not intend to abandon development projects.
Its priorities include the completion the Dniester Pumped Storage Power Station in western Ukraine, construction of a similar station on the Dnipro river, and construction of a new hydropower plant near Kherson in southern Ukraine.
Mr Syrota put investment required in these facilities, which would generate an additional 2,500 megawatts of hydropower, at about $3 billion. He said hydropower should play a bigger role in helping Ukraine meet national consumption needs during peak hours.
Thermal power currently had a much bigger role in this process than hydropower, but the output of thermal power plants had been significantly reduced by the damage they had suffered during the Russian air strikes, Mr Syrota said.
In a separate development, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy met troops in southeastern Ukraine on Monday, the latest stage of a tour of frontline regions since a top general said a counterattack against Russian forces could come soon.
“I am honoured to be here today, next to our military,” Mr Zelenskiy wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app that was accompanied by footage of him handing out medals to troops in the Zaporizhzhia region.
In trips last week, the president met soldiers in eastern Ukraine near the small city of Bakhmut, where fighting is intense, and spoke to officials and residents in the southern region of Kherson, where Ukrainian forces pushed back Russian troops last year after months of occupation.
Ukraine’s ground forces commander said on Monday Kyiv was planning its next move after Moscow shifted the focus of its offensive from a flagging assault on Bakhmut to the town of Avdiivka further south.
In separate posts, Mr Zelenskiy also released footage of himself visiting a command centre and meeting regional civilian and military officials. “We are working and keeping all important issues under control,” he wrote. – Reuters