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Coal shortages force Ukraine to switch to gas

by Natalia Datskevych December 16, 2021 12:25 AM 1 min read
An aerial view of the Chernihiv Thermal Energy Plant. (tec.cn.ua)
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A coal power plant in the city of Chernihiv just experienced something it’s not faced in 60 years – it has run out of coal.

The Chernihiv Thermal Energy Plant was forced to switch to natural gas to generate electricity, the local news service reported on Dec. 14.

What’s happened in this city of 285,000 people, may happen throughout Ukraine, which is facing a serious coal shortage and trying to substitute natural gas.

As of Dec. 13, Ukraine's power plants had just 451,000 tons of coal, four times less than what had been planned by the government.

Out of the country’s 85 thermal power blocks, 19, with a combined capacity of 6.5 gigawatts, were stopped, the state electricity grid operator Ukrenergo reported.

The Energy Ministry on Dec. 14 asked parliament to help the country's thermal power plants buy the gas they need to keep working.

The proposed mechanism aims to ensure that power plants are able to break even.

However, according to First Deputy Energy Minister Yuriy Vlasenko, the mechanism will provide natural gas to plants only to relieve critical situations.

“We won't switch all our thermal power plants from coal to gas,” Vlasenko stated.

On Nov. 1, Russia, which supplies two thirds of Ukraine’s coal, stopped exports. Russia also restricted gas to Europe, causing prices to soar past $1,550 per thousand cubic meters on Dec. 15.

The next time the Chernihiv plant will generate electricity using coal is January.

It will receive 70,000 tons from South Africa, according to Oleksiy Epinin, head of public utility property at the Chernihiv City Council.

Local authorities stated that electricity tariffs will not change or affect consumers during the heating season. However, the city will have to spend an extra $5.5 million per month.

Chernihiv is also worried about paying very high prices for gas if the city starts using more of it, based on how the prices are legally determined.

“The city would not want to generate huge losses in vain,” Chernihiv Mayor Vladislav Atroshenko told the local news service.

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