40% of Crimean power capacity covered as Russia speeds 'energy bridge'

40% of Crimean power capacity covered as Russia speeds 'energy bridge'
By bne IntelliNews November 25, 2015

Energy-starved Crimea has managed to cover 35-40% of its power needs from its own generating capacity after saboteurs blew up electricity pylons from Ukraine, according to Russian officials, while authorities on the peninsula said on November 25 that they are bracing for a "worse case scenario".

Work is also being accelerated on contructing a power line from the Russian mainland, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said. But this is expected to come online in December at the earliest.

"Currently, thanks to transferring mobile gas turbine power plants, we have overcome the absolute zero energy supply to Crimea on Sunday [November 22], we have launched about 300 megawatts, thus ensuring energy supply of the crucial infrastructure first. Now we cover, including the maximum consumption, 35-40%," TASS quoted Novak as saying.

He added that 13 mobile gas turbine power plants had been transferred to Crimea by Russia after it annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula in March 2014. Current power supplies were enough to supply criticial facilities such as hospitals, schools, water supply facilities, water conditioning and purification facilities, and communications, Novak said. Another 300 diesel generators were being delivered by plane to Crimea to provide power to isolated villages.

Most of Crimea's power supply has been cut after a reported mix of Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Crimean Tatar groups blew up pylons carrying power from mainland Ukraine to its Black Sea peninsula on November 20-21. Despite Russian control of the peninsula, it remains largely dependent on electric power supplied by Ukraine, which Russia pays for. 

As the start of winter hits Crimea, the power cut-off has caused massive disruption of normal life across the peninsula, which also home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Reports from Crimean cities say electricity is currently only supplied for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

Crimean authorities are not counting on the swift resumption of electricity supplies from Ukraine and are preparing for the worst-case scenario, the peninsula's First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Sheremet told TASS.

"If they (the Ukrainian side) resume the supplies, we will be grateful for that. But so far we do not expect this. We count only on our own resources and domestic electricity generation," Sheremet said on November 25.

Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov earlier ordered the mobilisation of all resources on the island and to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

After the annexation in 2014, Russia launched construction of an 'energy bridge' to Crimea from mainland Russia, of which the first phase will be commissioned in December 2015, Novak said, ahead of originally planned commissioning in March 2016.

When complete, the power bridge from Russia's Krasnodar region will supply another 400MW, 40% of Crimea's total estimated power needs of 1000MW.

"We need to ensure timely maintenance of equipment in rolling power cuts environment to support reliable operation until connection with the Kuban [Krasnodar] energy system," said Novak, who also accused Ukraine of slowness in repairing the power lines for political reasons.

Meanwhile, Russian gas giant Gazprom announced that it had cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, citing failure of the Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz to make pre-payments for volumes ordered.

“Thus, the deliveries stop until we receive new payment from the Ukrainian company,” TASS quoted Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller as saying.

"At the same time, before the seriously cold weather [arrives], Ukraine has now started active selection of gas from underground storage facilities, which are insufficiently filled as it is. Refusing to buy Russian gas creates risks for gas transit to Europe and gas supplies for the Ukrainian consumers before this coming winter," Miller added.