Ukraine is entering winter with its energy system shaken, meaning that millions of Ukrainians might have to relive a winter of nights without light, heat and water.
Source: Reuters with reference to both Ukrainian and Western experts.
Quote: "Thousands of engineers have toiled over the summer months to repair broken equipment, and better air defences could help mitigate the impact of the war as temperatures begin to drop. But there has been neither the money nor the time to complete preparations for the winter," the Reuters writes.
"A lot (of effort) has gone to just repairing what has been destroyed. And have we been able to build an additional resilience? Are we in a better position than last winter? I don't think so," said Marcus Lippold, a team leader for energy at the European Union's enlargement branch.
"It's been a big effort, it's been successful, but it needs to continue," he said in Brussels this week.
At the same time, Reuters recognises that Ukraine refuses to share specific information about the effects of attacks on its energy system because it considers it to be sensitive information during a time of war.
Consequently, the agency's forecasts are based mainly on well-known facts and fears that, given the state in which Ukrainian energy was after last winter, the current heating season may be more difficult.
The research division of the Kyiv School of Economics, which Reuters cites, put the cost of direct damage to Ukraine's energy infrastructure as of June at US$8.8 billion.
In addition, Andrii Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv, said in August that his city of about a million people in western Ukraine, which is removed from the trenches in the east and south, should get ready for an electricity outage that could last up to two months.
"Will there be difficulties? Yes. Will there be supply restrictions? I am sure there will be," said Oleksandr Kharchenko, director at the Energy Industry Research Center think-tank.
Thermal power plants and other facilities of DTEK, the largest private energy company in Ukraine which supplies about a quarter of the country's energy needs, have been repeatedly hit by Russian missiles, drones, and artillery during the conflict's nearly 20-month duration.
Dmytro Sakharuk, DTEK’s executive director, told Reuters that while the company had completed extensive repairs before winter, some power units needed more time to be restored because of the severity of the damage.
"Certainly, we can say that the reliability level will be lower (than last year)," he said.
However, according to Sakharuk, DTEK installed sandbags, concrete blocks, gabions and anti-drone grids to protect the facilities.
Denys Shmyhal, the prime minister of Ukraine, said that similar measures were being implemented all over the country.
Seven nuclear power plants, according to Shmyhal, are now prepared for the winter, and two more are nearing completion of repairs. About 60% of Ukraine's electricity was generated using nuclear energy in 2017.
One of the most severely damaged components of the energy system, the main grid, according to Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, head of national grid operator Ukrenergo, is prepared to transmit the volume of electricity needed for the winter.
"The energy system is not as reliable and with a smaller reserve capacity than it was before the targeted strikes," he explained. "But at the same time, Russian terror will no longer be a surprise and everyone is preparing for it."
Not least important, for the first time since gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine has enough gas stored to get through the winter without importing, according to Oleksii Chernyshov, CEO of Naftogaz, the nation's largest oil and gas company.
The government has also agreed to allow Ukraine to import European electricity, among other measures to increase the country's energy resilience. It has also begun the process of decentralising the sector. The country was a net exporter prior to the invasion.
Some businesses and cities have begun to increase their own capacity, switching to small renewable energy sources where possible and installing generators.
Ukrainian companies and individuals have imported tens of thousands of generators, although single attacks on oil depots threaten the supply of fuel to power engines.
"Today, our district heating providers and the water company have 83 strong generators," Zhytomyr Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn said.
"It is impossible to work off generators constantly. But if there is a complete power outage for several hours, we will be able to provide heating…"
Reuters recalls that during the last heating season, which lasted from October to March and during which the temperature dropped significantly below zero, the average Ukrainian living far from the front line spent about 35 days without light. Often the lack of light was accompanied by a lack of water supply.