On the 26th of April 2022, the Ukrainian transmission system operator (TSO) Ukrenergo was accepted as observer member of ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, which is the association for the cooperation of the European TSOs.
As an observer member Ukrenergo has access to the relevant documents and is entitled to participate in committee meetings but is not entitled to vote. Ukraine also has made an application for full membership, which is under evaluation.
The membership of ENTSO-E is not acquired easily. The observer membership was preceded by the successful synchronisation of Ukrainian and, at the same time, Moldovan electricity grids to the Continental-European system, which happened as an emergency-synchronisation.
The Ukrainian power grid was connected to the Russian grid until 24th of February 2022.
The Ukrainian power grid was connected to the Russian grid up until the 24th of February. When Russia attacked Ukraine, Ukraine disconnected from the Russian system, and within a few days they decided not to reconnect.
At that point, they requested the synchronisation with the Continental-European system.
“We were in close contact with them right away. But before we could connect the grids, they had to demonstrate that they are able to control the frequency independently, as an island operation”, says Dr. Tahir Kapetanovic, Chairman of the System Operation Committee in ENTSO-E.
“They succeeded in doing it, even in the middle of the war, and then on the 16th of March the Ukrainian and Moldovan grids were connected to the Continental-European system, and everything went smoothly.”
Years of work for the goal
The connection would not have been possible without years of work towards this goal. Because of the emergency, it happened significantly earlier than 2023, as previously planned.
Discussions had already begun in 2017, when Ukraine requested synchronisation with Continental Europe. The contract that defined the conditions and roadmap was also signed the same year. The actual four-year project started in 2019.
“The technical requirements which needed to be fulfilled prior to synchronisation were defined in the contract. Exhaustive technical research and tests were required, including island tests”, Kapetanovic says.
Emergency synchronisation was realised as soon as possible.
The plan was to organise two island tests: one in winter and one in summer 2022; but the war dictated a change of plan, and emergency synchronisation was realised as soon as possible.
After synchronisation the situation was monitored, and the tests continued. The next step for the Ukrainian government was to apply for observer membership of ENTSO-E.
“That Ukraine was accepted was a strong political signal.”
A large part of energy-infrastructure is destroyed
To qualify as a full member of ENTSO-E, Ukraine needs to fulfil all the technical obligations, and be able to take care of the stability of the electricity grid. Now the situation is very challenging.
Ukraine had a very strong system with abundant electricity production, and the plan was to start importing electricity from Ukraine.
“When the war escalated a few weeks ago, Russia started to use Ukrainian energy infrastructure as a target, at least temporarily destroying large parts of it. We nevertheless continue our frequent coordination with Ukrenergo, to deal also with any possible need to import electricity to Ukraine, if it emerges”, says Kapetanovic.
According to reports, seven million Ukrainians were left without electricity on the 15th of November after Russian missile strikes targeted 15 Ukrainian energy plants, among other targets. There were also power cuts in Moldova.