An Integrated Ukraine and a Clean Energy Europe

Since the February 2022 invasion, Europe’s energy landscape has changed dramatically as Western leaders impose sanctions on Russian exports and scramble to find alternate energy supplies. As Europe transitions from Russian gas and oil, Ukraine is in a favorable position to integrate itself with the European market and strengthen its economy via energy exports to Europe. Moreover, part of the integration process might include expanding nuclear energy.

Integration with Europe 

As the war broke out, Ukraine disconnected itself from Russia’s energy grid. The partnership was an artifact from the Soviet era, but it meant that Russia could still control Ukraine’s electricity. During the first weeks of the war, Ukraine was an “electricity island” and unable to import additional electricity if needed. This was risky because it meant that if enough of its infrastructure were damaged, Ukraine would not have had enough electricity to power its country nor be able to import electricity from abroad.

On March 16, Ukraine joined Europe’s continental power grid, the world’s largest synchronous electrical grid. The EU’s European Commissioner for Energy stated, “This will help Ukraine to keep their electricity system stable, homes warm and lights on during these dark times.” The action furthered Ukraine’s integration with Europe and increased grid integrity, making national blackouts less likely.

Since the war’s outbreak, Ukraine’s electricity demand has decreased. In late June, Ukraine began to export excess electricity to ENTSO-E via an interconnection with Romania. This is a monumental feat for Europe because it delivers cheap, cleaner energy and separates Europe from Russia. Energy trade with Europe also provides Ukraine with a steady source of revenue. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shymhal predicts that energy trade has the potential to bring in more than 70 million hryvnias (2.3 million dollars) per year and become a key “driver” of postwar economic recovery.

Global Energy Crisis

This past year, the cost of energy in Europe has increased dramatically. The war has exacerbated energy shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent supply chain disruptions, further increasing the cost of power in a ‘global energy crisis.’

Historically, Europe has been dependent on Russia for sourcing its energy. Russia, an energy superpower, has the world’s largest gas reserves, second largest coal reserves, and eight largest oil reserves in the world, and is heavily financially dependent on energy exports. Putin maintains that Europe cannot function without Russian energy, predicting “catastrophic consequences” on the global energy market. 

Many experts consider divestment from Russian energy an opportunity for Europe to accelerate its transition towards clean energy. The European Union’s External Energy Strategy proposes increasing solar and wind energy use.

Ukraine’s Energy Portfolio

Ukraine has four nuclear power plants, with a total of 15 reactors. They provide about half of Ukraine’s electricity. While nuclear energy is not 100% ‘clean,’ it is considered a much cleaner energy source compared to fossil fuels, like coal or oil. Nuclear reactors do not produce carbon dioxide emissions. 

Additionally, Ukraine is home to one of Europe’s largest natural gas deposits, second after Norway. Natural gas consumption creates significantly less carbon dioxide and pollutants than other fossil fuels, but its extraction via fracking still disrupts the environment. Natural gas wells also can leak methane.

Renewable energy is also rapidly growing in Ukraine as the country becomes less reliant on coal and oil.

Future of Clean Energy in Ukraine

In 2017, Ukraine set a goal to expand its share of renewable energy to 25% by 2035. Many speculate about how the war will affect Ukraine’s transition to renewables. Some policy analysts have proposed that Ukraine should approach war reconstruction as “a historic opportunity” to build a “more-sustainable” Ukraine, fighting climate change through electric vehicles and solar panels. It is unclear as to who might fund such an endeavor, however. 

Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear agency, recently signed a deal with the U.S. nuclear company Westinghouse that would supply Ukrainian power plants with American fuel. The plants previously relied on Russian uranium to operate. Westinghouse also plans to build up to nine new nuclear units and an engineering hub in Ukraine after the war ends, increasing Ukraine’s nuclear output. Energoatom President Petro Kotin said, “We will not only write a new chapter in the history of Ukraine’s nuclear energy, but also make an important contribution to the energy independence of Europe.”

Europe’s transition from dependence on Russian gas and oil places Ukraine in a strategic position to further integrate itself into Europe’s market. The path forward has multiple avenues, but leadership in Kyiv seems determined to find a sustainable solution to the country’s future. With Europe’s focus on clean energy, Ukraine can embrace an expanded role in being a crucial supplier of power for Europe.


* indicates required

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *