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Belarus stopped export of electricity to Ukraine: Are blackouts real?

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

The stoppage of electricity imports from Belarus has added tension to an already tense situation.
23:10, 19 November 2021

Open source

For a month now, Ukraine has been counting every crumb of precious scarce coal every day, without which thermal power plants cannot operate. Without imports, coal consumption will increase. 400 MW, which were imported from Belarus on the base schedule, is a saving of 5,000 tons of coal per day or 150,000 tons per month, which is comparable to the loading of two Panamax-class vessels.

Without Belarusian imports, it is highly likely that Ukraine will not be able to get through the most difficult months of winter without a deficit in the power system and disconnections of consumers, experts say. Last year, despite the availability of commercial imports from Belarus and the Russian Federation, Ukraine requested emergency assistance twice.

Related: Ukraine stops importing electricity from Belarus

Why Belarus stopped importing electricity?

Commercial imports of electricity from Belarus, which began on November 6, were stopped at 01:00 on November 18 (Kyiv time), the press service of Ukrenergo reported yesterday.

Formally, the breakdown at the BelNPP became the reason for stopping imports. The first power unit of the station was disconnected from the network by an automatic action on November 17 at 10:33, the Ministry of Energy of Belarus reported on its Telegram channel. Experts are reluctant to believe this version.

The experts interviewed are inclined to believe that the decision to stop the supply of electricity to Ukraine is of a political nature, and the accident at the BelNPP is used as a pretext. "I think that the solution is hybrid - to a greater extent, it is a political decision by 60% and only 40% economic," ex-Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov told 112ua.tv.

The opinion that the import has been stopped for political reasons is shared by director of ExPro Consulting Gennady Kobal. According to him, events are taking place too synchronously so as not to see a connection between them: from November 1, Russia decided to stop supplying thermal coal to Ukraine, and also suspended the transit of coal from Kazakhstan through its territory. As a result, more than half of the power units at thermal power plants stopped working, in particular, they faced the threat of a catastrophic shortage of the Lugansk TPP, the supply of coal to which from the controlled territory is complicated by the lack of a railway line. Recently, Energy Minister German Galushchenko said that coal supplies from Kazakhstan through Belarus (bypassing Russia), which Centrenergo had counted on, also failed, they will not be there.

Related: Belarus to stop supplying electricity to Ukraine from November 18

On November 9, the Belarusian company Belenergo sent letters to Ukrainian counterparties that it was breaking the framework contracts for the supply of electricity. More than 20 Ukrainian companies had such agreements with Belenergo, which could take part in the auctions. The contracts were not terminated only with the companies Electrocommunity and TET Group, which until yesterday carried out the supply of Belarusian electricity.

If the import is really stopped for political reasons, it is impossible to predict the dates of its resumption - it is possible that we will have to winter without Belarusian electricity, Gennady Kobal says.

How dangerous is stopping the import of electricity from Belarus

If nothing extraordinary happens to the external temperature, then the stoppage of Belarusian imports in the next couple of weeks will not lead to a shortage of electricity in Ukraine. Before the import was stopped, the system even had a surplus of 1 MW, and Ukrenergo dispatchers gave the command to unload the wind generation.

"In the coming weeks, there will definitely not be a deficit in the power system. We are going through relatively warm autumn - we do not have snowfalls, serious frosts, which could already be at this time of the year. Nuclear generation, which has already been put into operation by 14 units, allows us to save coal - to burn not 120 thousand tons per day, but 50 thousand tons. But then everything will depend on the weather. On whether the announced plans for the import of coal are implemented," Kobal said.

Related: Occupied Luhansk states Kyiv asks it for coal, electricity; Kyiv confirms it de facto

14 out of 15 nuclear power units now cover more than half of the electricity demand. This is an unprecedented load, with which nuclear generation has never worked in previous years, Plachkov notes. In addition, the blocks of the Kyiv and Kharkiv CHPPs were launched on gas. The share of thermal power plants in the overall structure of generation, for example, accounted for 6.5% yesterday, while in the period from 8 to 14 November - only 4%. In the public domain, there is no information at what price Naftogaz supplies gas to the CHPP to generate electricity and how they pay for it. As you know, market prices for gas do not fall below $ 1,000 per 1,000 cubic meters. m and electricity produced from gas can be "golden".

In Ukraine, 35 settlements are currently cut off power due to weather conditions
112 Agency

In the total energy balance, Belarusian electricity accounted for 2%. "400 MW of imports on the base schedule is saving about 5 thousand tons of coal per day (or 150 thousand tons per month - comparable to two boats of coal, which we are looking forward to from the United States) - this is now the highest priority," said energy expert Stas Zelenetsky.

