Ukraine tells power plants to switch to gas to save coal, says DTEK CEO

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s government has ordered power stations to switch to natural gas to preserve strategic coal reserves, the head of the country’s largest private power producer said on Saturday.

DTEK Managing Director Maxim Timchenko said the country still has 15-20 days of coal reserves, or 730,000 tons. DTEK is involved in the entire energy sector, from renewables to coal and oil, and accounts for a quarter of the country’s power generation facilities.

Most of Ukraine’s coal production, some of which is produced by DTEK, is located in the east of the country, in or near the two breakaway states that Russia has declared independent. Timchenko said it was “only a matter of time” before coal production or distribution was halted.

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“The Ukrainian government has asked DTEK to switch to gas instead of coal to preserve strategic reserves,” Timchenko told reporters on a conference call. DTEK has eight thermal power plants, including one in the separatist province of Luhansk, now under Russian control.

The gas is produced in Ukraine and is also piped from Russia to the European market. Timchenko said Ukraine could exploit Russian gas in transit to the rest of Europe.

Timchenko said Ukrainian electricity demand had dropped since the invasion and the country now had overcapacity. He added that 11 of the 15 Ukrainian nuclear reactors.

“Our military forces have reinforced their positions around nuclear power plants but no one can say whether we keep them under our control,” Timchenko said.

At the moment, Russia is not targeting critical infrastructure, he said, but 40% of DTEK’s renewable energy has been cut due to downed transmission lines.

“There are no major supply issues for consumers in any region. Just small local issues but nothing systemic at the moment,” he said.

Ukraine has been disconnected from the Belarusian and Russian power grid, he said.

Natural gas accounts for about a third of Ukraine’s energy consumption, followed by coal at 30% and nuclear power at 21%, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Oil and renewables make up the rest.

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Reporting by Julia Payne; Editing by Alison Williams and Christina Fincher

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