Eurovision by candlelight? Ukraine on the brink of energy catastrophe


April 19, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

On April 19th, Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy and Coal submitted a document to the country’s government on banning coal imports from the Russian Federation, the ministry’s head, Igor Nasalik, has announced. According to Nasalik, “the ban concerns importing the coal energy group  from the Russian side.” The minister also reported that Ukraine hopes to sign a contract on  anthracite coal deliveries from the US, as the Americans are ready to ensure a cheap price for coal. The volume of coal supplies from the US was enthusiastically announced to amount to 3.5-4 million tons a year.

Starting already with the next heating season of 2017-2018, Ukraine intends to reduce its annual consumption of anthracite coal from 9 to 6 million tons. Earlier Ukraine banned anthracite coal exports in connection with the crisis in the energy sector. Therefore, even with supplies from the US, Ukraine’s energy sector could face anthracite coal shortages since Ukraine annually requires 28-30 million tons of coal to satisfy its energy needs. 

As is well known, after Ukraine imposed a trade blockade on the Donbass republics, the country’s fuel and energy systems began experiencing systemic failures. The aspiration to “punish” Donbass has thus turned around on Ukraine itself. Now the Kiev authorities are compelled to buy coal from literally other continents. In mid-May, Odessa’s port expects the arrival of the first batch of coal from South Africa.

According to Ukrainian and Russian energy experts, the economic viability of coal supplies from South Africa or the US (even given low output prices) will be greatly reduced due to transportation costs. If we take into account the volume of traffic, as with up to 4 million tons from the US alone, then not only is the economic feasibility of this route doubtful, but so are the transport and logistical capabilities of Ukraine to ensure these supplies. In order to transport such a volume of cargo, one needs a large number of ships with large tonnage. In addition, a very strong burden will fall on Ukrainian ports themselves, primarily Odessa. As for Ukraine’s other large port, Mariupol, even Ukrainian authorities themselves are doubtful since Ukraine fears losing this city on the Azov Sea during a potential offensive by the Donetsk People’s Republic. It is also unknown whether Ukraine’s railways will cope with this dramatic increase of cargo. Back in Soviet times, Ukrainian thermal power stations’ needs were met by the supply of anthracite from Donbass, and not only the technology of these thermal power stations, but also their transport components were adapted to these needs. Now the already weak Ukrainian budget will need to fund the construction of new transport junctions and railways burned by such heavy loads.

However, for now the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers is demonstrating that it gives priority to politics over economic expediency. With yesterday’s cabinet declaration of the ban on coal deliveries from Russia, Ukraine enriched the world’s energy with a new type of coal – politically incorrect coal, as coal from the Donbass republics and Russia has been deemed.

Yet attempts to change energy laws in favor of falsely understood political interests are already too costly for Ukraine. Just yesterday, the Ministry of Energy and Coal reported frightening news: the Slavyansk thermal electric station (in Nikolaevsk, Donetsk region) of the Donbassenergo corporation has discontinued electricity production. This would mean nothing if it weren’t for earlier reports that the Tripolskaya and Zmievskaya (Tsentrenergo corporation), as well as Krivorozhskaya and Pridneprovskaya (DTEK corporation) thermal electricity stations have also ceased work.

Thus, five out of Ukraine’s seven thermal power plants have stopped working in order to save what little anthracite is left.

Although all major Ukrainian media have repeated this news, I was personally shocked not so much by this news itself as by how it has been received by the government and the public with frightening indifference. Ukraine has stopped just a step away from energy catastrophe, yet is responding to this like a nuisance and nothing more. 

We intend to dedicate one of our next materials to analyzing the possible consequences of this energy crisis, and in particular the probability of a repetition of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant tragedy in Ukraine which has been touched on by the Lugansk People’s Republic’s Cossack Herald under the frightening title: “The Ukrainian monkey with a nuclear grenade.”

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For now, let us note that Ukraine’s energy problems could become problems for neighboring countries as well. It seems that the prospect of a Ukrainian energy collapse frightens them more than Ukraine’s own Cabinet of Ministers. 

In mid-May, as is known, Kiev will host the Eurovision contest, which just might be have to be held by candlelight. 

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