As winter approaches, critical infrastructure, including energy facilities, has become the primary target of military actions. In October, missile attacks seriously damaged about 40% of the country’s power plants Ukrainian energy companies are under constant pressure, doing an enormous amount of work to repair impaired power stations and restore electricity supply.
Before the war, Ukraine was one of Europe’s largest energy markets. The country’s abundant mineral resources including oil, natural gas, and coal coupled with a great hydro and biomass potential made Ukraine a key electricity provider to European countries. In 2020, Ukraine was also among the top 30 global electricity exporters. The war disrupted exports, as the country was forced to suspend it and start importing electricity. Now, the main responsibility to upkeep and balance the energy grid in Ukraine lies with the National Power Company Ukrenergo. One of the country’s major electricity suppliers managed by the Ministry of Energy, Ukrenergo’s critical role in the war will go down in history. Heroes of their times, 8000 Ukrenergo employees work in shifts 24/7 to repair power generating facilities and re-establish energy supply. They tenaciously labor to provide living conditions to Ukrainians remaining in the country throughout the wintertime.
Technology assists in balancing the electricity grid
Ukrenergo manages the Integrated Power System of Ukraine through 4 territorial administration centers and 6 regional dispatch centers. Employees maintain unique high-tech equipment across more than 100 power substations and over 19,000 kilometers of and interstate transmission lines. Ukrenergo’s dispatchers and engineers work on restoring power in affected regions based on rigorously defined plans and protocols. Following an attack, the company assesses the scale of damage and begins restoration work immediately whenever possible. They prioritize facilities such as hospitals, water supply plants, heating companies, and other critical infrastructure facilities.
In everyday operations, Ukrenergo relies on the power of technology. The company’s critical infrastructure is supported by the cloud. Energy transmission is operated virtually, which enables centralized data security and accessibility from anywhere. This, in turn, ensures business continuity for the company. Having implemented the latest technologies before the war along with a business recovery plan, Ukrenergo is able to respond rapidly and modify its operations to meet needs across war zones. “We‘ve learned that we can survive even in a high-pressure situation. We are using Azure for our back-up solutions, and the whole stack of infrastructure products keeps our systems running and stable. Having a plan for business continuity and disaster recovery set up before the war struck enabled the company to react quickly and adapt the business“, explained Sergii Galagan, CIO at NPC Ukrenergo.
Strengthening the cyber resilience shield
Along with the battles happening on the field, a parallel is ongoing in cyber space. The war in Ukraine is the first major conflict involving large-scale cyber operations, opening a new era of hybrid warfare. Hours before missiles were fired and tanks breached international borders in February, Russian actors began a series of disruptive cyberattacks against the Ukrainian government, technological, and financial sector targets. These aggressive cyberattacks are still ongoing. As a result, the percentage of nation-state cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure has grown from 20% in 2021 to 40% in 2022, according to the Microsoft Digital Defense Report 2022. Working with Microsoft and its partners, Ukrenergo has successfully upgraded its Security and Productivity platforms to strengthen its resistance to continuous cyberattacks. For Ukrenergo, the ability to work and access business apps and data from anywhere is crucial. State-of-the-art technology allows the energy giant to address everyday challenges, make quick decisions, and adapt to unexpected situations as the country’s critical infrastructure is repeatedly jeopardized. “Microsoft Office 365, and Teams especially, are the most important pieces of technology for our employees, as due to wartime, we are forced to work remotely and need secure access to our work environment. In the future, we will rethink our workplace approach while heading to Zero Trust architecture. I am telling everyone to start with the cloud as soon as possible. Ten years ago, it was risky; five years ago, it was a promising thing; now, you can’t survive without it ” concluded Galagan.
Investments amid war securing full re-establishment of the energy grid
Even during the war, Ukrenergo continues to implement important investment projects, prioritizing reliability and supply security for consumers. Its trunk power grids are being modernized as well. The power supply has become more reliable in central Ukraine, receiving additional transmissions of electricity from key generation sources located in other regions. A comprehensive reconstruction of transmission substations is ongoing wherever possible.
Ukrenergo’s contribution to national prosperity is immense. The company provides critical infrastructure essential for the functioning of Ukrainian society and economy. The organization’s current efforts are paving the way to the overall reconstruction and re-establishment of Ukraine’s energy grid after the war, all while gaining on their company goal of being a technology leader in the energy sector.