Import from Belarus is highly desirable for saving coal, Plachkov emphasized.

In general, the situation with coal remains extremely difficult. Fuel supplies from 542,800 tons as of November 1 decreased to 371,000 tons as of November 17, while at that time last year they exceeded 2 million tons. already on November 2, the country was forced to request emergency assistance from Belarus to cover the power deficit in the ECO. As of November 10, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian thermal power plants do not have minimum (guaranteed) coal reserves, which is an important license condition, at ten.

At the same time, coal production in Ukraine continues to decline. At the Committee on Fuel and Energy Complex in the Verkhovna Rada, Serhiy Shulga, Financial Director of Centerenergo, said that shortages from state mines had increased to 100-130 thousand tons per month, which is becoming a systemic problem. Recently, the situation has become even more complicated due to the rise in prices for electricity, which accounts for about 40% of the cost of coal mining. Due to debts for electricity, the mines began to be disconnected - in particular, at the end of October, the supply of electricity to Yuzhnodonbasskoye Mine Office No. 1 was suspended, which resulted in the loss of 18 thousand tons of coal production per month.

The head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Energy and Housing and Utilities Andriy Gerus in his Telegram channel reports on allegedly contracted 10 boats with imported coal, which will arrive in November-January: 6 for DTEK and 4 for Centrenergo. We are talking about Panamax-class vessels, each of 60-75,000 tons. The maximum is 750 thousand tons. Few believe that these plans will be fully implemented.

Related: Almost 50 Donbas settlements left without water; militants cause blackout of pumping station by attacks

For example, the day before, Centrenergo issued a release in which it announced 1.5 million tons of contracted coal and did not mention a word about possible problems with its supply. At a recent committee, Andriy Gerus even chastised a representative of Centrenergo for regularly providing false information. "Your planning creates problems for the country. In three days, a state-owned company has plans to walk by almost 50%. Why plan one figure, if the fact is very different from this," Gerus said.

Today one boat with coal is to arrive at the Yuzhny port, which Centerenergo resold to DTEK. For itself, DTEK expects one boat at the end of November, four in December, and one at the beginning of January. The ships are to deliver 75,000 tons in November, 265 thousand tons in December, 75 thousand tons in January. "7 boats - a little more than 400,000 tons of coal - this is for 9 days of full-fledged operation of power units", summed up Ivan Plachkov.

Thus, now the absence of imports from Belarus will not create big problems, but in January-February, if there are frosts, a deficit in the ECO may arise. Even before stopping imports at a briefing, DTEK predicted that the electricity shortage in November - March 2022 could reach record levels - 5.5 billion kWh. This is about half of the total monthly consumption, excluding network losses. "For me, the balance is not yet formed. But more specifically, you can say December 15," agrees Plachkov.

The consumer will pay for all miscalculations

It is unlikely that Ukraine has reason to make claims to Belarus for its unwillingness to sell electricity to us, closing the mistakes of the Ukrainian authorities. Do not forget that imports were banned for a long time - permission for them was given only from November 1, when it was already clear that the Ukrainian energy sector was in disaster. "If imports had started earlier, Ukraine would have been able to better prepare for the heating season and accumulate much more coal in warehouses," Vidzigovsky said to 112ua.tv.

Related: Ukraine-controlled mines in Luhansk might face blackout

Moreover, in the context of its current policy, Ukraine does not regard Belarus as a partner on a long-term basis. Moreover, the authorities are trumpeting with might and main that preparations for disconnecting from the common energy space with Belarus and Russia are in full swing. Already in winter, tests are planned, within the framework of which Ukraine will have to disconnect from the power grids of Belarus and the Russian Federation for several days and demonstrate to Europe its readiness to work in an isolated mode together with Moldova. The authorities do not plan to cancel the tests, despite the risk that Ukraine may not be reunited: in this case, the country will be stuck in an isolated regime. In other words, in the event of an acute shortage of electricity, we will not be able to request even emergency assistance from Belarus.

Last year, despite the presence of commercial imports from Belarus and the Russian Federation, Ukraine requested emergency assistance twice - on January 18 and February 2.

"Our energy industry enterprises work as partisan detachments. There are many control centers, but there is no responsibility center," Ivan Plachkov said in a comment.

Ukrainians will pay for this increase, if not through a payment system, then in stores in which, due to the growth of the energy component in the cost price, price tags for almost all products rushed up.

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