Engineers have linked Ukraine to an electricity grid spanning much of continental Europe, allowing the country to decouple its power system from hostile Russia, officials said Wednesday.
Belgium-based ENTSO-E, which represents dozens of transmission system operators in Europe, said the electricity grids of Ukraine and its smaller neighbor Moldova were successfully synchronized with the Continental European Power System on a trial basis.
"This is a significant milestone," the group said.
Grid operators had been preparing such a move after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, but the large-scale Russian military assault on Ukraine last month prompted an emergency request by Kyiv to speed up a process that was expected to take years more to complete.
ENTSO-E, whose 39 members operate the world's largest interconnected electrical grid, said the move means they will be able to help maintain the stability of the Ukrainian and Moldovan power systems.
The two countries were previously part of the Integrated Power System that also includes Russia and Belarus. This made Ukraine dependent on Russia's grid operator despite having had no electricity trade between the two countries for years.
"This step will give Ukraine the opportunity to receive electricity if [Russia] continues to destroy our power infrastructure, and thus to save our power system," said Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, who chairs the management board of Ukraine's grid operator, Ukrenergo. "We are sincerely grateful to our European partners for their great support and assistance during these difficult times."
Portugal to Poland
Georg Zachmann, an expert with the Brussels think tank Bruegel, said the switch would allow energy suppliers in the continental grid that stretches from Portugal to Poland to supply electricity to Ukraine if necessary.
This could allow Ukraine to turn off some of the coal-fired power plants it currently keeps running to ensure grid stability, saving precious fuel in wartime, he said.
In the long term, Ukraine could export surplus electricity generated by its nuclear power plants to the rest of Europe.
"It's a nice win-win situation," Zachmann said. "It might even be good for the climate."