As this piece from VZGLIAD shows, the Russian government is determined to make Crimea energy-independent from Ukraine. The Russian authorities have taken the approach of assuming that the Crimean residents will NEVER AGAIN see a single electron coming into the peninsula from Ukraine. What’s the point of being hopeful that something will change for the better, when you have such an unreliable and irrational neighbor? In other words, instead of sitting around wishin’ and hopin’ for a miracle, the political leaders have decided to go for full-on energy independence from Ukraine.
The deadline is 20 December. Crews are working around the clock, and officials are even cautiously optimistic that they can exceed the deadline.
Underwater Cable is Key
This map shows the geographical situation. The Crimean peninsula is almost an island, but does have a land connection to Ukraine’s Kherson province to its North. That’s whence the electrons USED TO flow in, via traditional pylons and overheard wires. But do so no more and nevermore, thanks to Ukrainian sabotage of the pylons.
The Russian landmass is to the East, separated by a body of water called the Kerch Strait.
The plan is to lay cable from the Kuban area of the Russian mainland, underwater, into Kerch, Crimea.
The man in charge of this project is Alexander Novak, Minister of Energy for the Russian Federation.
But that is only half the plan. The other half involves an ambitious and accelerated effort to renovate the entire infrastructure of Crimea. This must be done simultaneously, because the current infrastructure is old and decaying. The Crimean energy grid is 100 years old! Imagine buying a brand new appliance, bringing it into your house – and you find that you can’t use it, because your aging electrical outlets are not compatible with the new equipment!
The reality is that the Crimean energy infrastructure has not seen any renovations since the 1970’s!
According to Crimean President, Sergei Aksenov, nobody has invested any money into the energy grid for quite a long time; the eventual plan is a complete modernization and computerization of the grid. Aksenov wants to see a push-button system in place instead of the prehistorical jumble of wires.
Energy Minister Novak flew into Crimea yesterday to inspect and personally supervise the ongoing work. He began his visit with an inspection of the “Single Dispatcher Service” called KrymEnergo. This company is in charge of distributing electricity throughout the entire peninsula. The man in charge of that company is named Andrei Anokhin. Anokhin reported to Novak, that local energy concerns on Saturday had completed their preparations for the new “Energy Bridge”. The energy station “Kamysh-Burnskaya” has been converted over to the new system. According to Anokhin’s report on how the authorities are coping with the blackout crisis: “Currently are working in parallel the Simferopol, Sebastopol, Kamysh-Burunskaya and Sakskaya Thermal-Electric stations, and also three Mobile Gas-Turbine Electric Stations. The current load is 418 Megawatt, of which the thermals give 148, the mobile turbines 231, wind stations 29, solar 10.”
An additional 2 Megawatts are being squeezed out of the “Titan” station, which is partially powering the town of Armyansk.
Eeking out as many electrons as possible, the authorities continue to keep Crimea on life support, while working feverishly to resolve the root problem within the next 3 weeks.
Novak’s next stop was Simferopol, where he spoke at a conference set up to analyze the crisis. According to Novak, the electrical blackout crisis (like most crises tend to do) “exposed” many weaknesses in the current system of emergency readiness. While chiding the Ukrainian side for breaking their contractual obligations to supply electricity to the peninsula, Novak made it clear that the authorities are not placing any hope in the Ukrainians ever doing the right thing. “We are approaching the situation from the point of view, that there is no electrical energy coming out of the Ukraine, and that we have to rely on our own resources.”
The contractual obligations of which Novak hinted are as follows: There is an annual contract between the Russian company “Inter RAO” and “UkrEnergo”. The contract came into effect on 30 December 2014. The Russian company supplies the Ukraine with electrical energy; and in turn, the Ukraine was supposed to keep Crimea wired up.
How Are People Coping?
People in Crimea are coping as best they can. Over the past 2 days, over 7000 people received some form of government assistance, allocated by Emergency Relief agency of the Crimean government. Tent cities and warming centers have been set up, so that people can sleep with some heat, on the colder nights, and gather their strength to get through the next ordeal. According to Alexander Chupriyan, Deputy Minister for Civil Defense, the key thing is that people need to have hope; that they realize, that this is just a temporary situation; that life will get better soon. According to Chupriyan: “There is no crisis which Russia cannot endure. It is our job to solve these problems and see to it, that nobody goes without assistance.”