Ihor Syrota: The first half of 2023 was one of the most difficult periods in the history of Ukrhydroenergo
Terrorist attack at Kakhovka HPP, abnormal winter floods and record spring floods, operation of power plants under constant rocket attacks, ensuring the Ukrainian power system's reliable functioning during emergencies. Despite all these extraordinary challenges and the complexity of wartime, the company continued to fulfill all its obligations. Ihor Syrota, CEO of Ukrhydroenergo, about this and the active work to restore plant equipment, build protective structures, and prepare for the autumn-winter period.
- The first half of 2023 is over. At the beginning of the year, the President and the Prime Minister set a crucial task for the entire energy sector to recover as much as possible and prepare for the autumn-winter period. Please tell us what measures have already been taken and what else you plan to do.
- Since the beginning of the year, Ukrhydroenergo has been actively pursuing recovery and maximum preparation for the winter. One of our main and unchanging tasks remains the same: hydropower must be a reliable regulator for the power system, as it is our generation that can ensure the reliable operation of the power system during emergencies. As for the measures we have already taken. Every year, we repair and reconstruct equipment to ensure their further efficient and uninterrupted operation in the autumn and winter. Over the past six months, the load on our equipment has been increasing and working with increased resources.
Due to the constant shelling of our facilities and equipment breakdowns, an atypical winter flood and a record spring flood.
We have completed overhauls of 2 hydropower units at PSPP and the reconstruction of 2 hydropower units and 1 unit at several HPPs. By the end of December, we should complete the repair campaign. We will have 9 units under reconstruction, one unit will be under overhaul and one unit will be under repair due to damage to the unit transformer caused by shelling by the russian.
- Ihor Hryhorovych, you said that hydropower can ensure the reliable operation of the power system during emergencies, including martial law. How exactly?
- Under martial law, the key tasks of the company are to ensure peak load coverage, frequency and power regulation for the United Energy System of Ukraine. And, of course, providing the population with affordable electricity.
Hydropower is the generation that can respond to an emergency the fastest. For example, on May 30, a crisis occurred when the largest number of consumers were simultaneously de-energized since February. The emergency resulted in shutdowns and temporary power outages for 2 million consumers in 12 regions of Ukraine. At that time, all HPPs and PSPPs of Ukrhydroenergo were instantly loaded at full capacity to maintain the frequency and, accordingly, to maintain the balance of electricity in the power system, worked in a coordinated manner together with the dispatcher of NPC Ukrenergo and, as a result, balanced the power system.
Unfortunately, such emergencies continue to occur due to the constant shelling of the energy sector. That is why we need exactly the kind of generation with the capacity to respond, launch and balance as soon as possible - and this is hydropower.
- Due to the realities of wartime and the need for additional protection, is the company currently taking measures to protect its facilities?
- Yes, with the involvement of the general designer of hydraulic structures, we are working on implementing projects to protect electrical equipment. In these projects, we consider the requirements for the safe operation of our equipment. It is also important for us to build protective structures to maximise the safety of our employees, as their safety is a priority.
- Every year, in the first half of the year, hydroelectric power plants miss the spring flood. This year it was atypical. What contributed to this, and tell us how you worked during this period?
- Indeed, in 2023, we recorded a powerful spring flood that replaced the atypical winter flood. This phenomenon occurs once every ten years. For example, in the spring of 2013, there was also high-water content. This year, significant precipitation in the form of rain and a rise in the groundwater level contributed to the rivers' flooding.
Hydroelectric power plants made controlled water discharges to avoid large-scale flooding of settlements along the rivers. The first wave of flooding and its peak occurred in mid-April. At that time, the share of hydroelectric power plants in the electricity generation structure reached 20%. By comparison, at the end of March, the percentage of hydroelectric power plants in the system was over 10%, just like in pre-war times. The second wave of flooding began in May but was much smaller than the previous one. No emergency flooding was recorded during the second wave.
At the same time, all hydroelectric power plants and pumped storage plants that are part of Ukrhydroenergo are operated, providing a balancing reserve to the United Energy System of Ukraine.
- On June 6, the Kakhovka HPP was blown up. You have repeatedly said that the plant is beyond repair. What steps are you already taking to restore the dam?
- Thus, on June 6, 2023, at about 02:50 Kyiv time, the military forces of the Russian Federation destroyed the structures of the Kakhovka HPP using an internal explosion. As a result of the explosion, the power plant's engine room and 14 spans of the spillway dam were destroyed. This almost destroyed the complex hydroelectric facility and the plant's structures and equipment beyond repair. The high-powered flow of water significantly aggravated the situation. As a result of the erosion of the plant's foundation, the facilities and equipment were further damaged.
We are currently working with the design institute to develop a project to construct temporary dams in the upper and lower sections of the plant. This will be the first stage of Kakhovka HPP's restoration. Temporary dams are complex hydraulic structures, the construction of which will raise the level of the Kakhovka Reservoir and provide water to both the Zaporizhzhia NPP cooling pond and the settlements located along the shores. Also, the construction of these dams will make it possible to fence the destroyed plant, drain the pit and investigate how the explosion occurred and how extensive the damage is, as well as to determine the extent of the destruction and make constructive decisions for the construction of a new Kakhovka HPP. But all this can only be done after de-occupation. We are now working on the project itself.
- Tell us about the construction of the new plant: how long will it take to build it, how much will it cost?
- The construction timeframe for technically complex projects such as hydropower plants is set by the construction schedule, developed as part of the project documentation, and based on the project design. This considers the sequence of works, construction technologies, plans for manufacturing and delivering equipment, materials, use of human resources for construction, etc.
Before the start of construction, project documentation will be developed, and the project will undergo a mandatory expert review. The estimated construction period for such a hydroelectric power plant is approximately 7 years. This must consider the time required to inspect the territory after de-occupation, dismantling, etc.
As for the estimated construction cost in the Kakhovka HPP case, they consider global trends in the construction of hydroelectric power plants, costing approximately $ 2,000 per kW of installed capacity. US dollars per 1 kW of installed capacity, with a possible installed capacity of the new Kakhovka HPP of about 500-600 MW, the estimated construction cost will be approximately $1-1.2 billion. But all this is very approximate.
- Are there any problems and risks that must be overcome to successfully implement the new hydropower project?
- Given the realities, there are certainly certain risks that can complicate the processes associated with the construction of a hydroelectric power plant. For example, these include the de-occupation of the territory, the duration of demining of the construction site and coastal areas necessary for coastal protection, the restoration of destroyed and damaged infrastructure, and the need to protect the construction sites from repeated shelling or air attacks. Again, we can only tentatively outline these problems.
- What are you currently working on? In particular, have the company's promising projects been suspended, or are you still working on them?
-Currently, our development strategy has become a recovery strategy. But I have always said that we have to work for the future. Therefore, we continue to work on our innovative projects. Recently, during a conference on the recovery of Ukraine in Rome, a Memorandum was signed between our company, and We Build on cooperation in the construction of hydroelectric power plants.
We also continue to cooperate with banks to assist in restoring and modernizing our stations.
We continue to do our job, and the main thing is to bring peace to the Ukrainian land as soon as possible. And we will rebuild and restore everything!