Like many other countries, Ukraine has difficulties relying on green energy and will need to find a solution – such as storage of energy.
According to Unian, the green energy production in Ukraine has grown from two percent of the total energy production a couple of years ago to eight percent today. However, in the same period, the percentage of energy produced by the dirty thermal power plants, often run by coal, has remained steady, around 35 percent.
As green energy is dependent on the wind blowing and sun shining, Ukraine is increasingly facing a problem seen in other countries. While green energy production is growing, it is still challenging to shut down thermal power plants because there needs to be a backup system if the weather makes it impossible to produce green energy.
“The solution to the issue is the construction of a sufficient number of new flexible and accumulation capacities, which will require multi-billion-dollar investments,” Unian describes in a lengthy analysis on their website about this issue.
“The start-up of a coal-fired power unit can take from two to nine hours. Therefore, part of the power units involved in maneuvering must constantly be in the “hot” standby mode, that is, work underloaded, so that, at the command of the power system dispatcher, at the right moment, to drastically increase generation,” Unian writes.
In other words, the Ukrainian coal-run thermal power plants need to be running at all times or be in standby mode, ruining the green energy transition in Ukraine. Unian writes that “an increase in the share of “green” generation in the Ukrainian energy grid leads to the use of an increasing number of TPPs, an increase in coal consumption” which contradicts “the initial idea of priority development of renewable energy sources.”
New technology needed
The situation is worsened by the Ukrainian government’s decision to shut down some of the country’s nuclear power plants to give space for green energy. While it does increase the use of renewable energy, it also creates a more significant demand for dirty and expensive backup thermal power plants run by coal instead of the CO2-clean and cheaper nuclear power plants. As a result, it also increases the price of electricity.
“We must stimulate the development of storage batteries, green hydrogen, and pumped storage facilities that can technically balance green energy. Only then will we be able to replace coal generation,” acting Minister of Energy Yuriy Vitrenko, according to Unian.
The question is when such storage batteries will be ready. Such technology is on its way, but how long it will take to make a Ukraine difference is unclear.
“However, according to expert forecasts, in the next ten to fifteen years, energy accumulation systems based on storage batteries will be able to significantly squeeze hydropower from the pedestal, which will be due to the further technology upgrade and significant cost reductions,” writes Unian in their analysis and points out that Ukraine has some of the largest reserves of lithium, used in such batteries, in Europe.
Has started the process
The Ukrainian energy grid operator Ukrenergo will in the next couple of years build 2 GW worth of facilities that can quickly start and help replace some of the dirty thermal power plants run by coal. It will cost two billion dollars, and while it is a start, the demand for such facilities will multiply with the green energy transition.
The Ukrainian energy company DTEK, owned by oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, is planning to build a 1 MW battery as a pilot project at a site in Zaporizhia in 2021.
“Our market for ancillary services does not work as it should. We don’t have normal price signals that these projects will pay off. The system needs these projects, but today there is no normal economic base for this. We decided not to wait until this economic base appears and to try a one-megawatt project,” DTEK CEO Maksym Tymchenko said, according to Unian.
With the high costs of building such projects, it is unclear to what extent Ukrainian companies and the Ukrainian state will be able to produce enough to make a difference in the use of thermal power plants as energy backup systems.
“The next two years will be decisive: either Ukraine is e able to develop its energy system in sync with the entire civilized world, or this process will be significantly delayed, which will be a blow both to the environment and consumers (in terms of energy bills),” writes Unian.