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Zaporizhia TPP accident indicates extent of electric power industry issues in Ukraine

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukraine has come close to the critical line, a deplorable situation in the electric power industry
08:40, 8 February 2021

Zaporizhia TPP accident, Enerhodar
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In anticipation of the upcoming frost, most of the nuclear units are being repaired, a record number of 20 thermal power units are not working. Coal reserves have reached historic lows. Imports from Russia and Belarus still account for only 3-4% of total energy consumption. Against this background, a large-scale accident at the Zaporizhia TPP, which is adjacent to the nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, added a 750 MW deficit to the power system. According to 112.ua, due to the coming frosts, the electricity deficit next week might be 1.5-1.7 GW, excluding the situation at the Zaporizhia TPP. In order to protect Ukrainians from rolling blackouts, the authorities would ask large enterprises to limit energy consumption. And in order to hold out until the end of winter, the authorities will have to agree to the demand of the heating companies to limit the lower price limit, which will lead to an increase in electricity prices.

Related: Ukraine has capacity shortages of 750 MW after accident at Zaporizhia thermal power plant

A large-scale accident occurred at the Zaporizhia TPP on February 3 – all the units of the station went to zero, which is adjacent to the nuclear power plant in Enerhodar. This is the most powerful thermal power plant in Ukraine (3650 MW).

The mayor of Enerhodar, the city where the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and thermal power plant are located, had to reassure the residents, who were seriously frightened not only by the noise and rumble due to the release of steam but also by the sight of fire trucks that flew towards the thermal power plant.

In Enerhodar, not only the light went out, but also the water in the taps: the work of water treatment plants and water pumping stations temporarily stopped. Not only residents of Enerhodar and Dniprorudne were left without electricity, but also all household consumers of Zaporozhiaoblenergo.

As a result of the accident at the Zaporizhia TPP, the entire energy system of Ukraine was on the verge of disaster. Due to the shutdown of all units, the TPP went to zero, and a deficit of 750 MW was formed in the unified energy system of Ukraine - a volume equal to the output of 75% by a nuclear unit. The dispatcher of Ukrenergo was prevented from shutting down only at the expense of Ukrhydroenergo. No emergency assistance has been requested from Belarus yet. According to unofficial information, head of Ukrenergo Volodymyr Kudrytsky personally went to the central control room at night. This, by the way, is about how serious the situation is.

The reasons for the accident at the Zaporizhia TPP are not yet known exactly. DTEK, which is the owner of the station, reported that at 19:25 Zaporizhia TPP was completely disconnected from the power system due to a short circuit at the Luch substation of Zaporizhiaoblenergo.

The Zaporizhia TPP managed to drop out of work during the most difficult period for Ukraine. The country's energy industry has never been in such a deplorable situation as this winter. Ukraine has never come closer to a situation in which large enterprises will be asked to limit energy consumption. Hopefully, it will not reach a deficit in such volumes that the system will simply throw out entire areas of consumers (this phenomenon is popularly called "rolling blackouts").

Related: Special commission to investigate accident at Zaporizhia TPP, - Energy Ministry

Today, most of the nuclear generation units (about 50% of the total electricity production) are undergoing repairs – NPPs operate with the historically lowest capacity, supplying only 9.6 GW to the system. In previous years, in winter, they gave at least 11 GW. Nuclear generation was able to produce up to 10.5 GW only in cold weather when Ukraine was threatened with another blackout. Up to 10.5 GW were able to rise only due to the continued operation of the first power unit of the Zaporizhia NPP on the power effect.

The worst is the situation with the second-largest generation, which provides electricity to the united system – with heat. There are 20 power units under emergency repair – that is, 5.5 GW fell out of the system, which is also a historical record.

The situation is twofold. Sources in the energy community say that the thermal workers did not carry out the necessary repairs in the summer. Now everything depends on how seriously the authorities take this issue: will they look for those responsible for issuing certificates of readiness for winter or will they let everything go on the brakes? Will there be fines and sanctions up to the introduction of temporary administrations at energy facilities, which caused such a tense situation?

It should be noted that there is another opinion: it is said that the real reason for the decommissioning of thermal units is the lack of coal. Ukraine passes this winter with historically low coal reserves. According to Andriy Gerus, the head of the parliamentary Committee for Fuel and Energy Complex, at the end of January coal reserves were only 44% of the required minimum coal reserves or 21% of the volume that was in warehouses last year. The price of electricity is consistent with the price at which coal is still profitable to be burned.

Related: Second emergency shutdown occurs at Zaporizhia thermal power plant

According to 112.ua, for the frost period, the deficit in the power system, taking into account the current situation, was estimated at 1.5-1.7 GW. But this is before the accident at the Zaporizhia TPP, which is not known now, when and with what capacity they will be able to start. It is important that, given the accident and the tense situation in the industry, next week the power engineers will not have a respite and the opportunity to accumulate the resource of Ukrhydroenergo, which has saved the situation so far.

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