Members' Research Service By / December 12, 2022

Generators of Hope: Delivering energy equipment to Ukraine for the winter ahead

On 23 November 2022, the European Parliament partnered with Eurocities to launch the ‘Generators of Hope’ campaign in order to provide Ukraine with energy equipment for the winter.

© Александр Поташев / Adobe Stock

Written by Agnieszka Widuto, Jakub Przetacznik and Sidonia Mazur.

On 23 November 2022, the European Parliament partnered with Eurocities to launch the ‘Generators of Hope’ campaign in order to provide Ukraine with energy equipment for the winter. Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure temporarily left around 10 million Ukrainians without electricity, while temperatures have already dropped below zero. The campaign will facilitate city-to-city donations of power generators, transformers and other devices, sent with the logistical support of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

‘Generators of Hope’ initiative – How does it work?

The ‘Generators of Hope‘ campaign was launched on 23 November 2022 by Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, and Dario Nardella, President of Eurocities and Mayor of Florence, a city twinned with the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. Eurocities is a network of over 200 of the largest cities in 38 countries, with many of the organisation’s members already providing support to Ukraine. The campaign aims to facilitate city-to-city support in order to meet Ukraine’s energy needs in view of the targeted Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure. It calls on cities to donate energy equipment to Ukrainian cities, in order to keep essential services running and provide energy to ‘hospitals, schools, water supply facilities, relief centres, shelters, phone masts and more’, according to the campaign’s website. On 8 December 2022, the European Parliament announced a donation of a generator to Ukraine as part of the campaign.

Ukrainian authorities have provided a list of equipment needed to replace the damaged energy infrastructure. This includes ‘generators (from less than 10 kW to more than 300 kW), heating centres, transformers, autotransformers, current and voltage transformers, reactors, circuit breakers, disconnectors, surge arresters, batteries, as well as relay protection and emergency automatic products’. Generators and high-voltage electrical equipment, such as transformers, play an important role in providing back-up power supply in case of emergency and power outage.

Cities that wish to donate energy equipment can contact their national civil protection authorities, which will help arrange the logistical transport to one of the three hubs operating in Poland, Romania and Slovakia under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The equipment will then be transported to Ukraine, with the whole procedure expected to be completed within a few days. The 24/7 contact point is the Emergency Response Coordination Centre.

Situation in Ukraine

Russia’s war on Ukraine has now been going on for nine months and Ukrainian citizens have paid the highest price to defend the country’s independence. In recent months, the Ukrainian army has liberated significant areas of the country; in response, Russia has increased its attacks against civilian infrastructure. Around half of the country’s power capacity has been damaged and the network is constantly under repair; it is estimated that the attack on 16 November alone caused power shortages in 10 700 000 households, equal to half of the country. Russia continues to shell civilian infrastructure, including electricity grids, cutting people off from water, electricity and heating, health services and communication tools ahead of winter, during which daily temperatures may reach -20OC. Ukraine is opening over 4 000 points of invincibility that provide the civilian population with access to independent heating, energy for mobile devices and basic services in case of major disturbances caused by shelling.

The EU Commissioner for Crisis Management assessed back in mid-November that ‘the destruction of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is reaching a critical point’, making the scaling up of ‘winterisation‘ assistance a main priority of EU humanitarian assistance. Several EU Member States are already preparing for a possible ‘new wave‘ of refugees.

Ukraine’s energy needs and interconnection with the EU grid

Around 53 % of households – especially in cities – are heated through district heating systems, with thermal energy being produced by combined heat and power plants (CHPs) and over 19 000 heat-only boilers (HOBs). In 2021, HOBs transported thermal energy by 1.9 million km of pipelines and distributed warmth to households through over 5 500 central heating points. They are also being targeted by Russian shelling, and require electricity to function. In 2021, 55 % of Ukraine’s energy was produced by its four nuclear power plants (NPP), while almost 24 % of its energy was produced by 12 thermal power plants. The biggest NPP in Europe – Zaporizhzhia (ZNPP), occupied since early March 2022 – used to account for around half of the Ukrainian NPPs’ production. The remaining NPPs together produce around the same amount of energy as ZNPP alone; all of them are being repeatedly switched off, due to Russian missile strikes. Ukraine’s urgent electricity grid synchronisation with the EU’s took place on 16 March 2022, thanks to which trade in electricity with Ukraine is possible and started at the end of June. Over the summer, it was Ukraine that exported its energy surplus to the EU.

Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure as a war crime

International humanitarian law (IHL) – many of the rules of which have been broken by Russia – and specifically the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, explicitly prohibits attacks against objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, but does not explicitly mention electrical infrastructure. The commentary specifies that the definition of indispensable objects can depend on local climatic conditions. Moreover, the 1977 Additional Protocol II prohibits attacks or threats for which the primary purpose is to spread terror among the civilian population. Research by Human Rights Watch assesses that, by repeatedly targeting critical energy infrastructure, and knowing its impact on the civilian population, ‘Russia appears to be seeking unlawfully to create terror among civilians’ and make life ‘untenable for as many Ukrainian civilians as possible’. The two protocols have been ratified by Russia and 170 other countries (but not the US), and are therefore binding on Russia.

European Union aid to Ukraine

The EU and Western allies are supporting the country with in-kind, financial, diplomatic and military assistance. While Ukraine has received considerable support from the EU and European financial institutions since 2014, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, relaunched on 24 February 2022, has triggered two-fold and unprecedented mobilisation of EU and Member States’ funds for humanitarian action and military support. Support from ‘Team Europe’ has steadily increased, to €19.7 billion in financial, humanitarian, emergency and budget support, with a further €3.1 billion in military assistance via the European Peace Facility, supplemented by bilateral military assistance. For 2023, the Commission has proposed to provide Ukraine with macrofinancial assistance of €18 billion in highly concessional loans to support essential state functions and public services, maintain macro-financial stability and repair critical infrastructure.

EU Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM) for Generators of Hope

The logistics of the Generators of Hope initiative are expected to be financed through the EUCPM. The EUCPM facilitates cooperation between the EU, the EU Member States and eight other participating states in the field of civil protection to improve the emergency response to natural and man-made disasters. Based on lessons learnt from managing the coronavirus crisis, the EUCPM was strengthened in organisational and budgetary terms in 2021. The EUCPM has already been activated for Ukraine, becoming the EUCPM’s largest-ever operation. All 27 EU countries, plus Norway, Turkey, North Macedonia and Iceland, have offered medical supplies, shelter items, vehicles and energy equipment, including generators. The items are being delivered to Ukraine directly or through logistical hubs established in Poland, Romania and Slovakia. As of 16 November, almost 74 000 tonnes of aid had been delivered. In addition, the EU coordinates medical evacuations of Ukrainian patients to EU hospitals and supports Ukrainian refugees across Europe.

On 23 November, the European Parliament adopted a resolution which states that the destruction of civilian infrastructure, together with the deliberate attacks and atrocities against the civilian population ‘amount to acts of terror against the Ukrainian population and constitute war crimes’. Based on this, the Parliament recognises Russia as both a state sponsor of terrorism and a state which uses means of terrorism.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Generators of Hope: Delivering energy equipment to Ukraine for the winter ahead‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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