• Waiting for the strike

    Ukrainian firemen deal with the impact of a Russian air raid on power infrastructure near Kyiv on 19 December 2022. This was one of the last massive attacks. Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

    If I were to describe the mood in Ukraine this October in one word, it would be “anticipation”. We know the Russian missiles will come. We are waiting for the enemy to try and deprive us of electricity, and, if it’s lucky, heat. We are aware our energy infrastructure is more fragile than last year and Russia is probably so short of missiles that it cannot afford to make mistakes.

    Last year, the first massive missile attack that targeted Ukrainian energy infrastructure happened on 10 October. That evening, authorities in Ukraine asked the population to minimise their electricity consumption. A week later, after another attack, blackouts started, streets went dark, and one could find cafés and shops by the sound of the rumbling diesel generators powering them.

    Now, we are trying to be better prepared. Several of my friends tweaked their internet access to ensure the connection could last longer during outages. NGOs are supplying different communities and companies with charging stations which can power several devices for a day. I have also received one. Some people are insulating their houses and flats, so less heat can escape.

    But for power generation and transmission systems, it is hard to prepare. Power lines were restored after suffering damage, but repairing large generating or distributing facilities which were badly affected is costly and complicated. Sometimes it’s even better to build a new substation or thermal power plant, instead of repairing the old one. But this takes years ― which we obviously haven’t had since last winter.

    When I go to bed, I often think: maybe, this will be the night of the Russian attack? It will probably be massive, in order to overwhelm our anti-air system. Maybe, it will involve swarms of drones too. So far, the invader isn’t ready yet.

    When it will come, it won’t feel catastrophic. Our backyards are still dotted with generators, big and small. If we are unlucky this winter, the streets will just fill again with their humming.

    This article is part of the "Energy security risks remain ahead of winter" edition
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